Audit cites lack of accountability, money mismanagement at UNM Athletics | KOB 4
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Audit cites lack of accountability, money mismanagement at UNM Athletics

David Lynch
November 13, 2017 06:18 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – State Auditor Tim Keller has released the findings from an investigation into athletics at the University of New Mexico, specifically in regards to continuing allegations of financial mismanagement that flared up earlier this year.

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Among the findings is evidence of that mismanagement, including hundreds of thousands in uncollected dollars from suites at Dreamstyle Arena, a lack of streamlined accountability and an apparent free-for-all when it comes to moving funds between different entities associated with the Athletics Department at the state’s biggest university.

The report cites several ways in which lack of what it calls strong policies surrounding "financial integrity and transparency" led to donor contributions being used inappropriately. For example, the way some funds were used by the athletics department was incongruent with donors' wishes. 

Further, the investigation found at least 23 people who received benefits reserved for donors despite not having made any monetary contributions to UNM sports programs. Most of those unjustified perks were in the form of charter flights and Lobo football season tickets.

At several points the audit states that much of the specific example of financial mismanagement could have been prevented with more explicit oversight and clearer policy. It also states that it falls on UNM regents to ensure accountability of all UNM entities, including athletics.

Of the over $430,000 Dreamstyle Arena suite revenue that went uncollected, just under $239,000 has yet to be collected. However, $168,000 may be permanently lost. The audit calls for a more streamlined process to selling suites. 

At a time when the department is hurting financially, the report states that providing clearer and more consistent oversight of its financial operations could have helped alleviate some of the pain. Other consequences cited by the report include loss of donor trust and confidence.  

"Many of the issues identified may have been prevented with proper oversight by a Financial Officer," it states in its summary. 

The report makes several recommendations to the department – which just hired a new athletic director following the retirement of previous director Paul Krebs in June – including more in-depth reporting of benefits for donors and the creation of a financial officer position that is independent of other administrative duties.

“Decades of decentralization and the maze of structures has clouded financial transparency at our flagship university,” Keller states in a release. “This structure has historically allowed boards and management to defuse direct responsibility when it comes to important issues.”

In response to the audit, UNM officials say they have been cooperating with Keller's office and "has already begun implementing a number of changes in its business models" to amend the flaws cited in the report. The audit states that the university agrees with most of the findings. 

The findings are now prompting the state's attorney general to get involved. 

"We have an active investigation," Attorney General Hector Balderas said Monday. "We are also reviewing any risks that we've been monitoring most recently, but we do have an active investigation."

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David Lynch

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