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Survey: Financial Blunders Abound in Higher Ed

closeup of financial reports

How big of a problem is financial fraud, waste and abuse in higher education? According to a recent survey, nearly two-thirds of schools (63 percent) reported it as a challenge. More than one in four said their vulnerability to risk of fraud and abuse has increased in the last year. And more than a quarter (27 percent) said the number of inaccurate expense reports and invoices submitted has gone up over that period as well.

The cost of blunders can be high. A separate survey on occupational fraud and abuse found that the median loss due to fraud across all industry segments — not just education — in the United States was $108,000.

The more recent survey, conducted by research firm Kelton Global on behalf of SAP Concur, a company that produces online travel and expense management software, reported that a slight majority of financial decision-makers (52 percent) working in higher ed consider the financial tools and systems used at their organizations as "error-prone." Even more (63 percent) said they had to make decisions without full visibility into essential information. The survey questioned 151 financial decision-makers in colleges and universities.

One in five higher ed respondents has unintentionally reported incorrect budget data due to inaccuracies in expense reports or invoices. A slightly higher share (26 percent) said their organizations had mistakenly allocated resources where they shouldn't have due to thinking they had more available budget than they actually did.

Among the problems: Twenty-three percent of staff members filed the same expense report multiple times; 22 percent filed "potentially fraudulent expenses."

Those who have automated their travel and expense management with contemporary software (57 percent) believe they're better at a managing fraud, waste and abuse within their organizations. They also said the use of such programs saves time over the manual or legacy processes: reducing the processing of an expense report by five hours and processing of an invoice by two hours.

Concur suggested that "there are lots of little ways" organizations can "start chipping away" at these types of blunders: using better employee training, following stricter regulation of internal processes, pursuing closer collaboration with CIOs and, of course, putting technologies in place to automate tedious and error-prone processes such as auditing expense and invoice data.

More complete results are available with registration on the SAP Concur website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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