Tuesday, February 1, 2011

UC Facing Audit

At the request of State Sen. Leland Yee, the UC system will face investigation by California's Bureau of State Audits. The California Aggie reports:
"In light of all the fee increases to students, the continual executive compensation scandals and the seeming disregard for the lowest paid workers at the university, this audit clearly needed to take place," said Adam Keigwin, chief of staff for Yee.

One of the main reasons for the audit request was to challenge the luxury and privileges awarded to UC executives. The system lacks transparency and accountability, and the top executives continue to receive raises while student fees are increasing, Keigwin said. If student fees are increasing, then executives should not be receiving wage increases.

"[The executives] treat [the university] as if they can do whatever, however they please with no accountability and no transparency," Keigwin said. "It seems that the university has a complete disregard for the students and for the public -- the taxpayers. They don't like to do things with transparency and then they keep enriching themselves virtually... You don't expect that at a public university that is made to serve our students of California."


It will be unclear whether there is fraud or not until the audit results come in, but there is evidence of conflicts of interest, Keigwin said. For example, UC has an investment advisory committee made up of individuals who were handing over contracts to their friends and family. Additionally, there are regents that own investment companies that have been giving contracts to UC.

"The conflicts of interests are real, whether it goes beyond that in terms of fraudulent behavior, we don't know because the system is just so closed and we don't get to see their book," Keigwin said.

Another large issue presented by Yee was the wages of the lowest paid workers in the university. The university says that it does not have enough money to provide livable wages for its lowest paid workers, but it always has money to pay its top executives, Keigwin said. Currently, many of the workers with these wages rely on public assistance programs.

Additionally, Yee's office is concerned with the increase in auxiliary organizations in the system, Keigwin said.

"We know there's an increase in foundations and auxiliary organizations popping up on campus, which are not subject to a California Public Records Act," he said. "So we don't even know how much money are in these foundations and where that money is going, and if the executives are getting money out of there as well."

Keigwin said that any public institution must have transparency and accountability measures set in place.

"Unfortunately, it's kind of been a black hole when it comes to what's happening within the university," he said. "The university constantly just says 'trust us, we're taking care of things,' but that's not how things work in a public institution. You don't just trust: you verify, you review, you hold people accountable. Without the transparency, it's impossible to hold anyone accountable. That's what this audit will do."
The results of the audit will most likely be made public in April.

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