Update at 24-month followup: Although the Department has taken some steps to strengthen oversight of the Program and safeguard program monies, many of the issues found during the 2016 Auditor General performance audit persist. The Department has not adequately monitored parents’ spending, reviewed expenses in a timely manner, or taken timely enforcement actions to address misspending. The Department should continue its efforts to implement the recommendations from the 2016 performance audit report. The Department has implemented, partially implemented, or is in the process of implementing other recommendations from the 2016 performance audit to improve its eligibility determination process, appropriately safeguard sensitive program information, and better manage program information.
(Report published June 29, 2016) The Arizona Department of Education (Department)—Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program (Program) provides state education monies to parents to pay for the educational expenses of their children who are not attending public schools and who meet statutory eligibility criteria. Statute also prescribes the educational expenditures that parents can make. The Department has established processes for distributing program monies and helping to ensure these monies are spent as required by statute but should further strengthen oversight of program spending. In addition, the Legislature should consider establishing a work group to determine if statutory changes are needed to further ensure appropriate spending of program monies. The Department should also continue to improve its eligibility determination process, complete its development and implementation of policies and procedures for safeguarding sensitive and personally identifiable information, and use its newly implemented information technology system to better manage program data.