The University of Belize issued a press statement this afternoon, informing that a working draft of an external audit commissioned by President Dr. Cary Fraser has been presented to the board of trustees.

The audit was conducted earlier this year by Castillo Sanchez & Burrell, LLP, and it focused on two departments: human resources, and budget and finance. The review was done for the period August 2010 to July 2011.

A significant portion of the audit addresses the employment and salary of its Human Resources Director. In April 2011, she was awarded a salary increase of nearly $10,000 per annum retroactive nearly a year, to the date of her first employment in May 2010.

There had been ongoing negotiations to address the salary of the HR director. The salary offer made in March 2011 was adjusted on April 13, 2011. The proposed salary was under-budget because a 15% gratuity was excluded, since the HR director, a former government employee, is also entitled to pension/gratuity from the government, and she “cannot double-dip,” as a UB official explained via e-mail correspondences addressing payment to the HR director.

The official also indicated that making retroactive payments to the point of entry could open a can of worms with others in management and staff, who may question the backtracking of benefits for one employee.

The audit report notes that the change in salary for the HR director was verified via letter from the then UB interim-president; however, it added, there was no evidence of verification by the Office of Budget and Finance, as per university policy.

The audit also notes that certain members of staff, who had gotten pay raises, were paid more overtime than was actually due, because their new rate of salary was applied for all hours claimed, when, in fact, they were due to be paid at a lower rate for some of the extra hours worked.

For the department of budget and finance, the audit also highlighted notable over-budget variances for new employees hired after the preparation and approval of the 2010-2011 budget. The actual budget was 87% higher than the approved budget: $293,373 spent versus $156,867 approved. Several new staff members were taken on.

The audit report expresses concerns that violations of university policies, including those related to the maintenance of a proper paper trail, increase the risk of unauthorized changes to salary and unauthorized payments being made.

“The Board has found that there are gaps in the draft [audit] report and has asked that the auditors clarify some of the issues arising from their report and address the gaps identified,” the UB statement said.

The statement added that, “All systems and procedures of the university are subject to independent scrutiny and such scrutiny will continue to be used to guide systemic enhancement of the university’s operations.”

The UB statement concluded that, “Once the external auditors have finalized the audit, it will be presented to the Board for consideration and appropriate decisions.”

Amandala