LOWER MANHATTAN — Taxpayers have spent about $200 million in the last two years on state-of-the-art computer equipment and computers for New York City public schools. However, at eight of those recipient schools and one Department of Education office, millions of dollars' worth of the hardware is nowhere to be found, according to a newly released report from the city comptroller.
It's also not the first time that this kind of disappearing act has taken place, Comptroller Scott Stringer said on Wednesday.
"We are demanding a full top to bottom accounting of all computers, tablets and monitors in our school system," said the comptroller at a noon news conference.
He pointed out that his office carried out a similar audit of nine other DOE schools two and-a-half years ago. Its results were remarkably similar.
In the December 2014 audit, just over 1,800 items of computer hardware were unable to be located by the DOE. In the latest audit, 1,816 items were unaccounted for.
"The situation has just gotten worse," said Stringer, adding that of the missing items from the 2014 audit, the DOE still cannot locate a majority of them.
"That's crazy," one Brooklyn dad told PIX11 News. "Somebody must be robbing them."
That may or may not be the case, according to the comptroller.
"They could be siting in a closet," Stringer said about the missing hardware, or left "in the wrong place, lost or stolen. The DOE could not even know."
The DOE facilities that were audited in the newest survey were Brooklyn Tech High School and P.S. 160 and Ft. Hamilton High School, also in Brooklyn; ReStart Academy in Manhattan; P.S. Q016 and P.S. 024 in Queens; P.S. 089 and M.S. 180 in the Bronx; and the Queens Plaza Administrative Site in Queens.
The audit results left many people that PIX11 encountered less than pleased.
"As we're paying taxes, it's kind of unacceptable," said Melvin Piña.
Lisa Banks is the area development director for the United Negro College Fund, a major national scholarship source. When she learned about the audit results, her response was straightforward.
"The kids need the computers to apply for the scholarships."
She was not the only taxpayer to speak with PIX11 News who was upset that the report showed that students may be getting shortchanged by a lack of accountability.
"Who filled out the paperwork?" asked Brooklynite Myrdith Leon-McCormack, who said that she had other lingering questions. "Who placed the order? When was it received?"
"There's so many ways of keeping track and a paper trail," Leon-McCormack said, adding, "Where's the leadership?"
For its part, the DOE released a statement Wednesday afternoon that was highly critical of the audit's methodology and results.
"This audit’s findings are fundamentally flawed and unreliable," the statement read, "and we’re committed to improving our inventory system for technology. We’re training teachers to better use technology as a tool in their classroom and will continue to invest in cost-effective solutions that catalogue and safeguard technology purchases in the best interests of students, schools and taxpayers.”