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UND fund transfers were legal
legislators say legal opinion will make it tough for them to keep track of university spending.
transfers of funds at UND were legal even though they exceeded a $50,000 limit
set by the state Legislature on spending or transferring funds, according to
North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp. Heitkamp issued the opinion this
week, leaving some legislators believing it will be difficult for them to keep
track of university spending. Heitkamp's opinion was issued at the request of
the Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee, which reviews and must
approve all audits of state agencies.
transfers, totaling $1.13 million, were questioned earlier this year in an audit
of UND by the North Dakota State Auditor's Office. The audit cited a 1995 law
that says colleges and universities may not spend or transfer more than $50,000
in any one transaction without first getting approval from a legislative
opinion worries Rep. John Dorso of Fargo, the House Republican Leader and a
member of the audit committee. Dorso said Heitkamp's opinion may undo several
years worth of legislative work aimed at getting a handle on how funds are
shifted around internally at colleges and universities, especially UND.
Dorso's urging, the legislative committee voted to ask Heitkamp to suggest
wording for a new law that would make it possible to keep track of those funds.
Heitkamp said she would comply with the request.
audit identified five internal fund transfers that exceeded the $50,000 limit.
The transfers were for such things as copying, telephones and aviation
officials have explained in the past that the internal service funds are used to
move money around from one area to another, as services are performed and paid
for. For example, the university provides telephone service to individual
university departments, then regulates and keeps track of telephone use by
charging fees for telephone use. The internal service funds also help the
university keep track when such things as phones and copying machines used for
other purposes, such as doing work for a federal grant.
has long complained the funds cover up the true uses of money at the university.
For example, the same UND audit also uncovered 11 funds that were in the red. By
far the largest group of deficit funds were located in the Center for Aerospace
Sciences, where eight separate funds showed a total of $2.4 million debt. There
also were deficits in funds for two of the UND School of Medicine's family
practice centers, and a $343,000 deficit in the athletic department that Dorso
says was, in effect, a taxpayer subsidy of the UND Boosters Club.
problem is partly due to the university system's outdated accounting system,
according to Laura Glatt, university system vice chancellor for finance. A new
computerized system would enable colleges and universities to better track and
report on use of funds, she said.
UND is no longer making large internal fund transfers-Instead they are making a
series of smaller transfers. UNDís
President said large transfers showed up in the audit because the university
used to wait for months or even a year before making certain transfers. Now, UND
makes transfers each month, so the total never exceeds the $50,000 limit.
Source: Grand Forks Herald, October 8, 1997