Auditors say there’s one small problem with the idea of San Diego Unified saving money by cutting auditors who look at issues other than finances: It doesn’t have any.

Eliminating those employees was one recommendation from the BRACE Team, which scrubbed the school district budget for savings that will impact the fewest number of children possible. It also recommended ending the fraud hotline, which allows anonymous callers to report financial waste and abuse. Cuts to the audits and investigations department would save the district $448,000, according to the report.

But Andrea Niehaus, who oversees internal audits and investigations, said the department doesn’t have any auditors who handle non-financial issues. She also questioned how financially sound it was to eliminate the hotline, which she estimated costs just $11,000 a year. It has helped the district terminate more than a dozen employees (including this woman) and recoup roughly $4 million over the past two and a half years, Niehaus said.

I phoned Phil Stover, who headed up BRACE, to ask about her complaint. Stover insisted that the school district has several auditors who don’t focus on financial issues. His proposal calls to cut two of them and 1.7 clerical workers. I called back Niehaus. She reiterated that no, she didn’t have any “non-financial auditors,” as the report refers to them, and added that she has no clerical staff at all.

Huh. Niehaus isn’t the only one to question the options that BRACE has put together. Parents of gifted children are riled about the idea of shutting down the central offices that administer programs for the gifted and talented, even though schools would still have their own programs.

The school board will go over the BRACE report tonight. Expect fireworks.


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