The folks who run Southwest Tennessee Community College in Memphis aren’t minding the store when it comes to spending taxpayer money, according to a scathing new audit Tennessee Comptrollers released Thursday.
Among the auditors’ findings:
• There were several examples of students getting paid for work they didn’t do through the Federal Work Study program. In one instance, 11 out of 13 students in the program had timesheets not approved by supervisors, resulting in federal questioned costs of $20,882. In another example, five out of 13 students reported working when they were supposed to have classes. Those students were paid $1,952. Auditors said the college has no controls in place to make sure students comply with the Work Study program.
• Comptrollers also called out school officials for not paying proper attention to the finances. School officials, in response, said “the drive to meet financial reporting deadlines resulted in a lack of proper reviews of financial statements.” They also said that errors resulted from the college being severely understaffed. Auditors noted a high turnover rate in key accounting positions. As a result, the school’s executive director of fiscal operations had to perform tasks normally done by other people. Expenses at the school, for instance, were understated by as much as $4.3 million and overstated by as much as $2.5 million.
• As for college employees, auditors say supervisors did not review or approve 26 percent of the timesheets tested. This, auditors went on, could result in overpayments or fraud.
Auditors also called out school officials for not properly reporting the costs associated with construction projects and for not having adequate controls over its credit cards.
In a response, school officials said they will work to do better.
But another potential problem is brewing at the school, according to the report.
“An investigation is ongoing in the Southwest Tennessee Community College’s Student Activities Department,” auditors wrote, although they didn’t offer specifics.
“Any findings resulting from the investigation will be included in a separate report.”
The Knoxville-based WBIR.com, meanwhile, said only 15 percent of students at the school had graduated in recent years.
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