Audit reveals misconduct

By Natalie Carino

A trip taken to China in January of 2005 by the college of business and management at the University of Illinois at Springfield was not handled in accordance to University policies and procedures.

The violations were recorded in an audit completed in June of 2005. The trip was taken by 15 master’s students, Dean Ronald McNeil and consultant John Rogers.

The audit was conducted by Bruce Bullard of the Illinois Auditor General Office who reported many irregularities in the handling of funds for the trip. The irregularities included McNeil using his personal credit card to pay for travel expenses and he and his consultant purchasing executive rooms at all hotels in China.

“I was very surprised to read the Auditor General’s findings regarding the China trip,” said Jeff Blodgett, assistant professor in the Business Administration Department. “Several MBA students had expressed concerns over the trip and the billing, and I passed this information on to administration, so I am puzzled that the moneys were not accounted for properly. It seems to me that someone owes these former students an explanation.”

University of Illinois Business and Financial Policies and Procedures call for the use of directing billing and that employees request the lowest available rate when making reservations.

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    McNeil declined to comment on the allegations.

    An associate professor in the college of business at Springfield said McNeil created a 4-hour “phantom” course that the master’s students were required to take. The credit for this course did not count towards graduation requirements. The course garnered additional revenue from the students and additional tuition funds form the State of Illinois.

    The master’s students were also under the impression that there would be little, if any, additional payments after the trip was completed. The college of business and management billed and collected $1,300 from each student.

    According to the audit, University officials stated that international trips are a new concept to the college and no formal procedures for handling such trips have been created.

    “Basically what we have here is a situation of sloppy book keeping,” said Thomas Hardy, University spokesman. “They didn’t have any guidelines for handling the book keeping on trips like this so (McNeil) made some mistakes.”

    Since there were no formal policies or procedures put in place, no action was taken against McNeil or the college of business and management.

    However, there are still discrepancies about McNeil’s actions.

    The college of business and management at Springfield is also attempting to gain The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business accreditation. The association is the national accrediting body for collegiate business schools. Springfield is in its fourth year of the five-year accreditation application process.

    “I am concerned as to how this might affect our chances of earning AACSB accreditation,” said Amir Parssian, professor in the college of business. “The AACSB places high priority on ethical integrity; improperly billing students and then depositing the funds in U of I foundation accounts does not bode well for accreditation.”

    The audit recommended that the University take immediate action and establish policies for “approving class trips and establish course fees, similar to those at UIUC and UIC.”

    Springfield accepted the advice of the audit and a policy has since been created similar to the policy set in place at the University. Cash handling training is also being provided to the college.