Internal auditing can provide significant opportunities for the growth and success of a school district. Districts may use internal audit questionnaires to review and assess the performance of the district. However, district leaders may be unaware or have a skewed perspective of internal auditing and the benefits that can come from this practice.

Leveraging an internal audit questionnaire, district leaders may take into account the feedback of auditors to make substantial changes to processes or policies that can help the district achieve its goals and objectives.

What Is An Internal Auditor?

The process of internal auditing can be used to improve the processes and functions of a school district. Internal auditing helps the district accomplish its goals by evaluating and improving the effectiveness of various areas (risk management, governance, etc.).

To help maintain ethical standards, auditors cannot lead or be involved with any procedure or process of the district that they may audit, since this can impact the responsibilities and duties of the auditor.

The work performed by the auditor must be comprehensive, as it should support the district and its leaders in accomplishing goals and objectives, developing better practices and procedures, mitigating risks, and improving district governance.

Why Internal Auditing Matters

School boards and district leaders may have a skewed perspective when it comes to internal auditing. However, internal auditors can provide great value to the district and its leaders.

This process provides school boards and administrators with a neutral and reflective source of information and feedback that can help the district in recognizing and addressing some of the most significant operational and compliance concerns that could be hindering the district from achieving its goals.

What Is Covered In An Internal Audit Questionnaire?

Internal auditing questionnaires should be developed and applied in a manner specific to the district, institution, and department that is being assessed. There are no “one size fits all” auditing questionnaires for public education institutions.

However, there are main areas that all internal audit questionnaires should review, assess, and provide feedback for. These areas are vital to the function and operation of the school district, so it is imperative that internal auditors take the time to carefully evaluate them as they relate to the performance of the district.

Governance and Leadership

    1. Governing body and committees
      • Ensuring that these bodies (school board, finance committee, etc.) abide by any bylaws, policies, and regulations.
    2. Meeting minutes.
      • Is there evidence that all meetings of the school board and its committees have records of meeting minutes? Where are the records of these meeting minutes located?
      • Reviewing policies, bylaws, training materials, and any other documentation that impact the governance procedures for district leadership.
    3. Whistleblowing policy.
      1. Does the district have a whistleblowing policy and are all staff aware of the existence of this policy?
      2. Does the whistleblowing policy protect individuals from retaliation?
      3. Ensuring that the district is in compliance with any local, state, and federal regulations.

Financial Management

      1. Registration of certifying individuals.
        • Any leadership that may have access to financial information for the school district must be verified and registered with the district to mitigate financial risk.
      2. Processes
        • A review of any financial procedures for the district (procurement requests, petty cash, records, quotes, purchase orders, expenditures, etc.).
        • These processes are often broken down into great detail depending on the district and its processes and procedures.
      3. Budget
        • Ensuring that the budget is created, approved, and implemented by the required timeline.
        • Is the budget realistic and prepared with consideration to the district’s goals and strategic plan?
        • If the district had a deficit the prior year or a deficit budget is set for the upcoming year, is there a plan in place to eliminate the deficit?
      4. Auditors should review all financial materials (bank account statements; records of procurements, quotes, and purchases; and any other documentation that give a comprehensive view of the financial management of the school district)

Staffing

      1. An overview of the organization of staff for the school district.
      2. That staff have completed all processes required (application, reference checks, background checks, payroll documentation, etc.).
      3. Checking staff salaries against payroll records.
      4. Does the district have signed contracts for all staff members maintained securely?

Assets

      1. Ensuring that assets that are valuable and portable are properly recorded (when these items have been purchased; recording the information of the item, i.e. serial number, cost, location, etc.; and when the item was disposed of if it was damaged or became obsolete).
      2. Processes and procedures for certain procurements, like laptops for teachers or other members of leadership.
      3. In what ways are high-value items marked and securely stored?

Risk Assessment

      1. Risk assessment may be done in numerous departments or areas to review its level of vulnerability.
      2. Technology (IT), finance, and other departments may have questionnaires that are focused on the specific issues or risks that they may face. Technology-related risks are vastly different than those that someone in a payroll or procurement may face.

Technology For Internal Auditing

The work of internal auditors greatly relies on the good record maintenance of documents vital to district governance and operation. Meeting agendas, past meeting minutes, budgets, bylaws, policy guides, training materials, manuals, and strategic plans are all often submitted to the auditor for audit questionnaires.

Leveraging software, like Community by Diligent, districts are able to ensure that these essential documents are easily accessible by auditors, school board members, administrators, and members of the public.

Utilizing Community, auditors can easily and securely access these materials from any device with internet access, anytime and anywhere. This level of accessibility allows auditors, board members, and administrators to share and access materials that may be significant to the auditing procedure. Auditors may even share audit questionnaires and reports with the board, administrators, and members of the public through Community’s portal.

Internal audit questionnaires are valuable tools that can be leveraged to provide feedback to school districts so that they may apply the information to make significant changes to accomplish objectives and goals. The reflective practice of internal auditing supports district leaders to seek new and creative ways to improve education. Leveraging the right technology, public education leaders can simplify and streamline the internal auditing process to improve the performance of the district.