NIU financial audit report reveals violations

By Caryn Rosenberg

NIU is a repeat offender, according to a report issued by the state Auditor General’s Office.

Acting Auditor General Don Templeman’s office has released its report on NIU’s financial audit for fiscal year 1991 and the university has been found guilty once again of two regulation violations.

The first finding made by the auditor general is that “NIU improperly retained $302,191 in excess funds rather than remitting the funds to the State Treasury or using the funds to retire indebtedness.”

This is a repeat finding from last year’s report.

Audit Manager Karen Appelbaum said under University Guidelines, the university can only retain so much money in local funds and any excess must be sent to the state treasurer or established in new funds.

“NIU had approval to set up reserves,” Appelbaum said. “They used (the funds) in calculations so there was not an excess, but did not set up the funds.”

Yosh Golden, the auditor general’s public information officer, said any excess must be taken care of no later than 45 days after the close of the last period. The last period is July 1 through September 30.

“My understanding is that they did not (set up funds) and their intent is that they will not,” Appelbaum said.

NIU Chief Accountant Douglas Moore said the regulation is “basically an issue that really all the universities disagree with.” As a result, Moore said this finding is common throughout the state universities.

“It’s basically the fact that the universities believe that they are complying with regulations and the auditor general disagrees,” Moore said.

However, Golden disagreed. “From our evidence it is not a common finding,” she said. “Our folks look at similar kinds of accounts and we haven’t found (excesses).”

Moore said there is nothing wrong with the university’s “interpretation.”

“It’s taking a certain credit without setting up a separate account,” he said. “Instead of putting the money in separate funds, we’re taking a deduction for the item and leaving it in a current operation account.”

The second finding on the report is that “NIU was able to retain $186,795 in excess funds by inappropriately offsetting this excess against unfunded allowances for capital reserves.”

Controller Robert Albanese said this finding is due to a difference in the interpretation of University Guidelines.

“They have their interpretation and we have ours,” Albanese said. “We don’t consider it to be what we would call a real substantial audit finding.”

Moore said the money in question was set aside for the new lighting system in the Huskie Stadium.

“It’s basically student fee money to retain operation of the (Chick Evans) fieldhouse and the stadium,” Moore said.

Work on the financial audit for fiscal year 1992 will begin soon, but if NIU again fails to comply with regulations, the auditor general’s office can only report it again.

“We don’t have enforcing powers,” Golden said. “We report to the legislature and they take action if need be.”

Appelbaum said if NIU does continue its disregard for the established regulations, the matter could go to the Legislative Audit Commission which would hold a hearing.

In addition, she said if a ruling was made against NIU, the General Assembly could choose to withhold any of its appropriations.

However, Moore said he does not see this as an end to the interpretative differences.

“The state legislature of the audit commission has known about the findings but has decided not to side with either interpretation,” Moore said. “The problem is something that isn’t going to go away.”

Both violations are repeated from last year.