School officials said they would also begin to enforce the system's policy to withhold final paychecks and accrued-leave pay owed to departing employees until they return their assigned take-home computers.
The audit was conducted as a mandate under state law, which since 2004 has required the nonpartisan agency to complete comprehensive reviews of the financial management practices of all 24 Maryland school systems every six years.
The law was spurred, in part, by a series of financial missteps in Baltimore City and Prince George's County, including a $58 million deficit that nearly crippled the city system in 2004.
Among the findings in the system's 2004 audit, state officials noted similar issues, finding that oversight was so lax that officials sent checks to dead employees, overpaid employees thousands of dollars with no attempt to recover the money, let employees take sick time they hadn't earned, forced no one to file an ethics form, and paid bills submitted for the transportation of students on days they were absent from school.
Preliminary audit findings
Among the findings in the preliminary audit of the Baltimore school system obtained by The Baltimore Sun:
The system could not substantiate the bulk of overtime payments — which totaled $2.8 million during fiscal 2010 — with any records of hours worked or supervisor approval. Additionally, the system overpaid overtime by $206,000 to some employees, at a rate 9 percent higher than they were entitled to under the union contract.
The district failed to collect $3.9 million in unpaid bills, including 216 debts totaling $1.5 million that were never referred to a collection agency; 45 of those past-due accounts included $336,000 in bonuses that former employees were supposed to repay because they left the system before earning the payments.
•The system paid one employee for both part-time work in the central office and nearly $34,000 as a contractual vendor for instructional services. The employee owned the vendor business — and had the authority to approve purchases in the school system's automated procurement system.