Lawmakers briefed on UA, airport audits


LITTLE ROCK — A state audit of a $3 million deficit in the University of Arkansas Division of Advancement should be completed this summer, auditors told legislators Thursday.

Lawmakers also heard a report of an audit of Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport that turned up, among other things, credit card transactions were not adequately documented and included travel expenses for individuals who were not airport employees or members of the airport’s governing body.

UA Chancellor G. David Gearhart requested a state audit of the university’s advancement division after it was revealed last year that the division was more than $3 million over budget last year and on track for a deficit this year.

“We’re working on it now, Roger Norman, director of the state Division of Legislative Audit, told members of the executive committee of the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee on Thursday.

Norman said he expects a report to be ready sometime this summer.

“It’s time we have something definitive,” said Sen. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock.

Brad Choate was replaced as UA vice chancellor for advancement after the $3 million deficit was discovered. The new vice chancellor is Chris Wyrick, who had been head of the Razorback Foundation. The division’s budget officer, Joy Sharp, also was reassigned.

The deficit was discovered last summer and UA officials determined Choate apparently thought he had several million dollars more to spend than the $10 million in revenue projected by the university.

“The auditors’ work has been under way for several weeks,” John Diamond, UA’s associate vice chancellor of university relations, said Thursday afternoon. “In light of that, the university is refraining from any further discussion of the advancement situation until the auditors complete their work.”

Also Thursday, lawmakers reviewing audits of counties and cities were told of the airport audit.

The review, which covered the period between Jan. 1, 2009, and March 30, 2011, found that Airport Director Ron Mathieu donated $40,000 in airport funds to Little Rock Christian Academy, a private school where the son of airport director Ron Mathieu attends, to install an airport advertisement on its football field. The expenditure was not approved by the airport commission and the school later refunded the money.

The audit also found inadequately documented credit card transactions for gifts, flowers, club dues, charitable donations, non-employee travel, parties, alcoholic beverages and excessive gratuities.

Deputy Legislative Auditor June Barron said the audit findings have been referred to the Pulaski County prosecutor.

Barron said the airport commission has revised its expense reimbursement policies, including those regarding credit card usage. She said audit staff reviewed selected credit card statements from the first three months of 2012 and “it appears that the airport is adhering to the expense reimbursement policies in place.”

She also said new procedures designed to enhance and monitor internal controls relating to the disbursement process have been implemented.

Thursday’s meetings of the joint auditing committees were the first since December. The committees do not meet when the Legislature is in session.