October 24, 2014

UW System head welcomes state audit

A series of problems with a University of Wisconsin payroll and benefits system, which resulted in millions of dollars in overpayments, have prompted state lawmakers to order an audit. The move follows a recent fiscal audit, which found about $15.4 million was overpaid for health insurance for terminated employees and $17.5 million was overpaid into employee retirement benefits during the 2011-12 fiscal year.

The Legislature’s Joint Audit Committee on Tuesday ordered a full review of the payroll and benefits system being used by UW campuses.

Appearing before the committee, System President Kevin Reilly said a number of factors contributed to the problem. Those included a new system rolled out in recent years to track the human resources needs of every UW campus in the state. Reilly described it as a “constellation of interconnected challenges that arose from the implementation and use of a very large and very complex payroll and benefits system.”

Reilly said staff has been hard at work to address those problems and has already been able to recover about $20 million.

Reilly also intends to bring in an outside consultant to conduct a review of the system, which is expected to cost the UW about $50,000. Lawmakers have criticized the move, but Reilly defended the decision on Tuesday saying the work will help to address the issues quickly and can be done in collaboration with the audit.

Reilly also cited concerns that UW could face further criticism from lawmakers and the public if problems with the payroll and benefits system were to persist while the state audit is being conducted. The Legislative Audit Bureau is likely to complete its work in the next three to four months.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:18)