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Iowa Watchdog

Iowa universities and Board of Regents dinged in audits

7/5/2013

DES MOINES – Iowa public colleges overpaid staff, failed to safeguard university and student information and implemented a new student information system riddled with errors, according to newly released audit reports for the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa.

Additionally, auditors found the Iowa Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s three public universities, failed to properly oversee contracts. Auditors reviewed the schools’ and board’s finances for fiscal year 2012.

An audit for Iowa State University was not yet available.

Specific findings include:

  • Problems were noted with half of the six Board of Regent contracts reviewed by auditors. One contract didn’t have an end date and another excluded a maximum cost for the services provided. A third contract was not signed by the board.
  • The University of Iowa made 309 overpayments that totaled more than $805,000, an increase of nearly $160,000 from overpayments made the prior year. Auditors have flagged the school for the past three fiscal years for overpaying staff.
  • University of Iowa officials did not always track transactions or have an independent person review recordings of money spent during the fiscal year.
  • The University of Iowa and University of Northern Iowa failed to install encryption software on all laptop computers and portable storage devices that potentially could contain sensitive information, putting it and the school at risk, according to auditors.
  • Officials at the University of Northern Iowa weren’t able reconcile an almost $475,000 difference between a reporting system tracking federal student loans and the school’s accounting system.
  • The University of Northern Iowa implemented a new student information system, which allows students to sign up for classes, apply for financial aid, see billing and charges to their accounts and pay bills online. It took the school nine months of working out glitches before it was able to appropriately post information to the students’ accounts receivable. Proof of reconciliation between the student information system and the university’s financial books was not available. Additionally, the system had an unresolved difference of $500,000 when compared to bank statements.
  • Officials at the University of Northern Iowa allow employees, including those who are students, access to confidential information and lacks a policy requiring employees to sign confidentiality agreements.
Auditors ding the University of Iowa and University of Northern Iowa for financial issues.

Auditors ding the University of Iowa and University of Northern Iowa for financial issues.

In responses to auditors, university and board officials said they working to correct a majority of the problems identified. For example, the University of Iowa put in place stronger controls to prevent overpayments which resulted in only 121 instances for fiscal year 2013, which ended June 30. That represents a reduction of 60 percent.

School officials, however, said in some instances compliance was not realistic and cost prohibitive. They said, for example, they have a policy to encrypt laptops and portable storage devices that contain sensitive university information. But the overwhelming majority of computers do not have such information on them, they said.

Read the audit reports here: University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa and the Iowa Board of Regents.

Contact Sheena Dooley at dooley@iowawatchdog.org. Sheena Dooley is the Iowa bureau chief for Watchdog.org, where this story first appeared.

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