Kansas Athletics Inc. officials plan to go “above and beyond” the recommended fixes for their broken ticket-distribution system, one that permitted the documented diversion of nearly 20,000 football and basketball tickets for the personal gain of five former employees and a paid consultant.
Whether the repairs will be enough remains to be seen.
“It will be a system that’s much improved and harder to defeat,” said Dana Anderson, a major booster who has donated more than $10 million to Kansas Athletics and has pledged nearly $10 million more for the future. “But I’m not a security person, and not an accountant.
“If people want to do bad things, it’s hard to eliminate it completely.”
Athletics officials are counting on the changes — ranging from bolstering internal controls to establishing a hotline for whistleblowers — to do more than improve the chances of stopping thefts, fraud, embezzlement and other problems in future weeks, months and years.
They’re also promising to look for other opportunities for change, both in the coming weeks and well into the future.
“This process will be an ongoing process to vigilantly look at everything we do and whether it can be done better,” said Jim Marchiony, an associate athletics director. “I think we’re going to — I know we’re going to — do everything we can to be sure that every donor can have complete confidence in what we’re doing.”
Such confidence has not been restored in everyone, at least not yet.
David Reynolds, a retired Lawrence homebuilder and longtime member of the Williams Fund, said he had reviewed both the results of Kansas University’s internal investigation and the recommendations for improvements that Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and Athletics Director Lew Perkins have agreed to implement.
“Maybe some of it might help,” Reynolds said this week, “but not in the big picture.”
His main issue is with Kansas Athletics’ plans for hiring a full-time forensic auditor, someone charged with ensuring, in KU’s words, “financial integrity in areas including, but not limited to, donations, tickets and travel.”
The forensic auditor will be hired by and work for Kansas Athletics — and that’s where the problem lies, Reynolds said.
Forensic auditors need to be independent, or else their findings can be considered suspect, he said. The latest forensic audit — itself independent, because it was conducted for Gray-Little — uncovered and documented the five years’ worth of ticket diversions.
The audit itself uncovered problems long suspected by some employees, but never acted upon nor detected by previous reviews.
“The buddy system broke down,” Reynolds said, in part because the independent auditors — people coming in from outside Kansas Athletics — could take an independent look without worrying about harming their friends or their superiors.
“I’m not trying to be negative, but if we’re really trying to clean the place up, let’s clean the place up. Let’s get some real independence in there. There should have independent audits, reported directly to the chancellor or the Board of Regents.”
The forensic auditor’s job description is not yet written, but the expectations already are forming within Kansas Athletics.
“This person is going to have authority to look into every aspect of athletics to try to ensure that we do not have similar problems in the future,” Marchiony said.
Hotline in place
Gray-Little and Perkins also have said that a “hotline” for whistleblowers would be established that is independent of Kansas Athletics, and instead located within KU’s Office of Internal Audit.
Such a phone line already exists: 785-864-0042, which rings into the Office of Internal Audit. The line is answered by a person when the office is open, which is 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays; after hours, calls go to voicemail.
Lynn Bretz, a KU spokeswoman, said that the university would be working as early as next week to increase campuswide knowledge of the hotline and its ability to handle information about fraud, misuse of funds, waste and other problems. There’s talk of creating a separate line for reporting fraud.
“We’ve got some fine-tuning to do here,” Bretz said. “We want to make our fraud hotline crystal clear and available to everyone, with no way you cannot find it. We will educate the campus, and encourage people to use it.”
The department already provided more information to donors last week, as they chose where they would be sitting for the upcoming football season. Other changes also are in the works, including the bolstering internal controls on the handling and distribution of tickets.
“We are in the process of discussing all these enhancements and will implement them as soon as possible,” Marchiony said.