COLUMBIA — The scale is one to five. One means the institution has the lowest possible financial risk. Five means it has the highest.
MU's College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources just received a four.
Two weeks after MU released an internal audit detailing how CAFNR employee Carla Rathmann was able to steal more than $700,000 from the Southwest Research Center in Mt. Vernon, the UM system released another internal audit of the entire college.
It found that fiscal oversight was “inadequate” for the 17 agricultural research centers scattered across Missouri. It also found that responsibility for handling of federal and state funds between CAFNR and MU Extension was “not always clearly understood” and noted that the college repeatedly violated university policies.
The audit was distributed to 15 CAFNR, UM System and MU administrators.
Rathmann worked as an office support assistant while she was employed with MU from January 2000 to September 2015. She used university credit cards to steal $146,144 while also manipulating her and her husband’s payroll hours. Rathmann stole the rest of the more than $700,000 by faking invoices and bills to pay herself through five shell companies.
She pleaded guilty on June 6. MU released its audit of the Southwest Research Center the same day.
The newest audit presents a larger snapshot of CAFNR. Auditors evaluated a variety of departments and operations within the college for fiscal years 2015 and 2016 to date.
Similar to the Southwest Research Center audit, the CAFNR audit found that the centers' remote locations contributed to an environment where one person could have too much control. For example, the centers’ office support assistants were responsible for nearly all aspects of the finances, including entering payroll, accepting cash and check payments, purchasing with a university credit card and completing a monthly review of all financial activity.
During the last fiscal year, CAFNR's revenue was about $108.2 million.
Problems were found both with employees and how the centers conduct business overall.
Regarding the use of university credit cards, the audit found that some people never used their cards. Others had card limits that were "excessive" for what their job required.
Additionally, CAFNR employees did not properly document their credit card purchases. The audit said office support assistants didn’t always submit receipts, and the fiscal officer in charge of approving purchases didn’t always ask for them.
Fiscal officers were sometimes not even fully aware of what kinds of purchases should be made with the cards.
On a larger scale, when different centers would conduct business, payments were sometimes not logged or documented.
Similar issues were found within the Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station Fields Operations, which provides maintenance and repair services to the research centers.
In particular, the department did not properly separate financial work between employees. One employee was often responsible for all money going in and out. The audit noted two purchases between "related parties," totaling $4,695, that created “an appearance of a conflict of interest.”
CAFNR administrators were asked to make several changes in the immediate future, including:
- Defining who does what in regards to the state and federal grants.
- Beginning new fiscal training for research center superintendents and CAFNR administrators.
- Completing quarterly reviews of the CAFNR Business Office.
- Hosting on-site visits of the research centers by the Business Services Office.
The audit did note that, as of this spring, CAFNR Business Services has already implemented “more robust training” in fiscal management for agricultural research center superintendents and office support staff.
Supervising editor is Blake Nelson.