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Audit: $74K Missing in Hawkeye Express Collections

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Ticket sales and revenue for the University of Iowa’s Hawkeye Express no longer will be handled by the UI Athletics Ticket Office after an investigation of the train’s operations found lax policies and oversight contributed to the loss of at least $74,200.

Beginning this fall, the UI Parking and Transportation Department will handle all ticket sales and revenue associated with the Hawkeye Express, which in 2004 began transporting fans from a depot in Coralville to Kinnick Stadium on Hawkeye game days.

A special investigation by Iowa’s Office of Auditor of State into the Hawkeye Express operations between Sept. 1, 2005, and Nov. 30, 2013, found insufficient policies and oversight of ticket sales, resulting in lost revenue from at least three game days in 2011. The state has recommended the UI avoid future gaffes by strengthening its internal controls, including segregating duties around ticket sales, reconciling ticket sales to deposits, and improving cash handling.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said the university is moving Hawkeye Express ticket duties to the Parking and Transportation Department because it already has those checks and balances in place.

“So that seemed to be the most efficient approach,” Moore said. “We think it will work well.”

Auditors, according to the report, were unable to locate the $74,200 in missing cash from the 2011 season. And investigators said it’s possible the university lost more Hawkeye Express revenue over the years, but poor recording procedures make it hard to know.

“Because sufficient records were not available, it was not possible to determine if additional collections were not deposited,” according to the report.

The audit found that the UI failed to deposit all collections from Hawkeye Express ticket sales for three football game days in 2011, and that collections for two games in 2010 were deposited together — even though ticket proceeds are supposed to be deposited for each game during the following week.

Auditors also found that ticket proceeds for 31 game days between 2008 and 2013 were not deposited the following week, and the number of days that elapsed between games and when the money was deposited ranged from nine to 157, according to the report.

The UI discovered it was missing ticket revenue after conducting a routine internal audit last year. Based on those initial findings, the UI fired Kathleen Willier, an accountant responsible for overseeing the Hawkeye Express ticket process.

Willier could not be reached for comment Friday.

State auditors, according to the report, interviewed Willier about the missing ticket revenue, and Willier said she combined cash from multiple game days into single deposits because she was busy. Investigators, however, poked holes in that explanation after determining the final Hawkeye Express deposit in 2011 came before the last game of the season — one of the game days for which money went missing.

When investigators pressed Willier on the whereabouts of the money, she said “maybe the proceeds were deposited to an incorrect account.” State auditors reviewed large deposits in the university’s accounting system and found none correlating with the missing ticket sales, according to the report.

Willier suggested to investigators that maybe revenue for 2011 was down because ridership was lower and people were reusing tickets, according to the report. Auditors countered that ridership actually increased from 2010 to 2011.

Investigators looked into Willier’s personal bank accounts to determine whether she deposited the cash, and they didn’t find any large deposits around that time. They also reviewed bank accounts belonging to other ticket office staff members and did not find the money, according to the report.

“The lack of appropriate fiduciary oversight and the failure to ensure implementation of adequate internal controls permitted the undeposited collections to go unnoticed,” auditors reported.

The audit recommends separating ticket processing duties by assigning the counting of collections to someone who is not responsible for recording the deposits. And it suggests reconciling ticket revenue after each game, and making sure someone deposits cash in a timely manner.

Even though Willier was terminated after UI officials discovered ticket collections were not deposited, she is not facing criminal charges at this time.

The audit report has been shared with the Johnson County attorney’s Office, UI Department of Public Safety, Attorney General’s Office, and the Board of Regents’ Office of Internal Audit. Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness said her office will be reviewing the state findings to see if possible charges might be brought.

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