Audit of Miami-Dade schools finds contracting issues

An audit of construction contracts for Miami-Dade County Public schools found that some paperwork was missing and that unapproved subcontractor changes were made by some companies between 2007 and 2011.

The audit by the Miami-Dade County Office of the Inspector General notes that it is “pleased” with changes that the school district has made to correct the problems, but added that Miami-Dade needs to assess its staffing levels and record-keeping programs.

In a response to the audit, district officials say they’re already doing that.

“Accountability at all levels has been accomplished,” spokeswoman Daisy Gonzalez-Diego wrote in an emailed statement.

She wrote that the audit was done at the request of Superintendent Alberto Carvalho as a precursor to a review of the district’s $1.2 billion bond, which passed in 2012 to spruce up schools and bring more technology into classrooms.

None of the contracts reviewed in this audit deal with bond projects.

Among the problems cited:

▪ Projects were not closed out quickly, with some open for more than 1,000 days.

▪ Bid tabulations for subcontracted work were sometimes missing, making it hard to confirm that projects were competitively priced.

▪ Some firms took over work that was supposed to be done by a subcontractor, without written approval from the district. However, “costs of work were unchanged,” according to the audit.

▪ The district lacked documentation to justify why it picked some firms over others. Meanwhile, the top five companies received 74 percent of contracts, which “could foster perceptions of favoritism,” according to the audit.

As its bond program has rolled out, Miami-Dade has worked extensively on its contracting practices and has implemented numerous changes in its system to make it more equitable.

The district now has a tracking system to document when a subcontractor is replaced and assigned project managers to keep track of documents, according to its written response to the audit.

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