Wednesday, January 6, 1999

Auditor says
improve school
bus service

By Crystal Kua


State school bus transportation services can be improved and be made more efficient, according to an audit released this morning by the state auditor.

The state Department of Accounting and General Services contracts and delivers the services while the Department of Education oversees the program.

Higa said that both departments need to do a better job in their respective roles in the program, which provides subsidized bus transportation for eligible students traveling to and from public schools.

The audit found that process used by DAGS to determine bus fare rate, which is included in the state's contracted cost for each bus route, is questionable.

"The internal controls are inadequate to assure that students are transported effectively and at least cost," the audit said.

In the 1997-98 fiscal year, the department's expenditures and encumbrances were above the authorized ceiling, according to the audit.

The audit also found instances of overpayments and encumbrances from appropriations that date back as far as 1986.

The DOE also needs to correct inefficiencies that are costing additional time.

The prepaid bus pass program, which is being tested at some schools, looks promising but also needs improvement.

Some schools have "serious accountability problems" and implementation varies from pilot school to pilot school.

"The department needs to provide schools with better guidance on how to implement program," the audit suggests. "We also found that DOE's efforts in the planning and coordination for student transportation could improve."

The procedures to determine eligibility were also inefficient, which may result in subsidized transportation for unqualified students.

DAGS responded to the audit by saying that it will agree to investigate its procedures.

The department said that once the pre-paid bus pass program is implemented, many of the operational accountability issues would be addressed.

The DOE said it will implement the auditor's recommendations even though the department believes that the findings are "not necessarily consonant" with directions.

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