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School Department Finances to Undergo Forensic Audit

The audit was requested by the school district.

The School Department's finances over the past five years will undergo a forensic audit in an effort to verify fund balances and ensure the district has been following best practices.

The City Council received and placed on file a letter from School Superintendent Colleen B. Jermain last week thanking the council for their support of the request, which came from the Newport School Committee and department.

"It is important that everyone is on the same page once and for all regarding the school department's financial status and clear on our bottom line so we can move together as a community and focus bringing our school system to the next level," Jermain said.

Jermain noted the request does not suggest or imply there is any fraud or illegal activity happening in the district.

"Rather, this request is to help ensure a very detailed thorough review of the school department finance practices and to verify our current fund balance," Jermain said.

The school department has asked for a third party auditor to complete a review and audit of the budget spending and balances over the past five years as well as an audit of the practices, procedures and policies within the department regarding financial management.

That includes a review of the "internal controls, monitoring, planning, directing, organizing and controlling the fiduciary responsibilities and resources within this agency," Jermain said. 

In the end, the audit should help the district see how past decisions and "past budgets impacted today's systems and structures" and "if it is feasible to continue or maintain these past practices and what if any activities have resulted in different financial management practices or outcomes."

At last week's City Council meeting, City Manager Jane Howington said the city has met with a firm interested in the job and a proposal has been looked at with herself and the superintendent. 

Howington said the plan for the audit would be in the next fiscal year.

The matter is expected to come back to the council sometime this summer.

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