Task Force member, Dr. Ed Penson of Penson and Associates, Inc., said the work was phenomenal. Penson is a resident of Tallahassee and a higher education consultant with more than 400 higher education clients, and former university president.
“This work at FAMU is phenomenal in the amount of time and the amount of work,” said Penson. “Usually, it takes six months for a team to come together. The leadership of the President and the followship of this team is amazing. Last year when this started, it was close to a catastrophe; this has been a tremendous turn around.”
The Task Force Committee met on Wednesday, February 27 from 2-4:30 p.m. via telephone conference call. Seven of the nine members were present on the call. Chancellor Mark Rosenberg and Derry Harper, inspector general and director of compliance for Board of Governors, participated also.
The purpose of the meeting was to review the Task Force Report and to receive the changes that the consulting firm hired by the Board of Governors, Accretive Solutions, made to their report based on the Task Force meeting that occurred on Friday, February 22, 2008, in Tallahassee and lasted for nearly six hours.
Task Force Chair Lynn Pappas outlined the work for the conference call. She asked for the substantive issues regarding the conclusion of the consultant’s report. She said she wanted to produce a document that meets the mandate of the Legislature, and to review and discuss the executive summary of the Task Force Report.
Harper noted that the consultants had completed a major phase of the Task Force Action Plan and those responses from FAMU and the consultants have changed; but, that the conclusion of the consultant’s report had not changed.
Harper read the first sentence of the conclusion in the consultant’s report, “A large majority (92%) of the corrective Action Plan line items that have been subject to our procedures and successfully rated are adequately designed to correct the material findings documented by the Auditor General and the plans are operating satisfactorily... Controls are in place and adequately documented. The effectiveness of the Action Plan is being adequately evaluated on a periodic basis and University personnel are aware of their responsibilities for control.”
• Changed the satisfactory category from 73% to 92%, excluded the number of “not rated” items from the denominator of the fraction.
• Changed the needs improvements from 10% to 8%
• Removed the percentage notation listed in the “not rated” category. There was a total of 11 items that were not rated and most are a part of the EIT work.
FAMU CFO Teresa Hardee notes that the substantive changes in the consultant’s report represents a better depiction of the actual work that has been completed by FAMU. She noted that internal controls are in place and working whereas the lack of such controls were the focus of the operational and financial audits.
FAMU Board Chairman and Task Force committee member William “Bill” Jennings questioned why the work of the FAMU staff was not mentioned in the draft of the Task Force Report and called it a “glaring oversight.” Further he questioned the need for the recommended certification by the President and whether some of the examples cited in the Task Force report were needed.
Several Task Force members offered comments to improve the tenor and tone of the report.
Joelen Merkel, chair of the Audit Committee on the University of Florida Board of Trustees, noted that the Task Force recommendation No. 1 and No. 4 were the same. The certification is “standard operating procedures” in a financial audit. “Not sure why you need that again.”
Other members agreed with Chairman Jennings. Barbara Bowles, a financial consultant noted that “most of the operational and financial findings were benign and we need to close the door on the history of this matter.”
Further, Merkel noted that the report should include language that notes that the consultant’s review found no indication of fraud, thief or misappropriation of funds.
The Task Force members herald the turn arounding citing the work of the Division of Audit and Compliance at FAMU, the current FAMU leadership team, as well as the six new members of the Board of Trustees as factors that strengthen the financial conditions at FAMU.
The Task Force will review the final report on Friday, February 29 and is scheduled to be submitted to the legislature on Monday, March 3.