RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – NBC12 conducted a 3 month investigation on missing assets at two local universities Virginia State University and Virginia Commonwealth University. The two state institutions with, apparently, two very different accounting procedures - but a similar problem, a lot of missing electronics.
In December - we sent a request under the Freedom of Information Act for a list of all missing assets of VSU, including, but not limited to computers, office equipment, furniture, and electronic devices. VSU sent back thirty pages of hundreds of unlocated assets from a recent audit.
Some of the missing items include: more than 350 laptop computers, hundreds of disk drives, 17 microscopes, four pianos, dozens of digital cameras and video cameras, more than a dozen big screen TV's - many of them 52 inch - a whirlpool tub, dozens of trumpets, saxophones, trombones and clarinets - in fact, enough instruments to start your own marching band. There are missing sewing machines, knitting machines and microwave ovens.
And the grand total from VSU's most recent list of un-located assets? A whopping $1,201,072.87. That's an average of a hundred grand a month of your tax-dollars unaccounted for.
Since our inquiry, VSU has located almost a half million dollars of the missing assets. A spokesman for the university says that in the grand scheme of things - the loss isn't that much.
"The list that you received accounts for only about 1% of the value of the assets on the campus. So, while it may seem, at first blush, a large number - within context - it's really a relatively small number," said VSU Director of University Relations Thomas Reed.
We sent the same letter to VCU, asking to see their list of missing assets, and received an e-mail from executive Director of University Relations, Pam Lepley. It reads in part: no record exists that is "a list of missing assets of Virginia Commonwealth University."
There may be no list, but that doesn't mean there's nothing missing on this campus. We dug a little deeper and got all of the incident reports from the VCU Police Department on stolen university property in 2010 and the stack is pretty thick.
Like VSU - the missing items from VCU include computers - lots of them. Multiple desk tops, over a dozen laptops, - Mac I-books, and Del laptops, and a computer "server" with software worth $25,000. There is missing camera equipment - digital cameras - video recorders, tripods, microphones - 32 & 52 inch TV's, DVD players, hundreds of dollars in cash and text-books. And then some down-right strange items, stolen from the teaching hospital - like almost $40,000 worth of heart valve implants.
We wanted to ask VCU, Vice President of Finance John Bennett why there is no list of missing assets and VCU Police Chief John Venuti, how much of the missing property - if any of it - has been recovered, but the university declined all interviews for this report.
Director of Communications, Anne Buckley did send us a lengthy statement, explaining VCU's inventory process that reads in part: "Inaccuracies in the fixed asset system are corrected as they are identified..." and "The auditor of public accounts has not cited a deficiency in VCU's fixed asset inventory or procedures in at least the past six years."
To read VCU's response to our investigation, in its entirety click here.
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