- Office of the State Auditor
Media Contact for Weak System for Verifying Vendor Financial Information Led to Unauthorized Transaction at Westfield State University, Audit Shows
Boston — An audit released today by State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump finds that the breakdown that led to the transfer of $1.75 million by Westfield State University (WSU) to an unauthorized account resulted from a failure to follow a basic procedure. Because WSU was not verifying the accuracy of changes to banking and income tax information for its vendors in the state’s accounting system, a WSU employee mistakenly enabled the transaction to take place. Due to its quick detection and subsequent action by WSU, the full amount was recovered.
The audit also found University personnel did not document that they verified the accuracy of change requests for 10 of the 13 vendors that came into service for WSU during the audit period of October 1, 2018 through March 31, 2020. In its response, WSU indicated it was taking steps to address the audit’s concerns surrounding the verification problems.
“As a state higher education institution, Westfield State University assumes all oversight responsibilities when it enters into a contract with a vendor. WSU’s mistakes are a matter of limiting risk for unauthorized transactions and making sure funds are deposited to the right accounts,” Bump said. “I am encouraged by the steps the University has taken so far and I urge them to continue to enhance their financial verification process for vendors.”
Additionally, the audit called on WSU to expand information technology (IT) security awareness training for staff. WSU did not ensure that employees who had access to its IT systems received security awareness training as required by the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security (EOTSS). The audit found the University was conducting periodic training, but attendance from staff was not required. The audit recommends WSU establish a formal IT security awareness training program for all employees.
WSU is a member of the Massachusetts public higher-education system, which consists of 15 community colleges, nine state universities, and five University of Massachusetts campuses. In fiscal year 2019, WSU received $39 million in state appropriations. In 2020, there were 5,810 students enrolled at the University.