Education team to probe censure

Education team to probe censure


Audit reports pinpointing financial mismanagement at the Education Department have led Secretary Rod Paige to create a team to look into the problem.

Rod Paige
Over the next three months the newly formed Management Improvement Team will develop a strategy for straightening out the department's books, Paige said. The secretary wants a strategy for obtaining a clean audit for the department from Ernst & Young LLP of Winston Salem, N.C. The strategy will include removing the student financial assistance programs from the General Accounting Office's high-risk list, continuing efforts to modernize student aid systems and reducing student loan defaults.

'Every dollar we waste on fraud or mismanagement is a dollar that could be used for teaching our children,' Paige said.

Paige asked President Bush to appoint an assistant secretary of Education for management and a chief financial officer, positions that have been vacant for two and five years, respectively.

Answers criticisms

The creation of the management team is a direct response to critical inspector general and GAO reports alleging fraud and mismanagement within Education, department spokesman Jim Bradshaw said.

After Bush took office, Education officials had initially refused to discuss the negative GAO findings in reports issued during the Clinton administration.

GAO officials said the criticisms are still valid.

Rick Miller, principal deputy chief information officer for information technology, and Robert Davidson, acting deputy CIO for information assurance, will work on the new team, headed by deputy IG John P. Higgins. Other team members include representatives from the offices of the CFO and Student Financial Aid.

Paige announced the team as part of an initiative to address mismanagement at the department. He noted that reports by GAO and the IG identify the misuse of more than $450 million in funds since 1998.

Lackluster security of Education's student financial aid systems has been a perennial complaint of both GAO and Education's IG [GCN, Aug. 21, 2000, Page 14].

GCN staff writer Tony Lee Orr contributed to this report.

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