Audit updates fall short

U departments under audit have performed 16 percent of their recommended actions.

by Brian Edwards

University of Minnesota departments and procedures currently undergoing internal audits this year are mostly noncompliant with University rules and regulations. 
The results of the annual audits of University departments and services revealed slow progress in the first review since the year’s audit plan was laid out in June. 
Though administrators cited a technical and complicated process as a reason for the low numbers, some regents have expressed concern over the noncompliance.
At a September Board of Regents committee meeting, the school’s Office of Internal Audit presented results showing that 16 percent  of University audit recommendations were compliant. 
The annual audit provides a way for the University to make sure that different departments are keeping up with rules and policies set by the school and government organizations.
Through September’s board meeting, the recommended compliance for the 25 audits chosen for this year is 40 percent — a number Regent Michael Hsu said was too low of a goal. While four units have fully implemented their recommendations, 60 percent of the recommendations are overdue. 
Still, 24 audits’ progress were deemed either satisfactory or complete.
“If every policy is important, then the numbers should be at or near 100 percent,” he said.
Individual audits for departments, like University Recreation and Wellness and the Carlson School of Management, within the plan were selected by the audit committee because of their importance to University functions and priorities and involved “high-risk” areas, like data security and student demographics. 
Of the 25 units audited, Parking and Transportation Services was the only unit whose progress was deemed unsatisfactory, with none of the ten recommendations fulfilled.
The report listed “system limitations and resource constraints” as the setback for PTS, but department leaders were giving the recommendations considerable effort, said Gail Klatt, associate vice president of the University’s Office of Internal Audit, at the board meeting earlier this month.
“Some things just take longer to attend to than others, or sometimes they are complicated by obstacles that are outside the unit’s control,” she said.
Of the 82 outstanding recommendations for all of the departments being audited, 78 percent are related to information technology.
Hsu said figuring out why the audit numbers are so low is important because if simple policy changes are needed, those can be accomplished in a short amount of time. But, he said, more complicated system-wide changes could take longer.
In 2015, the office did not complete five audits due to a lack of resources, and three were pushed to this year’s audit plan. 
Since February 2013, there has been an average of 31 percent compliance on the suggestions. Compliance peaked in September 2013, when 47 percent of unit policies were compliant, but dropped to 13 percent this June. 
At the meeting, Klatt said large-scale system upgrades as well as other technologies the school has implemented may have caused the low numbers.
She said planned audits are assigned in June, and the auditors periodically review progress and report to the regents throughout the year. 
Regent Laura Brod said at the meeting that she would like to know how the obstacles for compliance, like in PTS, could be overcome.
Klatt said at the meeting that there isn’t a reliable system in place within units like PTS to conform to policy, but efforts to work through the issues are underway.
“I think people are taking action, but it just hasn’t shown results yet,” she said at the meeting.