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Auditors note improvement in SA’s control of finances

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Auditing firm UHY LLP presented a draft financial statement to Student Association Wednesday, noting improvement from last year’s audit which identified several major problems with SA’s internal control.

The audit presented Wednesday was of the 2018 fiscal year, which ended in June.

“Last year, there were six material weaknesses. This year, you see one material weakness and one significant deficiency,” said Brian Kearns, auditor for UHY, to senate Wednesday.

“So there’s still room for improvement, but you’ve made significant progress.”

In the 2017 fiscal year, Student Association made multiple credit card purchases and expenditures without approving them properly.

Because so many records of how SA used their money could not be found, UHY had to issue a “disclaimer of opinion” on last year’s financial statement.

Since then, SA management has contracted with University Auxiliary Services to act as custodian, or fiscal agent. Patrick Carroll, SA comptroller since the fall, said that SA’s constant turnover contributed to accounting errors.

“In that year we were in a transition phase, so that’s where a lot of our major deficiencies started to flare up,” said Carroll. “SA leadership at the time decided that we needed to pay a fiscal agent.”

The contract with UAS, which is technically a non-profit, non-state agency, is costing Student Association $130,000 every year.

According to the contract, UAS handles accounting, payroll, and employee benefits for SA.

Problems Identified

The auditors noted in this year’s presentation that SA’s payroll of employees at Dippikill, an 800-acre camp that SA manages, was not performed correctly for the 2018 fiscal year.

“Between the statements of Dippikill and SA, they didn’t agree. If you were relying on those numbers, they weren’t correct for really the entire year,” said Kearns.

Kearns said that UHY and Student Association’s executive branch had addressed the problem.

“SA and that relationship we have with Dippikill, it’s a very complicated relationship, especially from an accounting perspective,” said comptroller Patrick Carroll. “I think that’s where the mix up was.”

“That’s not going to be an issue next year, plain and simple,” said Carroll.

UHY also noted that SA had no formal process for tracking vacations for full-time employees like Dippikill staff or executive officer manager Shannon Beal.

Beal said this was due to an error in the SA handbook.

“We’re working with our lawyers to make sure we extend the policy,” said current SA president Langie Cadesca. “We’ll definitely have one prepared before the end of this fiscal year.

“The thing about the SA is, every year we get a new president, a new comptroller, so having people in the office who’ve been familiar with that process helps,” said Carroll.

“I also think adding our executive office manager as a full-time employee, that’s been crucial to the continuity of all of our internal control.”

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Joe Hoffman is the managing editor for the Albany Student Press.

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