July 17, 2020

Contact: Sen. Cowles: (608) 266-0484 / Rep. Kerkman: (888) 529-0061

Audit Examines UW System Financial Management 

MADISON– Today, the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) released an audit of the University of Wisconsin (UW) System (report 20-7) in which it reviewed the status of recommendations LAB made in prior audits related to financial management of auxiliary operations, affiliated organizations, personnel systems, and information technology.

UW System’s total program revenue balance was $1.3 billion as of June 30, 2019. Of this amount, $866.6 million was from unrestricted sources such as tuition. LAB recommends UW System Administration improve its annual reporting on program revenue balances.

“While the UW’s net position and program revenue balances remained mostly consistent over the prior two fiscal years, we’re in uncharted territory and I’m concerned about the impact Coronavirus will have on the UW-System’s financial position. Unforeseen expenses, such as testing, facility cleaning, and PPE, will be critical in safely reopening 26 campuses across Wisconsin. Extensive resources will be necessary for these institutions to maintain their operations, and as lawmakers and state leaders, we need to consider the effect of these costs,” said Senator Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay).

LAB found that UW System Administration’s policy on financial management of auxiliary operations has not been updated since June 1999, is inconsistent with other UW System policies, and is based on requirements removed from Wisconsin Statutes in July 2015. LAB recommends that UW System Administration update this policy in order to improve management of auxiliary operations at all UW institutions.

“I appreciate the LAB’s work on this report, which will give the Joint Legislative Audit Committee an opportunity to hear back from the UW System in November regarding their progress in implementing these recommendations,” said Representative Samantha Kerkman (R-Salem Lakes).  “I am hopeful that the UW System’s continued improvements will make an appreciable difference in the operations of all campuses.  I look forward to hearing back from the UW System in November.” 

LAB also found that UW System Administration implemented 10 of 16 recommendations LAB made in report 19-5 related to affiliated organizations, partially implemented 2 recommendations, and has not implemented 4 recommendations. LAB recommends that UW System Administration continue its efforts to address the 6 outstanding recommendations to further improve oversight of its relationships with affiliated organizations.

LAB reported that UW System Administration and UW-Madison implemented recommendations from report 19-5 related to personnel system policies.

Copies of LAB’s report (report 20-7) may be obtained from its website at or by calling (608) 266-2818. Report concerns related to state government activities, including at UW System institutions, to LAB by calling the toll-free hotline at 1‑877‑FRAUD‑17.