University cancels external SA audit

An independent accounting firm will not conduct an audit of Student Association finances despite strong administrative and student support for a review last semester. Student leaders requested the audit after they found numerous discrepancies between the SA and University’s books from last year.

The SA discovered errors in the University’s financial records totaling more than $60,000, which appeared to be given out to various student groups and leaders. SA President Kris Hart said last semester that the Pricewaterhouse Coopers accounting firm would conduct an audit this spring.

Johnnie Osborne, associate vice president and chief financial officer for Student and Academic Support Services, said the mistakes were a “key punch error.” He said numbers were incorrectly entered into a back-up system that is not connected to SA checks.

He said since the errors occurred in the back-up system and were clerical mistakes, an external audit was not necessary. He also said no funds were taken from student organizations.

“From the University standpoint, there are already adequate controls to lend integrity to the accounting system and the student organizations,” Osborne said. “The money to do an external audit was not warranted with this system already in place. There were only clerical errors that were identified and corrected.”

Osborne said last semester that he supported an external audit, saying “the more oversight the better,” according to a December Hatchet article.

SA President Kris Hart said he is skeptical of the University’s explanation for the discrepancies between SA and SASS records.

The inaccurate documents reported that Hart received a check for more than $52,000 for “miscellaneous expenses.” The Residence Hall Association also received $11,000, according to the records, which the group was never allocated. There were also several other student group funding errors.

“I never thought it was a key punch error, but that’s what the University told me,” Hart, who supports an external audit, said. “There is no way that they could have punched too many zeros into a figure like $52,612. There is just no way that could have happened. I’m still pushing the University to answer that question.”

SA President-elect Omar Woodard said he plans to push for an audit during his term next year.

“The SA is taking proactive steps, and the University isn’t backing it, which is rare to see, especially with financial issues,” he said.

Since Pricewaterhouse Coopers will not conduct the audit, officials and Hart are working on a “24-point plan.” Osborne said officials would review the books, consider the flow of financial information to figure out why the error occurred and try to prevent future errors.

The committee is expected to release its plan later this week.

“There are a number of things to be taken into consideration, and we have to look at the total picture and see if we are doing the best we can,” Osborne said. “When we met, we found areas that we could do better in, and we will be working to improve those areas with the 24-point plan.”

“The Student Association has thousands of transactions, and while it is ideal to have zero errors, with any human system, there are going to be problems,” he added.

Hart said the plan will “fill up any holes” in the financial record-keeping process.

A few senators said they are disappointed that Hart and administrators did not reveal details of audit cancellation plans for months.

“We’ve been asking about the audit procedure for months now and then the only response we got was that the audit was getting pulled completely,” said Sen. Asher Corson (U-CCAS). “I would have liked to see the administration and president be honest with us instead of doing things secretly and cutting the Senate out of it.”

However, Hart said he left the Senate out of the process because senators overreacted to initial audit plans.

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