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Board oversight at the center of state auditor’s report

Earlier this week, the North Carolina Office of the State Auditor released its Roanoke-Chowan Community College audit findings. The State found that due to poor Board oversight, RCCC did not conduct required financial reporting accurately. Additionally, the school did not reconcile banking records, update payroll records, or seek timely federal reimbursements.

For a community college, state audits are an annual affair. But the State’s findings on this audit place the lion’s share of the blame on the RCCC Board of Trustees. According to the State Auditor, the RCCC Board of Trustees failed to ensure continuity of management, which opened the door to a raft of other problems at the school.

From September 2019 to June 2020, RCCC had no Vice President of Administrative and Fiscal Services. In addition, the Controller’s position was also vacant from October 2019 to January 2020, and again in June 2020. The Assistant Controller’s position was vacant between July 2019 and October 2019, and again in January 2020.

The result of the vacancies in these key positions led to pay increases for employees when the College lacked the funds to support them. Outside consultants hired by the College discovered understated cash and revenues, as well as expenses that were not reported. Additionally, RCCC failed to request nearly $300,000 in federal Pell Grant and work-study reimbursements.

RCCC has had a recent history of problems with findings from state audits. In 2018, the state of North Carolina recommended on-site monitoring following an auditor’s report that characterized the RCCC Board of Trustees as “uncooperative, belligerent and argumentative” during a review of Board oversight at the institution.

Board oversight plays central role in healthy organization

Board oversight – actual, honest, and reliable Board oversight – is an essential part of the operation of a community college. When the members of the Board of Trustees do not meet their obligations, take their responsibilities seriously, or they put their own interests ahead of the institution, it causes problems for the institution and the community. It also jeopardizes the long-standing investment that the taxpayers have made in the institution.

We elect Trustees to exercise oversight over the tens of millions of dollars we generate for our community college each year. We do not elect them to sit silently while its ham-fisted Administration runs roughshod over the faculty and staff; rubber-stamp the ridiculous and wasteful actions of the Administration; sign off on multi-million-dollar no-bid contracts; divert millions of dollars meant for education to fund side projects that have no relationship to the College’s mission; and preside over the campus while the buildings deteriorate from inadequate maintenance.

Inadequate Board oversight is the root cause of an institution’s most serious problems. If the Trustees are unwilling to protect the taxpayers’ investment in the community college, it is time to find Trustees who will.

Photo Credit: Sofitel Dubai Downtown , via Flickr