Email evidence contradicts Napolitano’s audit testimony

Phillip Downey /File

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UC President Janet Napolitano appeared before a joint oversight committee Tuesday to respond to a critical state audit released early last week. The California state audit included a series of allegations made against the UC Office of the President — allegations which Napolitano largely denied.

The audit report, created by state auditor Elaine Howle, included allegations that UCOP accumulated undisclosed reserve funds, failed to satisfactorily justify its spending on system-wide initiatives, used misleading budget practices, provided its employees with additional benefits and intentionally interfered with the auditing process.

Howle, during her appearance before the committee, described a set of surveys sent to UC campuses in order to glean perspective on the value of services provided by UCOP. Howle alleged that UCOP inappropriately reviewed the campuses’ responses and that subsequent changes were made to those survey responses.

Napolitano responded to Howle’s allegations that UCOP had interfered with the auditing process by claiming that campuses had reached out to UCOP with requests for assistance in coordinating responses to the surveys, and that UCOP intervened in response to these requests.

Emails uncovered by the San Francisco Chronicle Wednesday contradicted Napolitano’s testimony. The emails between Napolitano’s staff and UC campuses reveal no requests for assistance with the surveys from any of the ten UC campuses. Instead, they show that UCOP staff requested that campus personnel share responses to the confidential surveys with UCOP.

During her testimony, Napolitano also claimed that the audit’s assertion that her office has a $175 million undisclosed budget is “not factually accurate.She said the true reserves amount to $38 million, after accounting for $83 million in predesignated restricted funds and systemwide initiatives and investments.

“We think ($38 million) is a prudent and reasonable amount for unexpected expenses such as additional funds for contingencies that arise,” Napolitano said.

However, Howle said in her appearance before the committee that UCOP repeatedly requested budget increases without disclosing previous budget surpluses to the UC Regents. This resulted in UCOP accumulating millions of dollars in reserves without disclosing these reserves to the regents or to the public, according to the report.

“It’s very discouraging to see that on a campus where resources and departments are getting cut left and right, that so much money is not being spent,” said Anthony Carrasco, an outgoing ASUC campus senator. “Ultimately, the UC needs to be more transparent. … We as a campus need to push for transparency. … Students need more seats at the table.”

UCOP has agreed to implement all 33 audit recommendations. Napolitano has also formed an internal UCOP task force, chaired by Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Rachael Nava, to ensure the recommendations are implemented.

Contact Shayann Hendricks at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @shayannih.