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State Audit Finds Santa Fe College Lax on Background Screenings

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Based on a recent audit, Santa Fe College officials have some work to do.

The state of Florida’s auditor general’s office conducted an audit during the 2014-2015 fiscal year, finding issues with Santa Fe’s background screenings and textbook affordability, among other issues.

Auditors selected 53 individuals from 673 employees, volunteers, and interns to see if they had completed background checks. It was discovered that two zoo curators, who had interacted with children under 18 years old, and two vice presidents at the college had not completed required level 2 background screenings.

Santa Fe Human Resources Director Lela Frye said employees have been required to go through level 2 background checks since 2003. All staff members who hadn’t completed the background checks were hired prior to 2003.

Auditors also found Santa Fe procedure did not require background checks for people who contract with the college to work with children under 18, such as summer athletic camp assistants. One person who contracted with Santa Fe, as a camp assistant during the 2014-2015 fiscal year, did not have a level 2 background screening on file.

Contracted employees go through their employers — not Santa Fe — for background checks, according to Frye.

The audit recommends Santa Fe improve its procedures to ensure individuals “in positions of special trust or responsibility,” especially those working with children under 18, complete background checks. Frye said the college is automating its employment system to make sure employees have the correct background check.

“Safety is a huge priority for our college,” Frye said. “It’s something we take very, very seriously.”

The state also found Santa Fe had not set up monitoring procedures to make sure textbook information was posted on the bookstore’s website at least 30 days before the start of classes. “Without timely posted textbook information,” the audit says, “students may misunderstand course textbook requirements and not have sufficient time to consider textbook options and limit their textbook costs.”

Santa Fe policy states faculty members are allowed to select textbooks themselves, so different instructional materials might be used for the same course. This resulted in price differences of more than $90 for textbooks used in the same course.

Auditors recommended Santa Fe develop policies ensuring that students can purchase textbooks at the lowest and best prices possible.

“We allow faculty to have choice in what they choose to use as materials in their class. That’s academic freedom; it’s their decision, so this is really just making sure that we document that they are taking into account what the costs are,” said Ginger Gibson, vice president of administrative affairs and chief financial officer at Santa Fe. “We take it very seriously to make sure our students have the cheapest materials that they could.”

Here are the six findings from the audit, and how the college plans to improve on them:

  • The college could enhance policies and procedures for communicating and reporting known or suspected fraud.

  • Textbook affordability policies and procedures could be improved.

  • The college did not always perform background screenings for applicable individuals in positions of special trust and responsibility.

  • The college needed to strengthen controls to ensure the accurate reporting of instructional contact hours for adult general education classes to the Florida Department of Education.

  • College records did not always evidence that Capital Outlay and Debt Service proceeds were used for authorized purposes, resulting in questioned costs totaling $150,000.

  • The college did not deactivate network access for some former employees quickly enough.

The state requires these audits to be conducted annually.

“This is not an unusual audit,” said Gibson. “At certain points in time, you can see they provide us some recommendations, and our board takes those seriously and will act upon them.”

About Ali Schmitz

Ali is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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