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Audit finds issues with UMass credit cards

  • The University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) campus Courtesy photo



Staff Writer
Thursday, November 01, 2018

AMHERST — A state audit of the University of Massachusetts has found, among other problems, that employees made $17,446 in improper purchases on university credit cards, and failed to follow some policies related to students with disabilities on campus.

The office of the state’s auditor, Suzanne Bump, released the findings on Monday. The audit focused on spending at UMass Amherst from July 1, 2014, through Dec. 31, 2016, and examined activities related to the university’s information technology inventory, expenditures on “procurement cards” and services for students covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

One of the audit’s findings was that the university’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety had not provided evidence that it has developed personal emergency action plans for students with disabilities living in dorms, or evidence that it had discussed those plans with students. The office did provide evidence of fire drills, fire-alarm and sprinkler-alarm systems.

In a statement, UMass spokesman Ed Blaguszewski said those emergency action plans had been developed after meetings with students, but those actions were not documented in the past.

The university, in its official response to the audit, said that the Office of Environmental Health and Safety is developing a checklist it expects to implement this fall that will ensure all of those meetings will be documented.

Bump’s office also found issues with the university’s grievance process for students with disabilities.

When a student with a disability files a grievance with UMass, the university attempts to solve those grievances informally within 30 days. If necessary, the university prepares a written agreement with the student to extend that timeframe in order to conduct an investigation.

Bump’s office found that for seven out of eight grievances during the audit period UMass did not obtain those written agreements. For those seven grievances, the settlement process ranged from 89 days to 479. Those grievances included “lack of accommodations, delayed accommodations, and/or discrimination,” the audit reads.

The university’s response to the audit says that its Equal Opportunity Office often facilitates “immediate accommodation relief well in advance of a 30-day deadline,” and subsequently investigates. The response says that the university’s current documented policy is not reflective of actual complaint procedures, resulting in the audit’s finding.

“In response to the auditor’s report, the university will act to improve and clarify the timeframes for mediation of students’ grievances regarding accommodations,” Blaguszewski said.

The state’s audit also found problems with the use of procurement cards, or “procards,” at UMass.

Procards are credit cards meant to facilitate employee purchases of simple goods and services. However, certain purchases are prohibited on the cards, including gift cards, memberships, gasoline, furniture and information technology equipment that costs more than $400.

During the period in question, the auditors looked at 165 procard transactions totaling $60,505. Of all those transactions, 59 were for restricted purchases totalling $17,446. Those transactions included 24 gift cards, 14 memberships, nine pieces of IT equipment and seven furniture purchases.

“Although these 59 transactions appeared to be business-related and would be allowable with other purchasing mechanisms, the items are not allowed to be purchased with Procards under the university’s current Procard policies,” the audit reads.

In addition, 14 of the 165 transactions that were audited did not have proper documentation.

In his statement, Blaguszewski pointed to the language in the audit that said the transactions in question all appeared to be business-related.

“At the recommendation of the auditor, the university is revising its credit card policies and employee training to ensure that the credit cards are used in accordance with university procedures and with clearly stated limits,” Blaguszewski said.