February 6, 2018

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

Audit Recommends UW System Address Continued IT Weaknesses

MADISON- Today, the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) released its financial audit of the University of Wisconsin (UW) System (report 18-2). As of June 30, 2017, UW System’s net position was $6.6 billion on the basis of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). LAB provided an unmodified opinion on UW System’s financial statements for fiscal year (FY) 2016-17 and FY 2015-16. An unmodified audit opinion is provided when audit evidence supports the conclusion that the financial statements provide a fair view of an entity’s financial activity in accordance with GAAP.

On a budgetary basis, UW System’s total program revenue balance as of June 30, 2017, was $1.2 billion. Of this amount, $851.6 million was from unrestricted sources, such as tuition and auxiliary operations. These balances were categorized by UW institutions in UW System’s October 2017 report on balances, which was developed based on a policy approved by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee and Joint Committee on Finance in 2014. Balances categorized as “planned,” totaled $435.8 million, or 51.2 percent of total unrestricted program revenue balances.

LAB has reported various concerns related to information technology (IT) security policies, procedures, and controls at UW System since the early 1990s. Although UW System Administration has taken some steps to address IT weaknesses identified by LAB, such weaknesses increase the risk that unauthorized or erroneous transactions could be processed or changes could be made to accounting, payroll, and student data. In this audit (report 18-2), LAB indicates that UW System Administration developed five systemwide IT policies, but did not developed a comprehensive IT security program in order to comply with past LAB recommendations and Board of Regents policies. Therefore, LAB continued to identify IT weaknesses, which it reported as a significant deficiency in internal control. Given that LAB has reported concerns with IT security policies, procedures, and controls for a number of years, and continues to identify such concerns, LAB recommends that UW System report to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee on the status of its efforts to address these matters by August 31, 2018.

“I appreciate the work of UW System to address previously-identified IT weaknesses,” said Rep. Samantha Kerkman (R-Salem Lakes).  “However, it is clearly time for a comprehensive approach. I look forward to hearing from the UW System on its efforts.”

“The audit confirmed that the financial strength within the UW System is reassuring, but the audit shows that more work is to be done within the UW. IT security is critical, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Audit Committee and the leadership of the UW to address this vital issue.”

Copies of report 18-2 may be obtained from LAB’s website at or by calling (608) 266-2818. Report concerns related to state government activities, including UW System, to LAB by calling the toll-free hotline at 1‑877‑FRAUD‑17.