Auditor questions Southern Law

A former Southern University Law Center employee who handled some of the law school’s finances improperly kept more than $500,000 worth of undeposited and unmailed checks stashed in an office for months at a time.

A legislative auditor’s report released Monday says the unnamed employee has since resigned.

The audit report further shows the Law Center’s accounting was $1.5 million off on its 2012 annual financial statement due to some employees’ practice of recording monetary transactions manually rather than using accounting software.

The improperly handled checks and the accounting error were the only two negatives found in the audit.

In an interview Monday, Southern Law Center Chancellor Freddie Pitcher Jr. said his statements in the audit report “speak for themselves.”

In the report, he agreed with the findings and outlined a plan to correct the mistakes.

The report says in January, Law Center management discovered undeposited checks payable to the law school and unmailed checks made out to different vendors in the office of an employee “in a key accounting position.”

“Our preliminary work indicates that while many of these undeposited and unmailed checks were ultimately voided and reissued, it was often months after the checks were originally written,” the report says.

The incident has since prompted a joint investigation between Southern’s internal audit staff and the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office.

Pitcher, in his written response to the audit report, said the law school had already changed its procedures related to the handling of cash and checks prior to discovering the undeposited and unmailed checks.

“Although the staff is very limited, additional procedures are being put in place to create compensation controls, more separation of duties and internal checks, with the intent of eliminating situations where substantial responsibility rests with one individual,” Pitcher wrote.

On the issue of the incorrect financial statement, Pitcher said “personnel issues and the time frame” the law school was working under did not allow for the proper recording of financial data.

“The Law Center is taking steps through acquiring additional personnel, training and cross training to assure that it is in position to minimize risk of errors,” Pitcher wrote.