Report: Audit Shows Mismanagement In UTSA Program

Project's Founding Director Reassigned
October 6, 2003

SAN ANTONIO -- An audit of a University of Texas at San Antonio engineering program reportedly reveals mismanagement and faulty record-keeping that prompted school officials to reassign the project's founding director.

The UTSA Prefreshman Engineering Program, which has become a national model by helping almost 10,000 high-achieving students from low-income families in its 25 years of existence, was reviewed in the audit obtained by the San Antonio Express-News last week under a Texas Public Information Act request.

The audit by the UT System in Austin and other documents show that departmental books hadn't been balanced, duties were inadequately divided, at least one employee improperly used work time for an outside job and workers were even given permission to take computers home. The last time the program was audited was in 1996.

"The risk that there is a material weakness in the internal controls with the PREP, or that financial information is materially misstated and assets are not adequately safeguarded is high," stated the audit.

The findings in December prompted UTSA officials to reassign the engineering program's founding director, Manuel Berriozbal, to chief fund-raiser for PREP. The university is seeking two new administrators to oversee the $1.2 million program and a companion outreach project known as Proyecto Access.

Berriozbal's reassignment came eight months after accusations last November that one of his employees was performing work on UTSA time for an outside foundation on which Berriozbal is an unpaid treasurer. Although the foundation has no formal affiliation with any higher education entity, it has partnered with Alamo Community College District programs in the past.

One lawmaker familiar with the audit said she was outraged that UTSA acted against Berriozbal, noting the document didn't suggest that he was involved in any impropriety.

"I thought this could've been handled a lot better," said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, of San Antonio, one of several people who have come to Berriozbal's defense.

"If this is the way UTSA treats its treasured faculty, how does it treat people who don't measure up to that standard?" Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, asked.

Berriozbal's colleagues, other politicians and local activists said UTSA mistreated the popular math professor by keeping his name under a cloud of suspicion. A group of former students and faculty formed a committee that wrote letters to UTSA President Ricardo Romo seeking an explanation for the actions and staged a rally on Berriozbal's behalf at the downtown campus.