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Education news and issues in the Ozarks.

President Smart on Moving Forward After Bookstore Case

MSU's Administration Building, Carrington Hall/Credit: Scott Harvey

Months after thousands of dollars in missing funds were discovered and then a subsequent investigation found even more stolen from the Missouri State University Bookstore, a number of corrective actions have been taken to avoid a similar occurrence. KSMU’s Scott Harvey spoke with MSU President Clif Smart and has this story.

Mark Brixey was the bookstore manager from 2003 until last August. In late March, he pleaded guilty in federal court for embezzling more than $1 million from the university’s textbook buyback program over the span of eight years. A sentencing hearing is pending.

The case came to light when members of MSU’s Internal Audit Department found $81,000 in Brixey's desk while he was on vacation. Now the university has implemented several changes at Internal Audit’s request.

“It begins with segregation of duties,” says President Clif Smart. “You know there are now three people that verify checks that have come in rather than one. Brixey had apparently taken on the textbook manager position himself to eliminate that segregation of duties and so we have three people that are involved in that now.”

President Smart says the university also has Financial Services now checking information daily, required all checks that come in for any purpose to go through the point of sale system, and that no personal checks can be cashed in an amount over $50. Additionally, officials have terminated the unwritten policy exception that allowed the former Bookstore director to cash checks payable to the university while not recording the transaction on the books, which at the time were understood to be book buy-back funds.

Smart says these new policies, along with others, offers reassurance that MSU has implemented the appropriate financial safeguards.

“Having said that, Scott; people, if they’re thieves, can figure out a way to steal from you. And you can never completely eliminate that possibility. No organization can. That’s why unfortunately so many companies and institutions in our area have had to deal with the same thing. But we’re going to make it as difficult as possible.”

With the case now behind them, the Missouri State President hopes others can learn from this situation, noting the importance of having internal auditors that “know the organization.”

“It is a good reminder that ever organization needs to have policies in place that discourage and make it difficult from people to do this. Try to eliminate the temptation. If you have multiple people looking at things; if your financial folks and your auditors are periodically evaluating things, anyone that might even have a temptation to do that is gonna to be discouraged,” Smart said.

The full Bookstore audit and recommendations by the Internal Audit Department are available here.

Above, hear the full conversation with President Smart, part of our monthly series Engaging the Community.

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