ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque Public Schools is toughening up the rules to stop waste, fraud and abuse of APS resources. It comes after former administrator, Sheryl Williams Stapleton, was caught allegedly stealing millions of dollars from the district. The APS Board of Education unanimously approved the new procurement policy this week, hoping that in the future, anyone who handles APS money knows there are rules to follow.
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Rennette Apodaca serves as the APS Executive Director of Procurement. “This gave us the ability to put it all together so now it is documented, it is memorialized, and it is approved by the board,” said Apodaca.
The APS board unanimously passed new rules for procurement during a meeting this week. “We wanted to make sure that you know all of our employees, the vendors, and anybody that has anything to do with any kind of purchases, really knows that all of these procedures really apply to all of us,” said Tami Coleman, the APS chief financial officer.
This all comes after former APS employee and state lawmaker, Sheryl Williams Stapleton, is accused of overseeing a company called “Robotics” which was paid more than $5 million over the years by APS. However, investigators say its software never actually worked. Authorities say nearly $1 million from that contract was funneled to companies and charities run by Stapleton. “Yeah there were gaps, there were mistakes we should have caught but the most important thing is developing the policy and the training and the practice,” said Barbara Petersen, who is on the APS Policy and Instruction Committee.
APS says they had no official procurement policy in place before this but did follow state and federal guidelines. “APS had a decent procurement division. The problem is that management was not fully supporting their independent oversight and so other very powerful and influential people at APS were able to overrun and basically bypass the law, ” said New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas.
Now, APS employees involved in the procurement process will have to adhere to a new code of conduct and make sure its carried out competitively, impartially, and with transparency. “Really falls mostly on the procurement office to really lock in those internal controls that are necessary for us to assure that we do follow good processes and that we are treating taxpayer funds with the utmost respect as they deserve,” said Coleman.
Under the policy, APS employees are prohibited from participating in the procurement process if their family members have something to gain financially in the contract. Several APS employees were put on leave as the internal investigation into the Stapleton case was conducted. A tentative trial date for Stapleton is scheduled for December of next year.