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Published October 16, 2009, 09:08 PM

Audit On UND & NDSU Presidents' Homes

The state will likely audit the new UND and NDSU president's home projects.

By: Casey Wonnenberg, WDAZ

The state will likely audit the new UND and NDSU president's home projects. Today the State Board of Higher Education's finance committee voted for the audits. The request for the audits comes after the construction of the new presidents’ homes cost more than expected. The homes were both budgeted for about $900,000, but UND spent around $1.1 million on its president's home. NDSU spent almost $1.9 million. That doesn't include furnishings, appliances, and some "in-kind" donations at NDSU.

The new University of North Dakota president's house was built on a fairly tight timeline. That's why foundation officials say the project was not competitively bid. The project went over budget by about $240,000.

Jon Backes, the finance committee chair, says, “I think that this case makes the case for the need for transparency.”

The committee met with UND Foundation officials today to hammer out what might have gone wrong with the project.

“There were some questions about whether landscaping and certain projects were paid for as part of the construction cost or part of the university cost. I think that wasn't necessarily clear in our existing policy,” says Backes.

Tim O'Keefe with the UND Alumni Association, says, “What I think you'll see through the audit is an examination of the appropriateness of some of these other dollars that institutionally have always been part of the process.”

O'Keefe says the major reason for the audit and concern is because NDSU went way over budget.

“By association to the fact that we're the two research institutions in the state, and the house projects were done at the same time, you don't have scrutiny of one without the other, so I think we were more drawn into a process than created it,” says O’Keefe.

Still the board wants some answers about the UND president's house project, like why were some institution funds used when the Foundation said it would pay for the whole project?

Backes says, “I was surprised quite frankly that there were university funds in here because my understanding going into it was these would be all private funds that went into the building of these homes.”

UND used about $145,000 of institution money. The funds were used to pay for exterior costs, like landscaping, the driveway, and lighting.

The board is recommending some policy changes for construction projects. The board will vote on the changes at its meeting next month.