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Tuesday at 3 o’clock, State Auditor Susan Montee released to Missouri State University officials the report of the audit that her office conducted on the university. The auditor stopped by KSMU and sat down with reporter Ryan Welch, who has this report.
Montee says that there were no large scale problems at MSU, but that there are a lot of areas that need to be better controlled.
She says one of the areas that most concerned her office had to do with the university president’s contract. In the contract, she says there’s a clause that allowed the previous president to take a paid leave of absence, then become a tenured professor with a much bigger salary than other professors in that department.
“You’re allowed to take a full semester at full pay, and in fact the former president is doing that. He’s working on a non-paid advisory position to the state, but he’s being paid full pay [by the university]. So it’s hard to know what benefit the university is getting from that. And then, to allow him to come in as a tenured faculty member, after he has resigned his presidency, and get paid what amounts to $68,000 more than the highest paid professor in the department, it just doesn’t seem like it would be something that the university would want to do. So, our recommendation is, ‘You reevaluate these contracts and do something that makes some sense for the school,’” said Montee.
Montee says that in this economic climate, the university should be able to justify the benefits for such incentives.
Also in the report was the auditor’s take on weaknesses and discrepancies in the Child Development Center. That’s a program for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers that is run by MSU’s College of Education.
“But really, overall what we found with the Child Development Center was just terrible controls—no oversight, no controls, obviously some issues with money. We don’t say that there was fraud, but we also won’t say that there wasn’t fraud. We had missing records to tell what children were actually in the program; we tried to match them up with the receipts, you’ve got missing attendance records, but you also have missing receipt books, so just a bad situation as far as control over monies,” said Montee.
There are a few other areas of the university’s operations that Montee says need to be reevaluated as well.
“When we look at sabbaticals, and we know there were $2.2 million paid…We know that the Greenwood Lab School was operating at a loss. We know that the university is supplementing $7 million a year to athletics. We know that the John Q. Hammons arena was supposed to be self-sufficient, and is operating at a loss. You have all of these things, that in and of itself, if you look at them individually, you would say, ‘This is a good thing, and I want to keep this,’ but the university has to take all of these things, look at them, as compared to the university mission and say, ‘Here’s why we want to supplement this activity and here’s the amount we can supplement it, and here’s how we’re going to budget and keep it within that.’ So it really is a matter of taking a step back and looking at a bigger-picture approach to some of these things,” said Montee.
Montee also said MSU’s use of lobbyists needs to be better documented.
“In Missouri State’s case, they have a federal lobbyist and a local, state lobbyist, and the federal gives detailed reports. The lobbyist they have at the state level does not. There’s no documentation as to what the person is doing for their dollars. Now the university says, ‘We’re talking to them all the time,’ but for us outside looking in, we have no ability to monitor it. But one of the things that we found when we looked at the university system was that each one of the separate universities has a lobbyist that they’re paying, and these lobbyists are going to Jefferson City and lobbying against each other for the same dollars, so as a state system, it’s a bad place to be,” said Montee.
Montee says that if there were more documentation, these types of things could be avoided, and everyone would still be ensured that they’re getting the most educational dollars possible from the state.
For KSMU News, I’m Ryan Welch.
ANCHOR TAG:In its official response to the audit, the vice chair of MSU’s Board of Governors, Gordon Elliott, said the university is – quote – “grateful to State Auditor Susan Montee and her staff, even if we do not completely agree withcertain conclusions contained in the report. The Board and the University take this report seriously, and we will carefully consider the recommendations contained in it.” – end quote.
In that same university response, MSU President Dr. James Cofer thanked Montee and her staff for their work. He said in anticipation of the report’s release, he created a committee to look at the auditor’s report and advise him on the recommendations the university should implement. He said now that the auditor’s report has been released, that advisory committeewill now begin its work.