For the second year in a row, state auditors say the University of New Orleans had “several significant errors” in its annual financial report.
A 15-page report released Monday by Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera found UNO’s accounting for the fiscal year that ended June 30 failed to remove from the books millions of dollars worth of payments that were made and contained errors in disclosure notes that provide additional details about the financial statements.
Purpera’s report also chided campus police at the Lakefront school for the way they process fines generated from parking tickets.
“The resulting errors increased the time and effort necessary for the auditors to complete their work,” the report said. “The inadequate review also increases the risk that additional errors may remain undetected.”
Purpera’s report said UNO did not have adequate procedures in place to handle fines from tickets issued by campus police, increasing the risk of fraud and threatening a relatively lucrative cash generator for UNO. The school collected $150,000 in fines last year.
In a single-page response included with the report, UNO President Peter Fos didn’t dispute Purpera’s findings and said he planned “immediate corrective action” to tackle the problems cited.
The auditor’s report said school officials did not compare records of tickets issued by campus police against collection figures to see if the school was collecting all the money it was owed. The report noted, for example, that only one employee has the authority to rule on a ticket’s appeal and that no procedures are in place for an independent review of that decision. Out of 18 tickets that were canceled after an appeal that year, records did not indicate why 11 of them were voided.
“Management has not placed sufficient emphasis on the appeals process and ensuring ticket records are complete and accurate,” the report said. “Good controls should include a reconciliation of police and accounting records, as well as adequate documentation to support ticket appeals.”
Fos, in response, said campus police would soon develop new policies to improve the process of tracking tickets that are issued and voided each month. “Since this finding, UNO has implemented an electronic process for issuing tickets which improves the accuracy and timeliness of each entry,” he said.
In reviewing UNO’s numbers for the past five years, auditors said the school’s annual expenses and revenues have both fallen; expenses outpaced revenues for the past three years. Since 2010, net revenue generated from tuition and fees has risen by 18 percent — largely from tuition hikes — but the financial lift from tuition increases was offset by a 20 percent decline in enrollment.
The state’s audit was done as part of a review of the University of Louisiana System’s financial reporting.
The report noted that UNO generated about $200,000 last year from online academic offerings.
After a lengthy review to identify which programs at the cash-strapped school fit with its long-term mission, Fos this month announced plans to eliminate seven academic programs and cut more than two dozen faculty and staff positions.
The plan, which was approved by the Board of Supervisors of the University of Louisiana System, calls for eliminating 22 faculty positions, four jobs in the school’s library and $1 million in what UNO spends annually for adjunct instructors.
The total savings are estimated at $1 million this fiscal year and $2.8 million next year. Additional academic programs are set for review during the next phase.
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.