More student groups to be audited this year

Nearly two dozen groups, including MSA, are preparing for audits.

by Roy Aker

More University of Minnesota student groups are receiving funding this year than in past years, which means more are being audited.

Twenty-three groups will be audited this year to ensure they’re using funding from student services fees responsibly.

The audits are conducted annually for all groups receiving fees money, with each individual group being audited every two or three years.

Pre-audit meetings for the groups begin Wednesday.

Because of the increased number of groups, this year’s audit process is budgeted up to $79,000 — an increase from last year’s $71,000 cost.

Fourteen groups receiving more than $15,000 this year in student services fees will be fully audited, while nine groups getting less than $15,000 will receive more limited audits.

Auditors for all groups compare fees requests to transaction records, bank statements, investment statements and other financial information to make sure they line up, said Megan Sweet, assistant to the assistant dean of students in the Office of Student Affairs.

If the final amount doesn’t align, she said, auditors will note the discrepancy in their report.

The Student Services Fees Committee will take the audits into account, along with group applications, when allocating funding to each group.

Minnesota Student Association President Mike Schmit said MSA, which will be fully audited this year, was last audited three years ago.

Schmit said MSA is currently “getting its books together” from the last fiscal year. He said he’s confident the audit will go smoothly, citing an “excellent treasurer” from last year and a newly created Chief Financial Officer position.

Amelious Whyte Jr., assistant dean of students and OSA chief of staff, said groups are looked at on a case-by-case basis if auditors find a problem in their finances.

He said he thinks the audits are a good business practice.

“It just makes sense,” he said. “It’s what we should be doing.”

Preparing for the process

Before the audit process begins, group leaders will meet with U-Finance, a student group that helps peer organizations with their finances.

Because student group leadership changes yearly, some students may be unfamiliar with the audit process, said U-Finance President Andrew Russo. It’s important for groups to get help with finances before the process begins, he said.

The group has consulted other student groups on their audits since 2011, he said.

Russo said the process is getting smoother because groups that were audited in 2011 are starting to cycle through again.

Alex Horner, U-Finance vice-president, said the group will break into five “case teams” that will help groups through the three-week audit process.

But he said problems can arise if groups don’t keep proper receipts of financial transactions.

In those cases, Russo said, U-Finance will work with the student group to tell the University’s contracted auditing firm, Deloitte and Touche LLP, why information is missing and relay that reasoning to the SSFC.

Russo said U-Finance doesn’t want to simply get student groups ready for the audit, but also make sure they’re properly managing their finances so they don’t get into hot water later.

Final audit reports will be presented to OSA, the SSFC and student groups in December and January.