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Audit blasts WV State's past financial habits

A recent audit of West Virginia State University found university employees misused the school's purchase and travel cards and has failed to keep track of thousands of dollars of school-owned property, including computer equipment and iPads.

The state Legislative Auditor's Office presented the study to lawmakers at an interim meeting Tuesday.

Auditors found the school's inventory records from fiscal year 2011 were "critically deficient." The university does not have an all-inclusive record of its assets, and the records that do exist often are lacking key information like the item's cost, its location and serial number.

The university also did not keep separate records of assets purchased with university funds and those purchased with outside money. State also failed to remove assets of the Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College, which became a separate institution in 2008, from its records.

As an exercise, auditors tried to track down 188 items in West Virginia State's inventory from two years ago. They were unable to find 67 of the items, which included computer equipment and iPads, and were unable to find the original purchase price for seven of those items.

The remaining 60 missing items, however, were worth $151,363.

West Virginia State has since come under new leadership with Brian Hemphill being named president in May 2012. It is now reporting an enrollment increase of about 50 percent, after years of steady declines in new students. Ground was recently broken on the first new dorm since 1969 and a new, $2.1 million athletic facility is slated for completion early next year.

In an emailed statement, university spokesman Jack Bailey said, "The University does not dispute the findings in the audit. The audit reflects financial practices from July 1, 2008 - June 30, 2009 and July 1, 2010 - June 30, 2011.

"The administration of President Brian O. Hemphill does not condone these types of practices and has taken steps to insure that this does not ever happen again.

Bailey said the prior administration of Hazo Carter requested the Higher Education Policy Commission to review the school's records.

"After such analysis and internal discussions, various internal review and approval processes were put in place," he said in the statement. "The findings that are outlined in the audit have been remediated. The University is very mindful of the need to serve as a good steward of public funding and operate in a very efficient and transparent manner."

Auditors also found problems with the university's state-issued purchase card, as well as a United National Bank travel card.

One of the school's purchase cards, held by an employee in its Physical Facilities Deparment, was used far more often than others. The card was used for more than $829,000 in fiscal year 2011, making up 18 percent of West Virginia State's total p-card purchases.

The school failed to keep adequate documentation for many of those transactions.

Employees failed to get receipts for $46,844 of the purchases, nearly $800,000 in purchases were not properly documented and $37,177 was spent by individuals not authorized to use the card.

Auditor Staci Shumate told lawmakers the purchases did not appear to be inappropriate for the employee, however.

Discrepancies with the school's travel card were more suspicious.

The travel card is largely unguarded, not subject to controls as purchases made through the university's accounts payable process, or the purchase card.

The auditor's office looked at 13 of the 15 payments West Virginia State made to United Bank in 2011.

Of those 1,171 purchases, 372 were made within 15 miles of West Virginia State's campus.

Most of those charges were for meals, but also included hotels, groceries, athletic equipment, supplies and apparel.

That includes two purchases at a local Walmart, totaling $602 and $583, respectively. Auditors could not determine a legitimate reason for the purchases, but school officials explained they might have purchased food for athletic team trips.

The school did not provide any supporting documentation for travel card purchases, like team rosters or event schedules with meal and hotel receipts. That prevented auditors from verifying the purchases were made for athletic events.

At least 30 transactions appear to be for personal purchases, auditors said. Twelve purchases, totaling $75.56, were for personal meals.

Almost $1,000 in purchases, spread over 18 transactions, were for feminine products, hair spray, bug spray, contact solution, prescriptions, over-the-counter pain relievers, tissues and shoes, among other items.

Auditors recommended the university begin complying with state code, Higher Education Police Commission rules, state auditor purchase card rules and its own Board of Governors policies.

Lori Elliott, West Virginia State's assistant vice president for business and finance, told lawmakers the university accepts the auditor's findings, and has strengthened controls on purchasing to comply with the report's recommendations.

Elliot said the school also is working on a comprehensive inventory of all its property.

"Anything we can find to inventory, we'll have it on that list," she said.

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or zack.harold@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ZackHarold.


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