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North Dakota University System office needs more staff, state auditor confirms

Posted on 3/7/2013

For More Information Contact:
Linda Donlin, Director of Communications and
Media Relations
North Dakota University System
Phone: 701.328.2962

North Dakota University System office needs more staff, state auditor confirms

During the 2013 Legislative session, North Dakota University System officials have repeatedly made the case for increased staffing, and now a new state performance audit report confirms that the NDUS central office is understaffed. North Dakota State Auditor Robert R. Peterson released the report today, which was conducted from September 2012 to early February at the request of the Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee.

"We are pleased that this audit confirms the Board's own due diligence and the recommendations we have built into our planning process and budget requests," said Duaine Espegard, president of the State Board of Higher Education. "In order to operate as a true university system that is efficient and effective, we need adequate staffing at the heart of the system."

The objective of the performance audit was primarily to answer the question, "Is the University System Office adequately staffed to perform its functions," the introduction states. The auditors looked at staffing levels of eight other states' university systems, reviewed applicable laws and policies, and examined system office positions and their current responsibilities.

The recommendations in the report include the following:

Ensure there is a unified system of higher education
Obtain the necessary resources to adequately perform the functions and duties of the office
Determine whether campus resources can be used in centralizing certain functions and providing support for personnel costs
Take action to have internal audit functions within the university system report to System Office personnel
Establish a system-wide monitoring function

The most significant finding in the Audit Report is the endorsement of the direction that the Board and Chancellor are moving the system. "This is what the people and their legislators intend for a university system to serve the needs of all eleven institutions equally and fairly," explained Espegard.

The new report references a previous state performance audit where concerns were identified related to the university system not being a unified system of higher education. "While steps have been taken by the System Office to make certain areas more unified (such as transfer of credits between institutions)," the report stated, "there are a number of areas in which a unified system does not exist. Within a unified system, certain functions could be centralized which could lead to more streamlined processes and a shift of resources from a campus specific function to a university system function."

A risk assessment requested by the Board and conducted by outside vendor, Larson-Allen, in 2011 said, "there appears to be significant opportunities to improve effectiveness and efficiency, as a system, by focusing on consistence of approach and collaboration for both academic and administrative functions."

"These former and current findings and recommendations support the Board's blueprint for building a real system of higher education in North Dakota," said Chancellor Hamid A. Shirvani. "Together, they provide written testimony to the question of what a university system is all about and the consequences of failing to provide the necessary personnel to carry out needed responsibilities."

While the audit report does not include recommendations about how many staff would be needed in the central office to meet the needs of the system, comparisons with other states show that NDUS staff numbers are significantly lower in many areas than other university system offices with similar responsibilities.

"The Board has created a vision to develop a strong university system for the future," Espegard said. "This audit report confirms that we are going in the right direction and that our budget requests for appropriate staffing are reasonable and necessary to put our plan into action. The students and the citizens of North Dakota will be the long-term beneficiaries."

For a copy of the full report, go to

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