An auditor’s report on the University of Wisconsin System’s 2-year-old human resources system included a litany of needed improvements to address flaws first exposed last fall when a state auditor’s report found nearly $33 million in benefits overpayments to employees.

The follow-up report by an accountant with PriceWaterhouseCoopers on Friday lauded System staff for taking measures to fix major problems that resulted in the overpayments.

But it left plenty of room for improvements including better internal controls, closer scrutiny of who can access pay and benefits information and better training of employees on the complex system.

“We largely concur with the findings,” said Larry Henderson, who directs the office that manages the human resources system, which administers pay and benefits to about 79,000 employees. “It’s a work in progress.”

The findings didn’t sit well with new Regent and former state lawmaker and lieutenant governor Margaret Farrow.

“I can’t believe we’re all sitting here saying this is all nice,” she said. “I’m appalled.”

Farrow said the report amounts to “four pages of weaknesses in the System.”

“Would I give my checkbook to them right now? No!” she said.

Regent Janice Mueller, the former state auditor who like Farrow was appointed to the Board of Regents this summer by Gov. Scott Walker, said she also found the report troubling but saw reason for optimism.

“I’m actually encouraged we’re moving forward with an improvement plan,” she said.

The nearly $33 million in overpayments to employee pension and health plans were reported in January, of which the System was able to recover about $20 million. The news was compounded by later revelations of another $1.1 million in losses from payments the UW System had to make to the federal government after discovering the System had not deducted enough Medicare and Social Security tax from some student employees in 2011.

Friday’s report came from an audit requested by the System, at a cost of about $50,000. State auditor Joe Chrisman was asked by the Legislature in January to conduct a separate, more thorough audit of the human resources system. Results of that audit are expected this fall.

— Dan Simmons

  • Assistant City Editor, Wisconsin State Journal

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