Bryant says finances on road to right standing

In a press meeting held at the Florida Press Club on Thursday afternoon, Interim President Castell V. Bryant gave an update on FAMU’s audit situation.

On March 14, FAMU was given 30 days to respond to the auditor general’s “scaling report” of FAMU’s operational audit for the 2005-2006 fiscal year. Bryant said shortly before the meeting “the audit was hand-delivered to (Florida Auditor General Bill) Monroe’s office.”

“We know that all things regarding this audit have not been resolved. We are not yet whole,” Bryant said. “We have known from the beginning that becoming whole would be a phased process. We are on the road to greater fiscal accountability and responsibility.

“FAMU’s financial house is not threatened by some strong wind of corruption,” she continued.

Grace Ali, FAMU chief financial officer and vice president for fiscal affairs, said in an effort to better address the issues, the University grouped the 35 findings into four broad categories.

“Of the 35 findings some were minor and have already been cleared and will be removed,” Ali said. She said most of the other findings would be corrected and cleared in the next 60 days, while others would require more time to be resolved.

One finding addressed was the reportedly missing $39 million.

“If they had found $39 million unaccounted for, then I would have been the most surprised person in town,” Bryant said.

Ali and Bryant refuted accusations of the money being missing. They explained that the funds might appear to be missing because FAMU serves as the fiscal agent for funds such as the meal plan fees, student club fees, and capital improvement fees that were collected and passed through the University.

In addition, the $2.7 million in missing inventory was discussed.

Ali said most of the campus-wide inventory was not missing, but rather had depreciated in value. “We had $2.2 million of inventory that was depreciated,” Ali said.

She cited items such as Dot Matrix printers, floppy disk computers and some of the other equipment produced in the ’80s as some of the many items that had fully depreciated in value.

“There are still 770 items with $208,000 of book value that we’re continuing to look for,” Ali said. “We’re not going to write off missing items until we’re absolutely sure that we can’t find them.”

Other findings addressed were emergency services and electronic fund transfers, staffing, resources and training.

Ali said that because FAMU has a “more sophisticated work environment,” staffing has posed a problem, but plans are underway to fix the problem including developing new job descriptions.

“The University leadership is confident that we’re on he right track,” she said. “We’re making corrections and with time all issues will be addressed.”

Bryant expressed similar sentiments.

“Our careful, meticulous look at the audit showed there is certainly room for improvement, ” she said.

Additionally, Ali said because audits are transaction-driven and involve interactions of human beings who make mistakes, FAMU might have to address audit issues again in the future.

“Whether or not you’ll hear from us next year about findings from another audit, you probably will. Don’t be surprised,” Ali said.

She continued, “We are a $400 million organization and obviously everything is not going to be done perfectly. It’s not done perfectly anywhere. This is not just a FAMU thing.”

Bryant said she had been keeping incoming FAMU President James Ammons very informed of all new developments with the audit.

Despite the purpose of Thursday’s press conference, Bryant addressed other hot topics at FAMU, including the current state of student morale.

“Morale is something that can’t be defined, so you can’t correct it,” she said. “If I stand here and talk about morale, I’d be here until tomorrow.

“There’ s been some student unrest about certain issues,” she added. Bryant said the issues were pertaining to engineering, the Pappas report and free education.

In regards to the list of questions from students and faculty that were addressed to her last week, Bryant said, “They were all over the place. They were general and a lot of them were not questions. They were statements.”

Bryant admitted that her responses might have been broad and general because she was not in Tallahassee.

“I was out all last week and gave answers over the phone,” she said. She said she had to return home to Miami to fix her house’s roof.

Furthermore, Bryant said FAMU’s responses to the audit would be reviewed and analyzed by legislators and the Auditor General’s office. A final report can be expected by the end of the legislative session.