September 1, 2011

UPDATE: Audit shows more than $460,000 taken from U of L

By Baylee Pulliam
The Louisville Cardinal
[email protected]

In April, The Louisville Cardinal reported that Alisha Ward, then a senior program coordinator for the Equine Industry program, had been dismissed from the University of Louisville’s College of Business following allegations that she had misappropriated university funds. Ward had worked at U of L since 2007.

U of L spokesman Mark Hebert told The Louisville Cardinal in April that the university did not yet know how much had been taken from the Equine Industry program and that an audit was being conducted to figure out the dollar amount.
The dollar amount has since been identified as over $463,000, which Ward is accused of using for personal purchases, including renovations to her house.

Ward “hasn’t been charged yet,” Hebert said. “But it’s been passed along to the U.S. Attorney’s office.”
Stephanie Collins of the Louisville U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment on whether or not they would prosecute until legal proceedings had begun.

In the interim, the university has focused on ensuring that no such misappropriation happens again.
“The failure to provide proper oversight of funds in the Equine Industry Program is inexcusable,” said U of L President James Ramsey in a release.

Ward was fired following the allegations, and the dean of the Equine Industry program has resigned and reverted to a faculty position. Responsibility for the Equine Industry program has been transferred to the College of Business.
“The University of Louisville has solid policies and procedures in place to prevent this kind of fraud if people will do their jobs and follow those policies and procedures,” Ramsey said in the release.

To ensure that they do, Hebert said the university has increased its checks and balances.

All deans and department heads now have their monthly expenses verified by third parties, so it is not the responsibility of employees to evaluate their boss’s expenditures.

Additionally, the number and use of U of L Procurement cards, which employees use to make purchases for work purposes, is being reviewed by every department. The total number of cards dropped 200 from 2007 to 2010, leading to a university-wide total of 1,609.

All deans and department chairs are being retrained on their responsibility for university funds, as ordered by the Provost. Unit managers are also being retrained, a process Hebert said began before the allegations.
Ramsey said there is also a task force in place, which will suggest other safe-guarding actions the university can take.

The “university’s Board of Trustees asked me to appoint a task force to review the use of the university’s procurement cards, review supervisor accountability, recommend actions to ensure accountability and recommend any other actions to protect the university’s assets,” Ramsey said in the release. “I have done that and expect a report soon.”


Photo: Flikr/Images_of_Money

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