Auditor & Inspector Steve Burrage withholds release of Broken Arrow audit

CapitolBeatOK Staff Report 

Published: 01-Sep-2010

Editor’s Note: In a shocking turn of events, Auditor & Inspector Steve Burrage late today (Wednesday, September 1) announced he would withhold release of a long-awaited audit of governance and spending in the Broken Arrow public schools. CapitolBeatOK encourages readers to read two news stories posted on this website earlier today. We have made an editorial policy decision to let these two items stand without revision in the interest of fully informing our readers. 

The first item posted at mid-day was “Release of Broken Arrow Schools audit nears, law firm’s role questioned.” Thesecond story, presented to our readers at mid-afternoon, was “Broken Arrow exit interviews: Who was in, Who was out, and Why.” Many other stories have been posted previously, but these two capture the most recent information obtained by CapitolBeatOK, so that the late-breaking news about the decision to withhold the audit can be viewed in context. The text of the release from Burrage’s office is presented below, without editorial revisions or quotation marks. 

State Auditor Steve Burrage issued the following statement regarding the pending release of the special audit of Broken Arrow Public Schools:

After considerable thought and deliberation, I have decided, at this time, to withhold the release of the special audit of Broken Arrow Public Schools. Serious concerns regarding the independence of the special auditor assigned to this audit and the independence of the work papers associated with this audit raise sufficient doubt to call into question that which we in the auditing profession hold to the highest standard. The inappropriate release last week of a draft version of this audit report only compounds my concerns about independence. As a CPA, I believe in the Code of Conduct which guides our profession and I cannot, in good conscience, release a report which in any way calls into question our independence.

Our office received a special audit request letter from the Attorney General last week requesting an investigative audit of Broken Arrow Public Schools. I am assigning two, different special auditors to conduct this audit and we will work with all deliberate speed to complete the audit. The auditors will be able to address those issues of interest to the Attorney General as well as the concerns identified in the special audit request by the Broken Arrow School Board. The patrons of Broken Arrow will receive an audit and it will include our factual findings to the concerns regarding compliance with the competitive bidding act, potential split-purchasing and other matters.
I want to stress that the special audit of Broken Arrow Public Schools is limited to the district, its internal controls structure, compliance with its policies and procedures, and its record keeping practices. The Broken Arrow Public Schools Board had already implemented many changes to address the issues and concerns they asked us to address in the audit. Subsequent to the timeframe covered by the audit, many changes have occurred in administration, school board members, and new policies have been implemented. The Board members and Dr. Mendenhall are also aware of the concerns raised in the report even though we cannot issue it at this time.  I feel confident that all of these factors will work together to eliminate, or allow for the early detection of, non-compliance issues and the risk of waste, fraud, and abuse at Broken Arrow Public Schools.

Although the controversy that has consumed some school patrons and taxpayers of the Broken Arrow community may never be resolved satisfactorily to everyone, our only role in this matter is to present the facts and make proper recommendations to the Board for corrective action.

I had truly hoped to be able to release the audit as scheduled but getting it right takes precedence. I want the audit out and I believe members of the school’s board and administration also want it out and it will happen, just not tomorrow.