Bart Mendoza 5 a.m., Dec. 8
Audit Finds San Diego School Inspectors Filed False Reports, Absent from Sites
A report released today by California state auditor Elaine M. Howle concludes that inspections of school construction projects for earthquake safety by the state architect's office have been severly deficient, jeopardizing student and teacher safety.
The problem has been especially bad in San Diego, says the report, where "according to the San Diego field team supervisor, inspectors have falsified reports, been absent from job sites, been unable to comprehend construction plans, and failed to communicate with the regional office about their projects."
The inspections, mandated by the state's Field Act, are crucial to maintaining the structural integrity of school buildings, the auditor says.
Over 16,000 projects remain uncertified statewide, according to the report.
Due to the repeated inspection lapses, the officials have been "unable to certify that a large number of completed school construction projects meet requirements in the Field Act, a law designed to protect the safety of pupils, teachers, and the public."
Another problem has been with tracking school district compliance with the law, the audit found.
"Because the division does not believe it has a responsibility beyond issuing closure letters to districts, it has not adopted a statewide policy for any additional follow-up.
"According to the acting state architect, once the division sends closure letters to school districts, the division has fulfilled its obligation and school districts are responsible for taking the next step.
"Each of the four regions offered its own perspective on following up on uncertified projects: The regional managers from the Sacramento and Oakland regions stated that they do not follow up with districts because of limited resources, the San Diego regional manager stated that his office does not follow up because the division has no formal follow-up policy, and the Los Angeles regional manager stated that his office will occasionally remind two large districts that they have outstanding type-four projects and will less frequently contact others about uncertified projects."
"We found examples of projects with an estimated cost of up to $2.2 million that had no evidence of a visit by the division’s field staff," Howle says in her cover letter.
"Also, the division does not complete field oversight of school construction in the areas of fire and life safety and accessibility, raising the risk that safety issues in these areas will go uncorrected."
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