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REF NO.: 165

SUBJECT: Memorial welcomes auditor general’s report
DATE: Jan. 31, 2006

Officials of Memorial University welcomed the report of the province’s auditor general to the House of Assembly regarding the financial operations of the university. The report is the product of a five-month-long legislative audit undertaken with the complete co-operation of the university.

“The university is audited annually by external, professional auditors. However, we welcomed the opportunity to have Memorial’s financial affairs audited by another external entity, and we co-operated fully with the auditor general’s office in its work,” said Dr. Axel Meisen, Memorial’s president. “The report describes a number of problems, many of which had already been identified by the university and addressed.”

With respect to the 26 recommendations made by the auditor general:

  • 14 reflect actions that Memorial University had initiated before the auditor general reported;
  • five are inconsistent with well-established practices at Memorial Universityand other major Canadian universities or otherwise do not require change;
  • seven are recommendations by the auditor general on which the university will take action. They include improving revenue recording controls, improving processes for review of travel claims, reviewing controls on use of procurement cards, reviewing vehicle fleet management policies, reviewing methods for awarding contracts, ensuring complete accuracy of capital assets ledgers and reviewing processes relating to auctioneering services regarding the disposal of disused university assets.

In addition to the findings and conclusions of the auditor general, the report on Memorial includes a summary response from the university. The full auditor general’s report, together with a detailed university response, is available on the university’s web site at www.mun.ca/agreport.

“I think it’s important that readers of the report take the time to review the university’s detailed response. One of the most significant and important points we make is the need to clearly differentiate Memorial University from government departments, Crown corporations and agencies,” said Dr. Meisen.

“While the university receives most of its funding from government, by legislation, it is not a government agency. This distinction is intentional and typical for universities in Canada and throughout North America. It exists for the purpose of ensuring academic freedom and integrity, free inquiry and the setting of goals and objectives based on institutional, societal and academic bases rather than political grounds.”

Dr. Meisen explained that one of the greatest distinctions between government agencies and the university can be found in the accountability mechanisms for each.

“As a consequence, some of our administrative processes differ from those employed in Crown corporations or government agencies” he said. “A good example is in faculty hiring, where we are competing nationally and often internationally for doctorally-qualified candidates. Salaries and some benefits, as well as the methods of recruitment will all be different from what exists elsewhere in the public sector. We have developed institutional policies and procedures which are similar to those at other Canadian universities.”

Dr. Meisen pointed out that the response from the Department of Education to the auditor general’s report, which is also included in the report, supports the university’s autonomy and endorses the accountability relationship between Memorial and government.

The full text of the auditor general’s report, including the detailed response from MemorialUniversity, can be found on the university’s web site at www.mun.ca/agreport.

The site also contains links to Memorial’s audited financial records, annual reports, annual research reports and other publications outlining the many and various activities of the university, as well as to the Memorial University Act.

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