Sunday, July 14, 2024

After over $1m in citations went uncollected, UNCW reformed parking operations

The parking lot of the UNCW Randall Library. (Port City Daily/File)

WILMINGTON — An internal audit conducted by UNCW two years ago found that “some improvement is needed” in aspects of the university’s parking operations. On June 24 of this year, the internal auditors reported back, determining that the six findings are “considered closed/resolved.” 

Among the initial findings of the Office of Internal Audit was that between 2006 and the end of 2018, UNCW had left $1,362,214 on the street in unpaid citation fines, a total of 31,760 unpaid citations. 

The internal auditors reported UNCW had no issues collecting parking fines from active students; the majority of unpaid citations came from visitors to campus. The 2019 audit stated, at the time: “Parking Services has no defined process for collecting parking citation fines from faculty, staff, visitors, and contract employees on campus.”

The $1.36 million in unpaid parking debt was never reported to the state comptroller nor included in the university’s financial statements, according to the 2019 audit. 

While there was a process established for charging late payment penalty fees and interest to students for unpaid citations, no such process existed for faculty, staff, visitors and contract employees. As of 2019, around 11,000 total parking citations were issued per year throughout the university’s approximately 8,421 parking spaces on and off the main campus.

Breakdown of unpaid UNCW parking citations between 2006 and the end of 2018. (Port City Daily/Courtesy UNCW)

According to the audit, faculty and staff at UNCW primarily pay for their parking permits through a monthly payroll deduction. The internal auditors reviewed the list of active permits and found that 47 individuals (2.33% of faculty/staff) who signed up for permits via payroll deduction did not have deductions on file. Five individuals were sold permits at no charge, according to the 2019 audit. 

When the internal auditors tracked the cash and credit card deposits to parking meters over a six month period in 2018, comparing the deposit amounts to the corresponding documentation, “[m]ultiple variances were identified, amounting to a net discrepancy of $1,738.95. Variances could not be explained by Parking Services staff.”

“It should be noted that no instances of fraud were identified during the review,” according to the 2019 audit. “However, the opportunity exists for funds within the department to be unaccounted for, leading to an increased risk of fraud or abuse.” 

In total, the internal auditors found six findings in the parking services realm deemed in need of improvement. For each of those, UNCW Parking Services responded within the audit on how it would go about addressing them. In the follow up report, dated June 24, 2021, chief audit officer Kelly Mintern wrote that each of the six findings are now considered “closed/resolved.” 

“Although we were unable to conduct a complete review of the newly implemented parking citation collection process due to timing of its implementation in June 2021, based on our discussions and walkthrough of the process, the process addresses the recommended actions from the original finding,” according to the 2021 follow-up. 

According to a UNCW spokesperson, a parking portal has been added to the existing system, ” which greatly enhances our ability to service our patrons. The portal now allows patrons to look up their citation and even pay directly through the portal, rather than coming into the office or mailing a payment.”

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