Education

Expensive meals uncovered in audit of University of Nortern Iowa program

Cost of air travel withheld from ex-employee's final paycheck

Yana Cornish
Yana Cornish

CEDAR FALLS — A state audit has found improper payments and other concerns with the University of Northern Iowa’s Study Abroad Center.

The audit identified $6,691 in improper and unsupported disbursements and undeposited collections between July 2011 and June 2014 when the program was run by Yana Cornish, according to the audit released Thursday by the Iowa State Auditor’s Office.

The payments totaled $5,768 and included hospitality and catering costs that did not comply with UNI policies and the cost of a visa for Cornish’s daughter, according to audit.

The $922 in undeposited collections concerned reimbursements Cornish had received for travel that also was paid with her university procurement card. UNI withheld the amount from Cornish’s final salary, according to the audit.

Cornish left UNI in 2014 when she was hired by the University of Georgia’s Office of International Education.

Auditor of State Mary Mosiman said it wasn’t possible to determine if additional improper disbursements were issued or if additional collections were not properly deposited because records were not readily available for all time periods.

Copies of the report have been filed with the Board of Regents’ Office of Internal Audit, the University’s Department of Public Safety, the Division of Criminal Investigation, the Black Hawk County Attorney’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Cornish started in 1999 and began summer camps in China as part of her assignment with the Study Abroad Center.

UNI staff went to the state auditor in May 2014 after becoming concerned that Cornish was charging air travel on her UNI procurement card, when another organization has reimbursed her for the travel.

They also were concerned about guest meal tickets and game tickets that were supposed to be for international students but were used for personal purposes, according to the audit.

The audit found a number of occasions where meals for the center’s staff were charged to the university but exceeded the reimbursement maximum or the purpose of the meal wasn’t documented or in line with UNI policy.

Auditors also found a program dinner sponsored by the center that didn’t use an approved vendor.

“The invoice from the caterer did not specify the location of the event and did not specify the quantity of items provided, with the exception of 12 shrimp spring rolls and 15 vegetable spring rolls. The invoice totaled $280,” the audit states.

The audit also mentions:

• A November 2012 lunch where Cornish and two center staff members ate at Sakura Japanese Steak House & Sushi Bar for $136, noting it exceeded UNI’s $9 per diem lunch rate.

• An October 2013 dinner for two at Bourbon Street & Voodoo Lounge in Cedar Falls at a cost of $95, which was beyond the $32 limit for the two.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter!

You should start receiving the e-newsletters within a couple days.

• A November 2013 dinner for three at Tony’s LaPizzeria in Cedar Falls at a cost of $105.

The audit found the center received a $245 invoice for a Russian visa for Cornish’s daughter in 2012 at a time the center wasn’t sponsoring trips to Russia, The auditor tagged the cost as an improper disbursement.

Cornish also received $922 in checks from the Institute of International Education for airfare to attend to the group’s events in Houston. The audit alleges she kept the checks and charged the airfare to her UNI procurement card. When Cornish left UNI in 2014, that sum was withheld from her final paycheck, the audit states.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

CONTINUE READING

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.