The SUNY Research Foundation’s methodology for assessing campuses is “fair and equitable” and satisfactory to campus officials, and the foundation projects relatively stable amounts of external grant revenues — between $1.04 billion and $1.08 billion a year — through 2017, according to an audit by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office.
The audit is in stark contrast to one from 2012 that found a litany of problems, including misuse of money and potential conflicts of interest. For example, the operations manager for the foundation at Buffalo State College charged $130,887 to his corporate credit card for foreign travel, high-end dining and hotels, groceries, a laptop and other questionable items. The foundation’s central office compensated a former general counsel $345,034 and a severance package for less than a year of service. It also paid $3 million for 10 contracts in which a potential conflict of interest was identified.
The original audit of the State University of New York Research Foundation recommended that it “better ensure compliance with all relevant laws and policies, including those related to procurement and payroll” and recover money spent on purchases and personnel costs that were excessive or not in line with the organization’s mission.
The Research Foundation is a private educational corporation whose primary mission is to support SUNY research by administering sponsored projects and sharing intellectual property. The nonprofit gets income from sponsored program activities, investments, inventions and licenses, gifts and other sources.
The new audit also found that the foundation has adequate procedures in place to allocate unrestricted funds to campuses and central administration, as well as sufficient budgetary controls over allocations of unrestricted funds (money available for general use).
“This report confirms the unwavering commitment we have made to strengthen our controls and ensure that expenditures of unrestricted funds are appropriate and supportive of our mission. It is testimony to the import of the RF’s work and the value it provides to our campuses, to SUNY and to the State,” Tim Killeen, president of the foundation, said in a statement. “We will continue to review and revise policies, procedures, and guidance related to the expenditure of unrestricted funds to ensure we conduct our business as effectively as possible.”