The report presents information on independent audits with findings pertaining to the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) and audit resolution activities conducted by the Department. The significance of the information presented in this report and need for immediate action by Department management is elevated by the amount of funding provided through the HEERF program and the Department’s reliance on independent audits as a key component of its oversight of HEERF grants.
The number of independent audits with findings pertaining to HEERF and requiring resolution by the Department’s Office of Finance and Operations' (OFO) Office of Acquisition, Grants, and Risk Management, Grants Risk Management Services Division (GRMSD) increased significantly over the past few years, as did the number of audits with complex findings as determined by GRMSD. However, the number of GRMSD staff assigned to audit resolution activities remained relatively constant during this same period—resulting in a more than fourfold increase in the number of audits assigned for resolution per person. OFO management stated that GRMSD’s staffing capacity was established to provide audit resolution services for the anticipated volume of HEERF audits it assessed early in the performance period, but that the volume and complexity of the audits has increased significantly over time. GRMSD is now facing a significant backlog of outstanding HEERF audits requiring resolution and without immediate action, the timeliness and effectiveness of the resolution of HEERF audit findings could be reduced.
We made two recommendations: that OFO (1) assess GRMSD’s future workload based on the anticipated volume and complexity of independent audits with potential HEERF findings that are likely to be submitted through the end of the grant closeout period, coordinating with other Department offices as necessary for assistance and to obtain relevant data to inform this assessment; and (2) evaluate whether the staffing level assigned to HEERF audit resolution activities is sufficient to support the timely and effective resolution of all outstanding and anticipated HEERF single and proprietary school audit findings, and if not, develop and implement a plan of action to address the issue.
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