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February 1, 2003

UMBC's Teamwork Contributes to a Positive 2002 Audit

President Freeman Hrabowski began a meeting about UMBC's recent legislative audit by saying, "We are in a different place from five years ago -- the campus can help us to look good or bad and we are looking good."

A legislative mandate dictates that all State agencies are audited every two and a half to three years. UMBC's audits generally examine departments heavily involved in financial transactions. Clolita M. Williams, assistant vice president for administrative services, says that the audits are an important way of communicating UMBC's fiscal responsibility. "A good audit result is crucial in order to demonstrate to others --including the legislature, donors and other funding sources -- that we are fiscally responsible and that they should continue to invest in UMBC because the investment will be protected, managed ethically in compliance with sound fiscal and operating procedures."

In 1997's audit, 16 issues became report items, three of which were repeated from the 1994 audit, which only contained four report items. In response to the increase, the campus held discussions on how to respond to the audit and address the problems, which involved cash receipts, disbursements, payroll, financial aid, student accounts receivable, computer security and verification of student residencies.

To correct the problems and improve future audits, Management Advisory Services (MAS) was created. MAS conducts management reviews and follow-up to legislative audit reports and assists University departments in improving existing procedures, implementing new procedures and providing periodic training where needed to meet the requirements for internal controls.

In addition, President Hrabowski began holding bimonthly meetings to review and discuss progress, and an Audit Advisory Committee was formed to serve in an advisory capacity to MAS and as a point of contact for audit issues and resolutions. Initial members of the committee represented those departments that were cited in the audit.

Most recently, a Management Advisory Oversight committee replaced the Audit Advisory Committee. The new committee is broadening the focus of previous meetings from the resolution of audit issues to proactive planning. It also examines internal business, fiscal and operational accountability.

These measures, combined with sustained leadership and involvement by the president, administrative vice president and other senior administrators, contributed substantially to improvements in UMBC's administrative operations, and the University has made positive strides in its last two audits. Michele Evans, director of Management Advisory Services, says, "We are making progress. Everyone has worked hard and it shows."

The tone of UMBC's 2002 audit was very favorable and cooperative. Only two issues were repeated from the last audit and were of a more minor nature than in the past. "We are all very happy and proud of the way UMBC worked with MAS and other departments in addressing issues raised by the audit," says Williams. "There was a real spirit of teamwork which was communicated very clearly to the auditors."

Williams adds that even though UMBC generally did very well on this last audit, the campus needs to focus on what made it good and what issues still need work. "We still need to pay attention to compliance issues, especially those related to cash handling and purchasing cards, but overall we should feel very good about this audit." She is pleased that recent training sessions on internal compliance were extremely well attended, demonstrating the campus community's dedication to continuing improvements for future audits.

Evans agrees. "We're heading in the right direction so we just need to keep up the good work. The next legislative audit is only a little over two years away!"

For more information on the audit or internal controls, contact Williams at cwilliam@umbc.edu.

Posted by dwinds1 at February 1, 2003 12:00 AM