COLUMBIA, Mo. — The University of Missouri fired three employees following the results of an investigation into claims that they were involved in stealing thousands of dollars from the College of Engineering.
According to the university, an internal audit found direct evidence that employees stole more than $30,700 from the university either due to theft of electronic equipment or unauthorized purchases that did not benefit the university.
MU said law enforcement officers are still investigating additional allegations that another $132,000 was also stolen.
“As leaders of the state’s flagship institution, we understand the deep confidence that students, families and the state of Missouri have in us,” said Ryan Rapp, executive vice president of finance and operations. “They trust us with valuable resources as we work to fulfill our missions of education, research, service and economic development.”
An individual reported suspected financial mismanagement, triggering the investigation last year.
The university said the investigation determined employees who felt intimidated by their supervisor helped with the crime.
“We are grateful to those who spoke up and informed the university about their concerns as it led to us uncovering this financial mismanagement,” Michelle Piranio, chief audit and compliance officer for the University of Missouri, said. “Other employees did tell us that they were scared to speak up for fear of retaliation. We want to ensure everyone that we take every report seriously, and concerns can be reported anonymously through the UM System Integrity and Accountability Hotline. We want to strive to be a place where every employee feels valued and safe.”
Piranio stressed that, in addition to the hotline, the university has a process that provides numerous checks on financial transactions. In this case, a former financial officer for the College of Engineering was trusted and given a high level of authority on financial matters, which led to breakdowns of the university’s financial check process.
The university announced new steps to strengthen fiscal accountability following the internal audit. Those actions include:
- Yearly training stating the university’s department of Surplus Property is the only authorized unit to sell university assets
- Recurring audits of schools and colleges financial processes
- Periodic background and credit checks of employees at specific levels and/or titles
In January, the university announced it fired Brandon Guffey, director of financial services for the college and opened the internal audit.