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Audit prompts comprehensive study of university management structure

January 14, 2008

No significant unexpected violations were cited in the management letter of the long-awaited independent audit of Coastal Carolina University. The letter was prepared by Cline, Brandt, Kochenower & Company, P.A., the Gaffney accounting firm hired by the State Budget and Control Board to conduct the CCU audit. The university has not yet received the complete audit; once it arrives, it will be posted on the university web site. The university is required to submit a response to the audit, along with a plan for corrective action, by the end of March.

CCU President David A. DeCenzo said the only new concern identified in the management letter is the issue of the university's need to monitor more closely conflicts of interest involving university officers and board members. The letter reported 18 other areas that require correction, including human resources, procurement card management, bid processes, and separation of foundation-related expenditures from university expenditures.

"Our own internal audit by our board of trustees has already addressed many issues in the management letter," DeCenzo said. "The issues the CCU board and the independent auditor pinpointed are the result of rapid growth, too few staff to handle financial procedures, and inadequate controls. We have already corrected many of these situations and expect to have all policies revised within the next funding cycle. I am delighted these rough spots which have been raised are being addressed."

CCU Board Chairman Billy Alford said the next step is to seek an objective analysis from an expert thoroughly familiar with higher education structure, operations and processes "to advance Coastal Carolina University in campus and academic program growth and development." He said the board passed a resolution in December authorizing the president to make any necessary changes in the university administration to facilitate improvements in structure, processes and procedures.

"I am pleased the president has decided to enter into a contract with Dr. James L. Fisher, a nationally-known, widely-respected consultant in university management and administration," Alford said. Fisher will conduct a thorough two-month study of administration structure that will guide the president in making recommended changes and improvements in management and operations.

Fisher holds a Ph.D. in psychology from Northwestern University. He is president emeritus of the Council for Advancement & Support of Education (CASE) and president emeritus of Towson University. He has taught at Northwestern, Illinois State, Johns Hopkins, Harvard, and has been a consultant to more than 300 colleges and universities. He is the author or editor of nine books, including The Power of the Presidency, nominated for the nonfiction Pulitzer Prize.

DeCenzo said Fisher's group includes a team of senior professionals experienced in conducting institutional reviews. These reviewers will evaluate the general condition of the university, including technology, administration, budget and finance, senior officers, private support and outside grants, marketing and public relations, admissions and board governance. They will interview individuals throughout the campus community and review reports to compare the progress of Coastal with similar universities nationwide.

"Our academic programs have advanced consistently over the past two decades," DeCenzo said. "It's time for our management structure to catch up."

To view management letter, click here.