Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

FAMU's Fiscal Fumblings: Frustrated Florida Legislators Threaten to Withhold State Funding If Institution Doesn't Clean Up Finances Soon

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

FAMU's Fiscal Fumblings: Frustrated Florida Legislators Threaten to Withhold State Funding If Institution Doesn't Clean Up Finances Soon

Article excerpt

This is supposed to be a good time for Florida A&M University. In February, trustees announced the selection of a highly regarded administrator, North Carolina Central University Chancellor James Ammons, to steer the often-embattled 119-year-old historically Black university back on course.

Now the school finds itself in the middle of controversy again--this time over financial fumblings that have state lawmakers requesting a criminal probe and threatening to withhold state funds. The state has also retained outside expertise to help the school get its financial act together.

A recent draft audit for the 2005-2006 fiscal year found numerous problems with FAMU's finances, including mismanagement of $50 million in expenses and revenue.

"The only things [Ammons] will recognize when he gets here, in many cases, are the buildings;' says Dr. William P. Tucker, the recently retired FAMU physics professor and president of the faculty union. "We've got some serious work ahead of us."

Florida lawmakers on March 19 sought a criminal investigation into the financial mishaps currently plaguing the university; a decision is pending the outcome of FAMU's response to the audit. During the public discussion of the audit, the school was warned that if its finances aren't cleaned up in a timely manner, the Legislature would consider denying state funding.

"It's a pretty big deal;' says Ted 1. Sauerbeck, the audit manager for the Florida Auditor General's office. "Some of the actions that [legislators] are calling for show it has to be taken very seriously. I can't recall that we've had a finding like that for any of the other 10 universities" in Florida.

During the 2005-2006 academic year, FAMU's budget was about $394 million. A new audit is under way.

The draft audit listed 35 troubling findings that the university must address. Among the audit's findings:

* The university listed $1.8 million in athletic ticket sales revenue, but said the records for the sales had been inadvertently discarded.

* Nearly $18,000 in purchases by the university were not documented by purchase orders or through written contracts, as found in a sampling of 63 financial disbursements.

* Nearly $12,000 in debt the university had trouble collecting was written off by the university without required approval from the board of trustees. …

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