Officials suspect a University of Iowa professor is believed to have misused his procurement card to cover unauthorized expenses amounting to nearly $100,000, an audit revealed on Dec. 21.
After identifying suspected unauthorized transactions in its annual review of expense reimbursements in November 2016, the UI requested that the state auditor investigate Michael Flatté, a professor and the former director of the Optical Science Technology Center in the UI of Physics/ Astronomy Department for the period of July 1, 2001, through April 30, 2017.
Without authorization from the UI, Flatté listed the university as a conference sponsor on three separate occasions and collected registration fees through a private company he owns, according to a UI press release. The audit found the university reimbursed Flatté $47,203.81 for those conference expenses.
Additionally, according to the release, Flatté used $44,161.69 in registration fees used to administer the conference that the UI says “would have been deposited in university accounts had the conferences been approved.” Almost all revenues were used to cover conference expenses and the balance was deposited with the UI, according to the release.
Flatté also reportedly purchased three robots for $8,440.17, which the state auditor raised concerns about. The auditor also concluded it was not possible to determine whether additional amounts were improperly disbursed “because adequate documentation was not available for all transactions,” according to the audit report released Dec. 21.
The professor remains listed as a faculty member on the UI’s website.
“The university has taken appropriate action to protect the interests of the university and is reviewing possible disciplinary measures,” the UI release said. “Individual personnel actions are considered confidential matters.”
The state auditor recommended that future actions include disclosures of conflicts of interest, adjustments to expense-reimbursement procedures, and measures to ensure compliance with UI policies.
Travel and procurement policies are outlined in the university’s Operations Manual, and highly trained staff review purchases, according to the UI release.
“The University of Iowa takes seriously its fiduciary responsibility to spend taxpayer and research dollars wisely and has several procedures in place to ensure this happens,” UI officials said in the release.
— Marissa Payne