State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump this week said Northern Essex Community College had not taken steps as of last year “to better safeguard and track the college’s valuable property.”
Bump’s office said inventory problems were first found in 2016. During the latest audit period, from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2020, the college further “did not always obtain required documentation, including approvals, for expenditures.” Northern Essex told WHAV the issues have since been addressed.
“We have taken steps to address the issues that were identified and shared those steps with the state auditor’s office,” the college said in an email.
The auditor’s office did not identify any actual theft, but rather said the college “cannot be certain that all its fixed assets are adequately safeguarded against misuse or that it can effectively detect lost, missing or stolen items.”
Of the fixed assets reviewed on the inventory, Bump’s office said, 50 percent were in locations different from what was on the list, and 4% were not on the inventory list at all. The auditor said 131 fixed assets, purchased in budget year 2019, cost $274,389, while 351 fixed assets, purchased in budget year 2020, cost $1.1 million.
If thefts had occurred, the audit found the school did not ensure its security vendor maintained required incident reports and daily crime logs. “Without any documentation of incident reports or daily crime logs, NECC cannot ensure that all losses or thefts of college property are submitted to the Office of the State Auditor,” Bump’s office said.
Bump’s office also noted the college uses procurement cards to buy supplies and pay for college-related business and travel expenses, but eight transactions reviewed did not have preapproved Travel Authorization forms, 15 did not have evidence of preapproval and five did not have adequate supporting documentation.
Northern Essex said the steps it has taken since include “installing a new inventory control asset system that will help the college better track its assets, switching banks to a provider that has enhanced internal control capabilities and hiring a new police department.”