Audit leads to fund reimbursement

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April 23, 2010

4:52 AM

Money from the Council for Student Publications Reserve Fund that had been used to pay $12,000 in wages to a graduate assistant in the Office of Community Engagement Services has largely been reimbursed after an independent student audit revealed the expenditure.

“In light of all the discussion, we have reimbursed it to date,” Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler ’88 Ph.D ’06 said. “It will be fully reimbursed by the end of the fiscal year.”
According to Ambler, the funds can only be reimbursed after they are spent on wages. The original plan was to reimburse the $12,000 in a block payment at the end of the academic year.

The audit, released Monday evening, indicated that Ambler had allowed Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Mark Constantine to use the reserve fund for the payment of wages. According to the report, the auditors considered this a violation of the Publications Council contract, which stipulates that only the Publications Council can authorize expenditures.

“I’m glad to hear that it was reconciled so quickly,” Publications Council Chair Meredith Howard ’11 said. “That was a direct violation of our contract.”

Although many student leaders viewed the expenditure as a misuse of funds, the College of William and Mary’s Internal Auditor Michael Stump said that Ambler and Constantine were not in violation.

“The bottom line is [that] the vice president has the authority to do that,” Stump said. “Now, that’s obviously going to be a point of contention.”

The CSP reserve fund operates outside the CSP budget, existing as an auxiliary fund for Publications Council members The Colonial Echo, The DoG Street Journal, The Flat Hat, The Gallery, jump!, The Monitor: Journal of International Studies, Not Wythe-Standing the News, The Pillory, W&M Review, Winged Nation, WCWM 90.9 FM Radio and WMTV (Television).

The audit was authorized when former Student Assembly President Sarah Rojas ’10 and former Chief of Staff Charles Crimmins J.D. ’10 determined that there was little tracking of revenue generated by the student activity fee, which is processed by the Office of Student Activities.

“The reason we did this audit is because, when we were making the budget at the beginning of the year, we didn’t realize how student money is being allocated,” Rojas said. “It’s our responsibility to make sure all money being spent — every cent — is being spent responsibly.”

This was not the first time the CSP reserve fund had been used to pay graduate wages. $11,000.08 was used during the 2007-2008 academic year.

According to Constantine, the practice was relatively common in years prior to that.

He said that he had reached an agreement with SA executives, who had control of the fund prior to the signing of the Publications Council contract in March 2007.

“I know that he’s making that claim, but there wasn’t an agreement if it wasn’t in writing,” SA Chief of Staff Mariel Murray J.D. ’12 said.

At press time, documentary evidence of the agreement had not been verified by either the SA or The Flat Hat.

Constantine did not return a request for comment.

The audit also revealed discrepancies between the Office of Student Activities’s accounts and Banner, which the College uses for financial recording.

“Apparently, the numbers did not agree, and they didn’t see any documents to reconcile,” Stump, who advised the auditors, said.

He added that Banner is not agile enough to deal with the number and frequency of expenditures that move through the Office of Student Activities.

Student Auditors Taylor Porter ’11 and Leslie Lambert MBA ’10, declined to detail the nature of the discrepancies.

SA President Chrissy Scott ’11, Rojas and Crimmins will be meeting with Ambler in the next week to discuss how the recommendations of the student auditors can be implemented.

“Ultimately, Charles and myself and Chrissy are planning to sit down with Ginger and Constantine to get a written agreement to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Rojas said.

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