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Legislative Audit Commission

Minutes

August 22, 2000

The meeting of the Legislative Audit Commission was called to order by Vice-Chair, Senator Deanna Wiener, on Tuesday, August 22, 2000 at 10:10 A.M. in Room 316, State Capitol.

Members Present:

Representative Lynda Boudreau    Senator William Belanger, Jr.
Representative Mindy Greiling Senator Sheila Kiscaden
Representative Philip Krinkie Senator Keith Langseth
Representative Peggy Leppik Senator Ember Reichgott Junge
Senator Claire Robling
Senator Deanna Wiener

Members Excused:

Representative Phil Carruthers Senator Dave Johnson
Representative Chris Gerlach Senator David Knutson
Representative Kris Hasskamp Senator James Metzen
Representative Dan McElroy Senator Thomas Neuville
Representative Mary Jo McGuire
Representative Wes Skoglund

Other Legislators Present:

Representative Lyndon Carlson

Senator Wiener indicated the purpose of the meeting was to release the program evaluation report on The MnSCU Merger. She expressed concerned over the fact that someone had given information to the press prior to the public release of the report and suggested that the Commission review release procedures at a future meeting.

Senator Wiener recognized Roger Brooks, Deputy Legislative Auditor for the Program Evaluation Division. Mr. Brooks indicated that staff were working on five evaluation studies and that the reports would be released near the beginning of the next legislative session. He indicated the scope of the chronic recidivism of adult offenders study was being trimmed back due to some difficulty in getting necessary data. He also indicated the best practices review of obtaining citizen input was being temporarily postponed because of staffing.

Senator Wiener recognized James Nobles, Legislative Auditor. Mr. Nobles gave an overview of why the Commission had directed staff to conduct this study and gave an overview of the MnSCU merger. Mr. Nobles introduced Jo Vos and Joel Alter, co-managers of the study.

Senator Wiener recognized Ms. Vos. Ms. Vos reviewed the questions addressed in the study, methodology, early challenges faced by the institutions, goals of the merger and gave a brief academic program review. She indicated that merger has progressed, but is moving slowly.

Senator Wiener recognized Mr. Alter. He reviewed the changes made in financial management of the institutions, changes in administration and system-wide direction, indicating that the merger is still in transition. Mr. Alter reviewed recommendations contained in the report and answered questions from members. Representative Krinkie suggested it was unclear whether or not the merger reduced administrative and faculty costs and that some small savings have been offset by new costs. In response to a question from Senator Kiscaden, Mr. Alter indicated that services for students in transferring credits from one institution to another have been improved, though Ms. Vos indicated that improved communication in this area is still needed.

Senator Wiener recognized Mr. Nobles. Mr. Nobles indicated that evaluators were left with the impression that problems encountered were similar to those of any large business and that MnSCU needs to develop better basic control measures, along with better staff training and working procedures.

Mr. Nobles introduced Claudia Gudvangen, Deputy Legislative Auditor for the Financial Audit Division. Ms. Gudvangen indicated that auditors have a good working relationship with the institutions and that they take audit recommendations seriously. She noted that auditors are finding progress has been made but that areas still needing attention are systems security, fixed assets and school bookstores.

Senator Wiener recognized Dr. Laura King, Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer for MnSCU. Dr. King referred members to the official agency response, printed in the report and indicated that MnSCU administration is working toward improvements and working on training people to a higher standard.

Senator Wiener recognized Morrie Anderson, MnSCU Chancellor. He indicated that the report was relatively fair concerning the complexity of the system but that it missed some opportunities and should have talked more about ownership of the merger. He indicated this is a system in progress, but the merger is complete. In response to a question from Representative Leppik, Mr. Anderson indicated that MnSCU is working on an on-line system for determining transferability of credits.

Senator Wiener recognized Mike Veckich, Chairman of the MnSCU Board of Trustees. Mr. Veckich indicated the report was balanced. He indicated he thought the merger was a victory but additional funds are needed to invest in innovation. He also suggested that the Legislature hold the Board accountable. In response to a question from Senator Wiener, Mr. Veckich indicated that a board subcommittee will be addressing the role of the board as a whole versus the role of individual members. He noted that the board needs to communicate major policy decisions to the Legislature.

The meeting adjourned at 12:30 P.M.

_______________________________________
Representative Dan McElroy, Chair

_______________________________________
Jean Barnhill, Recording Secretary

 

Mentioned

Office of the Legislative Auditor ♦ Room 140, 658 Cedar St., St. Paul, MN 55155