The West Virginia Legislative Auditor’s Office says it asked Bluefield State College for its detailed budgets for five previous fiscal years but the school failed to provide them.
While Bluefield State provides short, broad budgets to the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, audit manager Adam Fridley said the Legislative Auditor’s Office requested documents showing “how they’re internally allocating [money] across their various academic departments and various subunits.”
These budgets should show, for example, how much money was budgeted for departments such as Communications and, within each department, how much went to divisions such as Advertising and Marketing.
In 2019, the year he became president of the school, Robin Capehart “made the legislative auditor aware of potential deficiencies within the budgeting process,” according to a report the office released Friday.
The office then asked the college for documentation.
The school, according to the report, “provided the Legislative Auditor with information it purported to be the institution’s internal budgets for the years requested. However, upon an analysis of these documents, the Legislative Auditor determined that these documents did not constitute a budget document.”
So, the office asked again and, at about this time last year, the college responded with “a box of financial documents, consisting of at least several hundreds of pages,” the report says.
“The vast majority of these documents are for Fiscal Year 2020 and not the five years requested (FY 2014-2018),” the report says. “While there are various individual documents from prior fiscal years, the Legislative Auditor did not identify any information for the first year in the audit’s scope, FY 2014, and only a couple of standalone documents for fiscal years 2015 and 2016.
“The box of financial documents submitted were in such a state of disarray that the Legislative Auditor concludes they are unauditable,” the report says.
The office also concluded that the college lacks “formal written policies and procedures detailing the school’s budgeting process” or any process of reporting and addressing overspending in budgeted amounts.
“From a review of the correspondence between central administration and department heads, the Legislative Auditor notes that some degree of budgetary planning, while perhaps informal in nature, is carried out within the college,” the report says. “However, nothing in the information obtained by the Legislative Auditor indicates a formal process of efficiently allocating funds to the College’s departments.
“The Legislative Auditor notes that an informal or deficient budgetary process heightens the risk of misappropriation or fraud, deprives the College of flexibility in responding to challenges that arise, may lead to inefficiencies allocating resources amongst the College’s departments, and inhibits the College’s ability to financially plan for changes in enrollment,” the report concludes.
In a Dec. 9 written response to the report, released with it Friday, Capehart wrote that it “confirms my concerns and provides valuable information to augment and enhance the financial directives which I have already implemented and will further expand.”
Capehart wrote that these included new budget policies and two new positions, including for a post called “Assistant Vice President for Financial Affairs and Comptroller.”
He said he’s also appointed Brent Benjamin, a former West Virginia Supreme Court justice who’s now Bluefield State’s executive vice president and general counsel, to lead a Financial Operations Task Force.
“The Task Force will be charged with developing and implementing best practices, not only for the College’s internal institutional budget, but for the College’s entire financial operation,” Capehart said in a written statement Friday.