Birmingham, Ala. (Wyatt) — When President Barack Obama came to speak at Lawson State Community College in Birmingham in 2015, headlines suggested his visit could be a “potential game changer” for the school and its surrounding neighborhood.
Obama downplayed the idea in his remarks at the historic Black Community College, saying that while he might be able to help “a little,” the real “game-changers” were already on the ground in Birmingham, making a difference in everyone. day.
In the seven years since the president’s visit, change has taken place in Lawson’s state slowly.
A decade of government audits shows that the community college has struggled to maintain proper internal control over its finances. For some students, reports suggest that problems mean financial aid refunds came late or were in the wrong amount. While these students were plagued by late and underestimated payments, the college was in violation of state law on disposition of property, according to the audits, selling surplus cars to past and current employees for just $55.
In every session for the past 10 years, Lawson State Community College has chosen not to contest financial issues identified by state auditors. Globally, college officials agreed with the auditors’ findings and promised “corrective action,” despite some of the same problems recurring year after year.
No internal control
Reports submitted annually from 2012 through 2022 show that auditors at the Alabama Department of Public Accounts Examiners cited Lawson State Community College nearly twenty times for issues related to its finances.
As early as 2012, auditors wrote that college officials “mistaken” Lawson State’s revenue for a “lack of properly designed and implemented internal control over financial reporting.” The same problem will appear again in audits that the State Financial Supervisory Authority conducted in 2017 and 2018 for the college.
Nearly a third of the cases reported by auditors relate to the federal financial aid funds that the school handled.
A 2016 audit was the first to note problems with handling financial assistance in Lawson State. That year, auditors selected 25 students who appeared to meet the criteria for a financial aid fund return for testing. Eleven of the returns were not calculated correctly. The school had completely neglected to complete one return.
“The audit process in place did not reveal these errors,” the report said.
The following year, the auditors chose another 25 students for testing. Fourteen statements were not calculated correctly – three more errors than the previous year.
In 2018, out of 40 returns, half were completed incorrectly.
In the state’s latest audit, released earlier this month, the school’s recovery “error rate” dropped to 25%.
Lawson State has also been cited repeatedly for failing to return excess or remaining financial aid funds to the government. An audit report said in 2021 that the college failed to return more than $130,000 in financial aid money to federal education officials as required by law.[فيننسل فونكأيشن]Establish[دت بك]to 1998 is based in the college, auditors said.
The state’s latest report shows that in the majority of cases sampled (63%), college officials also failed to return financial aid funds within the time period required by law.
The latest college audit also reveals that while students have dealt with financial aid problems, Lawson State employees—both past and present—were benefiting from violations of state law regarding the disposal of state property.
In Alabama, state law requires that surplus state property be disposed of through auction or sealed auction. In Lawson State, auditors determined that officials were selling surplus cars to former and current college employees at deeply discounted prices.
“During the review of capital asset deletions, 17 vehicles that were not properly disposed of were identified,” the report said. The report concluded that at least nine cars were sold to employees at prices as low as $55.
The report stated that other old equipment worth over $540,000 was also removed from the college’s records without any documented reason.
As with previous audits, Lawson State Community College officials approved the state’s findings in its 2022 report.
The college also outlined plans to build on “significant progress,” particularly in terms of “identifying and correcting issues that cause discrepancies in bank reconciliations and detecting fraud,” according to its response.
In the end, though, Lawson did not object to state scrutiny. As I did before, I promised to do better.
“The administration agrees with this finding and will take corrective action,” the university wrote.
Attempts to reach representatives in Lawson state for comment were unsuccessful Thursday.
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