State University of New York auditors expect to have a highly anticipated audit of the University at Buffalo Foundation completed in May or June.
"We've finished the field work. We've had preliminary discussions with both the campus and the foundation and we're in the process of writing our preliminary findings," said Michael Abbott, university auditor for SUNY.
Abbott made his remarks about the UB Foundation audit Wednesday morning at a meeting of the SUNY board of trustees audit committee, in response to a question from Trustee Joseph W. Belluck, a 1994 UB Law School alumnus who has been critical of a lack of transparency among campus foundations.
Abbott said he expected to get back to the audit committee with more details at the committee's meeting in May or June.
"We should have a final report by then," he said.
Auditors began taking a look at the UB Foundation in May 2016, amid concerns from some faculty, state legislators and SUNY trustees that campus foundations at public colleges and universities across the state were shielding from public scrutiny how they acquire and spend hundreds of millions of dollars.
The UB Foundation, which includes several affiliate entities and has assets of more than $1 billion, is the largest campus foundation among the SUNY institutions.
UB faculty members have tried for years to pry more information from the foundation, which contributes more than $100 million per year to university causes, or about 10 percent of the university’s annual expenditures. Among the foundation's six affiliates are separate corporations for handling on-campus and off-campus real estate holdings and an arm that administers external research awards.
In 2013, the Faculty Senate passed a resolution asking President Satish K. Tripathi, who serves on the foundation board, to make information more available. Tripathi declined, saying it wasn’t within his purview as president to do so. In 2016, the UB chapter of the American Association of University Professors issued a report stating that the foundation spent nearly $40 million paying university and foundation employees in 2013-14 and circulated a petition urging the university and foundation administration to reveal a more detailed accounting of revenues, expenditures and investments.
Also in 2016, the foundation board denied a request by the Faculty Senate to add a faculty member, a student and a professional staff employee to the board. The Faculty Senate also passed a resolution supporting state legislation that would make campus foundations subject to state Freedom of Information Law.
Critics worry that without greater accountability measures, the UB Foundation is ripe for the kinds of abuses that have happened at other university foundations around the country and in the SUNY system.
The UB Foundation, created in 1962, has not been audited previously by SUNY.
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