Weslaco ISD launching forensic audit of operations

De Los Santos

WESLACO — The school district here is launching a forensic audit expected to last at least three months and examine several years of the district’s operations.

The board selected Weaver and Tidwell LLP to perform the audit last month and met Tuesday to approve an engagement letter/contract with Weaver Tuesday.

The board also discussed the scope of the audit Tuesday, indicating several areas they want examined.

Trustee Marcos De Los Santos listed a laundry list of those areas. He said he would prefer a five-year audit going back to the 2018-2019 school year, which he said would cover about $1 billion in funds.

De Los Santos said he wanted the firm to investigate financial statements for local, state and federal dollars, as well as construction expenditures, searching for conflicts of interest and background searches on vendors.

De Los Santos said he’d heard complaints from the community about communication lag times in the district and said examining the district’s organizational structure for efficiency and effectiveness at the central office level as far as communication and decision making was another priority.

“I think it’s a very good investment because it’s an independent, external evaluation that’s not political, it’s not biased and it’ll give not only ourselves as the board but also the public a clear picture of where our district stands,” he said. “My whole entire goal with this is to see results come back negative, that is what I’m hoping for. But if there is discrepancies, you know, they can be addressed.”

Examining policies and procedures for staff, De Los Santos said, should be another priority.

“To say that that hasn’t been a red flag or questionable in some cases, to not say that, I would not be truthful,” he said. “That’s a community concern.”

De Los Santos also referenced the possibility of a negative stigma of having to know somebody within the district to get hired there, saying that should be another area of focus.

“One of things and one of the missions was, if I was elected and if I was placed on this board, was to make sure that — and I’m not saying that it’s not — but that the hiring process is equitable and fair for everyone out there that wants to apply, that wants to expand and succeed within this district,” he said.

De Los Santos added that his priorities were based on concerns from the community, with other trustees voicing their support for those priorities.

Trustee Jesse Treviño said an inventory of assets should also be considered.

“That would be one of my areas of concern,” he said. “Items that were inventoried — you know, do we still have them?”

Weaver representative Jared Jordan told the board an audit covering five years would be fairly standard and that trustees should expect it to take at least two to three months. He indicated that his company could return to the board with a more concrete cost estimate and timeline after conducting a full “scoping exercise,” noting that the timeline could be affected by pandemic related delays and whatever the audit uncovers.

“You never know what you’re going to find when you get into these things, it’s just the nature of the work,” he said.

Jordan also said the forensic audit would likely not be affected by a ransomware attack the district suffered in December.