The Victorian Government has unveiled some new ways it will be tracking school spending in a push to improve integrity across the state’s education system.
Education Department auditors will use new software to monitor staff travel expenses, credit card spending and school councils as part of a broad crackdown on misconduct. School council finances will also be put under scrutiny.
The move follows a probe by the Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) which found that former education department officials misused school funds.
A spokesperson for the Victorian Education Department told The Educator that, for the first time, it will use a “data analytical tool” to monitor school spending.
“The Department has worked with an accounting firm to build a new data analytics tool to oversee schools transactions,” the spokesman said.
“The tool is designed to identify irregular transactions which the Department will then investigate with the school.”
The length of audits will also be doubled to four days, and include two auditors who will work with schools to improve their financial management.
Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals (VASP) president, Judy Crowe, told The Age that she welcomed the increased focus on auditing.
“It can point to areas where schools can improve. It can enhance the confidence of the school community,” she said.
Australian Principals Federation (APF) Victorian president, Julie Podbury, said “99.9% of schools” were acting appropriately, and that some schools occasionally struggled to keep up with financial reporting due to a lack of resources.
“If audits identify schools which aren't complying, I expect the department would see this as a need for additional support and resources, rather than a reason for admonishment.”
An Education Department spokesman said the “troubling revelations” at IBAC and in recent audits prompted the department to “increase oversight of school spending and our own internal processes”.
“In 2016 the department will undertake a number of new and strengthened audit processes to improve financial oversight and management at Victorian schools,” he said.
“Schools are best placed to decide how they use their resources to provide a great education for their students, but it is vital that we have the oversight to ensure public money is spent appropriately and effectively.”