Audit criticizes Mo. State University practices

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- An audit of Missouri State University's finances turned up no major problems but showed a need for stronger financial controls at the Springfield school, State Auditor Susan Montee said Tuesday.

Montee's summary said the university lacked systems to monitor expenses closely and could not produce basic financial reports easily and accurately, the Springfield News-Leader reported.

"Even if there's no real problem, that's a huge red flag when you have $270 million in and out," Montee said.

And errors were found in some reports that were prepared manually, she said.

"Even though we didn't find any huge problem, we would not have been surprised if we had because of that," she said.

In its formal response, Missouri State's Board of Governors said it disagrees with Montee's general characterization of its practices but will review the recommendations seriously.

"We believe the university does have very strong financial controls," the board said, adding that the university management has chosen to create "more valuable and user-friendly reports by query."

Montee disputed the board's assessment of the strength of the controls.

"It's just very scary," she said. "Clearly they are going to fix the problems, which they are working on now. But in the meantime, there [is] some potential for some real concern."

Other issues cited in the 58-page audit report included errors in materials supplied to the auditors, inadequate documentation and failure to bid projects competitively.

Among specifics, the audit said Missouri State failed to enforce its policy of requiring faculty members on paid sabbatical to produce a written report on the work completed during the time off.

The state office reviewed seven sabbaticals and found only two faculty members completed and submitted the required report on time.

"While paid sabbatical leave may be beneficial in attracting faculty members and to ensure faculty members can further their knowledge within their field of study, the university also has a responsibility to the public to use its monies in the most beneficial ways possible," the report says.

The board said in its response that "action will be taken immediately to remind deans of the need for all faculty members to timely file the required sabbatical reports."

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