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Local

NIU still out travel funds that it wrongfully comped

Other audit issues resolved, says finance vice president

Ron Walters, a consultant hired by the school to help improve the campus' future, presents some ideas that are already taking shape during a Northern Illinois University Bold Futures Workshopon on March 24 in the Sky Room.
Ron Walters, a consultant hired by the school to help improve the campus' future, presents some ideas that are already taking shape during a Northern Illinois University Bold Futures Workshopon on March 24 in the Sky Room.

DeKALB –  Ron Walters, a consultant Northern Illinois University hired last year, isn’t in a rush to pay the college back the almost $32,000 he owes in wrongly comped travel expenses.

Alan Phillips, NIU’s vice president of administration and finance, said the university was in contact with Walters, but so far had been unsuccessful in resolving the issue. 

“From his perspective, I believe he feels this isn’t appropriate,” Phillips said. “We’re in the process of addressing that with him in terms of the guidelines provided.”

An audit of the university in March, completed by Illinois Auditor General William G. Holland, found that NIU had improperly reimbursed Walters and also didn’t comply with a variety of guidelines for internal control and processes related to procurement and contracts.

Walters had received $31,945 of travel compensation. which shouldn’t have been provided because the cost was from traveling between the university and his home in Washington. 

“Travel expenses between an employee’s official headquarters and home are not reimbursable,” the audit reads.

Walters, an architect and former head of a consulting unit for Deloitte, worked on the university’s Bold Futures project in 2014.

Phillips said if the college couldn’t progress with Walters himself within the next couple of weeks they would seek additional action. He said they were looking into what that action would entail. 

The university formed a task force to deal with the other issues outlined in the audit. Phillips said those issues had been resolved appropriately. 

“When the issues came to light we convened with the key individuals here at the university who would have been involved, like the internal auditor and our legal folks,” Phillips said. “We sat down and identified the issues that needed to be addressed and resolutions for those issues.” 

For example, Phillips said, they provided W-2 forms for individuals who had been inappropriately compensated for lodging – in amounts of $16 and $201 above allowable reimbursement – so those individuals could pay tax on the value of the benefits received.

The biggest issue remains the travel expenses. Walters couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday, after calls to his last known workplace. Phillips said the university is continuing to explore options. 

“Despite what he may think, he shouldn’t have been reimbursed,” Phillips said. “Per the travel guidelines.” 

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