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Friday, July 12, 2024

Kennedy Audit Reveals Non-Compliance in School Bus Safety Program Oversight

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Photo credit: suffolkcountyny.gov

Recent findings from an audit conducted by Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy’s (R-Nesconset) office have highlighted significant lapses in oversight and compliance within the Suffolk County Traffic and Parking Violations Agency (TPVA) regarding the administration of the Stop-Arm Program in collaboration with School Bus Patrol.

The Stop-Arm Program, which encompasses installing, implementing, operating, maintaining, and managing school bus monitoring systems, is crucial for ensuring the safety of school children across Suffolk County. However, the audit uncovered several instances where TPVA failed to adhere to contractual obligations and local laws.

Key among the audit’s findings was TPVA’s failure to invoice and receive reimbursement from School Bus Patrol for the County’s administrative costs and related expenses incurred in support of the Suffolk County School Bus Safety Program during the audit period. This lapse in financial oversight raises concerns about accountability and efficient use of taxpayer funds allocated for school bus safety initiatives.

Upon receipt of the audit, this was eventually paid by sending in over $400,000 spanning invoices over a three-year period. This past-due amount was compelled to be paid by the agency due to the Comptroller’s review. This is another example of not doing proper contract monitoring by the agency. If not for the audit, this would never have been discovered. This shows the importance of independent auditing and monitoring of funds by the Comptroller’s office.

“I found it absolutely astounding that the prior administration eliminated the Termination for Convenience Clause,” stated Comptroller John Kennedy. “In my thirty-five years of County employment, I have never seen an action like this before. I welcome the opportunity to work with the County Legislature, Public Safety Committee, and County Executive’s office to implement the recommendations made in this audit”. 

Additionally, the audit revealed TPVA’s non-compliance with Suffolk County Law by neglecting to submit an annual report on the school bus violation monitoring system to each member of the County Legislature and the Clerk of the Legislature by June 1 of each operational year. This reporting requirement is designed to provide legislators with essential information regarding the program’s effectiveness and compliance with local regulations.

The audit’s findings have prompted calls for improved oversight and adherence to contractual obligations within TPVA and its partnership with School Bus Patrol. County officials have expressed concern over the implications of these lapses on public safety and the efficient management of taxpayer resources.

Moving forward, Comptroller Kennedy’s office has recommended corrective actions to address the identified deficiencies, including implementing robust invoicing and reimbursement procedures, ensuring timely submission of annual reports, establishing a process for collecting past-due unpaid citations, and enhancing oversight mechanisms to prevent future lapses.

“I want to take the opportunity to commend my auditing staff for the thorough, comprehensive and diligent work they do on behalf of the residents of Suffolk County on a daily basis,” said Kennedy.

As Suffolk County works to rectify these issues, stakeholders and the public await assurances that corrective measures will be promptly implemented to uphold the integrity and effectiveness of the Stop-Arm Program and other critical public safety initiatives.

The Suffolk County Comptroller’s audit serves as a reminder of the importance of diligent oversight and adherence to contractual obligations in safeguarding taxpayer funds and ensuring the efficacy of essential public services. Efforts to address the audit’s findings are expected to reinforce Suffolk County’s commitment to maintaining high standards of accountability and transparency in all aspects of governance.