USF tightening policies after money mishap

University officials are moving forward in the centralizing of cash collection units on campus one month after $275,000 in cash and undeposited checks was found inside an office in the English Language Institute.

On Friday, the University Finance Council reviewing cash collections revealed internal control procedures to improve transaction records.

“At this point, what we’ve done is we’ve developed a six-step process to eliminate as many cash collection operations that don’t need to be open,” USF Controller Nick Trivunovich said. “The sites that will remain open, we will be looking at (them) to see what operations accept credit cards online and try to reduce those collecting cash and checks. We want to integrate this into our system so we are not dependent on people taking cash by hand.”

Trivunovich said the 15 people overseeing cash collections would work to make some transactions available on FACTS or Banner systems.

“If it is something we can put into (those systems) so there’s a record of it, then somebody can come to the Cashier’s Office and we can bring up that record and they can make a payment,” he said.

Units may be able to continue operating independently if they demonstrate an adequate need to continue collecting cash or checks outside of the cashier’s office.

“We’re going to be very stringent with (those units),” Trivunovich said. “There’s got to be some pretty harsh requirements in order to be able to continue to collect in remote locations. But if they do, one of the things that we are going to be looking at is if it is an operation where they can just accept credit cards.”

USF Chief Financial Officer Carl Carlucci said he wants to reduce the University’s 159 collection units to 36 as soon as possible.

“By the end of this month, we should close a considerable majority of those units,” Carlucci said. “But we have to make sure we don’t disrupt (these units) from doing business. We have to figure out how to help them do this right.”

University Treasurer Eric Warden said some colleges on campus may have multiple cash collection units and could be reduced to one central location.

“Our objective is to get the number of cash collection units down to a manageable size such that the Office of University Audit and Compliance can go in and do their audit of each of those operations at least once annually,” Warden said.

State auditor’s reports from 2003 and 2004 said the University was lax on collection controls and vulnerable to incidents similar to what happened in the ELI.

According to Trivunovich, the process to decentralize cash collections began after the 2004 audit was submitted to University officials in November.

“I think it’s fair to say that (the ELI) helped to speed up the process,” he said.

Chair of the USF Board of Trustees Dick Beard said the system had been looked at and revised before, but the situation with ELI has required the University to have stricter controls in place.

According to implementation plans from the Office of University Audit and Compliance, the internal control structure needs to be segregated “so that one person is not in a position to both cause and conceal errors or irregularities.”

To do this, a large part of the revised system will be to ensure that office employees understand cash collection duties.

“We’ve just been charged by the president and the provost to ensure that everybody has the proper segregation of duties,” Warden said.

This includes record-keeping for all transactions, authorizing the person or persons taking custody of the cash or checks before and after deposit and reconciliation transactions. Certification training for staff will also be required.

“The things we’re doing is what we’ve wanted to do for a long time,” Beard said. “I feel good that (Carlucci) is doing something we should have done earlier.”