DeKalb County Schools risk assessment audit finds vulnerability in information technology departmentDeKalb County School District Administration and Industrial Complex on Mountain Industrial Blvd. in Stone Mountain. Photo by Dean Hesse
DeKalb County, GA — The DeKalb Board of Education’s audit committee held a meeting on March 8 in order to discuss the district’s financial risk assessment.
The results highlighted the district’s information technology (IT) department as a potential vulnerability.
Plante Moran was awarded the contract for the enterprise risk assessment in January 2022 and began the project in March of that year. All positions of manager and above were assessed, excluding the superintendent. Chiefs were interviewed individually, while the staff was interviewed in groups.
The area that Plante Moran rated as at highest risk was the information technology department, both in terms of cybersecurity and new technology integration. The district’s procurement processes ranked second, followed by staffing turnover and professional development, payroll processing as the new ERP is implemented, and financial reporting.
Several of those areas overlap or are interrelated.
Interim Superintendent Dr. Vasanne Tinsley said that the school board decided to have an independent risk assessment because of changes over the last three years, including those related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the change to a new enterprise resource planning system, and the amount of employee turnover. Rapid changes on several fronts create a higher risk of funds being mismanaged through fraud or error.
Director of Audits and Compliance Joel Thibodeaux gave an overview of the results without going into detail.
“We don’t want to publish the documents because it’s a blueprint of what our risks are,” Thibodeaux said.
Thibodeaux said that during the pandemic the district lost experienced staff who have not been replaced. In addition, as new technology is adopted, there is a need for professional development to train existing employees on the new systems. Thibodeaux described obsolete devices issued to long-time staff as a “hidden risk,” because while it may be tailored to their specific needs, it doesn’t have the protections of a newer device.
In response to questions from the committee, Thibodeaux said that despite the rapid rollout, student devices that were issued for remote learning during the pandemic were not a significant problem. However, some practices that were sufficiently secure in a face-to-face environment needed to be changed for remote learning.
Audit Committee member Gena Major asked if the report gave any information about why staff turnover had been so high. Thibodeaux said that the risk audit only looked at the effects of staff turnover, but that a separate assessment of Human Resources was likely to reveal more about staff motives for leaving.
School Board member Anna Hill said that she saw improvements and felt that this analysis would bring benefits in the future.
“I’m looking forward to an even better report next year,” Hill said.
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