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State Auditor: Community colleges need internal auditors like state's universities

Mississippi state Auditor Shad White

Mississippi state Auditor Shad White's office unveiled a report Wednesday that says that none of the state's community colleges employ internal auditors and that changes need to be made to this policy to protect taxpayer funds.

The auditor's office also recommends that the Legislature change the Internal Audit Act of 2003 in the upcoming session to mandate that the state's 15 community colleges hire internal auditors. 

Right now, language in the law says that the hiring of internal auditors for community colleges is "subject to specific appropriation" and none have been hired since the passage of the Audit Act since the Legislature hasn't appropriated specific funds for that purpose.

White says that the language could be struck by the Legislature and doing so would mandate the hiring of internal auditors.

The auditor's office says that one reason for having auditors at the community colleges is to prevent waste, fraud and abuse such as the case of Coahoma Community College. The auditor issued a demand letter for $981,600.64 in September for embezzlement to two former college employees.

Investigators from the auditor's office found that the two employees created false purchase documents and used college credit card and checking accounts to make personal purchases from 2013 until 2017. A whistleblower tipped off the auditor's office to the embezzlement.

The report also said that the state's universities, which all have internal audit departments, are not in full compliance with all reporting requirements under the Audit Act. According to the auditor, the universities need an external peer review audit that could be provided by auditors from various universities in the interest of saving money.

The Institutes of Higher Education, according to the report, is already in the process of planning a quality assessment review process for the state's universities over the next two years. 

The good news for the state's universities is that all of their internal auditors meet minimum education and experience requirements. Only 9 percent of the university audit reports reviewed by the OSA showed them to be in non-compliance with the requirement that management have 45 days to respond to an audit report with comments.

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