$10 million unaccounted for in DC scholarship program

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- A favorite local scholarship program funded by taxpayers that has enabled tens of thousands of students - many low-income - to go to college needs stricter monetary controls and cannot account for approximately $10 million from scholarship funds, according to an audit that has yet to be published.

A draft version of the 56-page review, first obtained by the Washington Post, details systemic bookkeeping failures in certain areas, but does not directly state money is missing - only that it is unaccounted for, an assertion the superintendent of education for D.C., Jesus Aguirre, disputes.

"There are aspects of the program that certainly need to be tightened," Aguirre acknowledged in an interview Monday afternoon, but "that doesn't mean something was misspent. That just means somebody made a mistake and gave us incorrect information."

Since its inception in 2000, the D.C. Tuition Assistance Program, known by the acronym TAG, has provided financial grants totaling $350.4 million to 21,386 students in the district, according to information supplied by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. Students must attend high school in D.C. to qualify but are free to use the money at colleges and universities across the country.

The audit is being conducted by the accounting firm F.S. Taylor & Associates, which stressed to WUSA9 the leaked document is only a draft and could still change. The firm declined to comment further.

Superintendent Aguirre appeared to think the report would be altered before it was complete, implying the accountants did not yet have all the facts.

"Auditors are working on limited information," Aguirre said in the interview, "and part of the process is that we then sit down with them and we go back and forth and we say: 'Look, this is additional information you may have missed.'"

"It isn't necessarily that $10 million was lost. We don't know where the documentation is in terms of where those expenditures were coded in the prior year... we can't account for it," Aguirre said.

He could not provide an estimate for when the audit would be completed or when additional information would be made public.

"I'm saying everything's been spent the way it's supposed to be spent."


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