SIU Audit Reveals Startling Findings


By Sam Jones
By Randy Livingston

JACKSON COUNTY -- The audit found $40,000 was unaccounted for, but it took a year and a-half for anyone to notice something was wrong.

At SIUC, an employee pocketed $33,000 in cash over 18 months She took a little at a time from the Student Health Services Center. The violation doesn't stop there; $7,000 disappeared from the Edwardsville campus, 260 computers were missing, and the audit found confidential student information was compromised.

SIU completes audits every year, but thousands of dollars in stolen funds slipped through the cracks.

“Audits often don't find theft,” Chancellor Dr. Rita Cheng said.

Detectives at SIU Police started investigating at the Carbondale campus last May.

“We had the controls on paper, but we didn't have the supervision that was necessary,” conceded Cheng.

They've since charged Kathy Howerton with felony theft and terminated her employment,

Cheng says Howerton handled cash often, for student fees and co-pays. How did they catch on?

“The person was on vacation which is kind of a classic way of finding and when someone stepped in it just didn't seem quite right and so we started the process of investigating,” she added.

As for the data breach, Cheng says student personal information wasn't actually compromised. However, the audit states confidential student health information was in the garbage, and that the university had weaknesses in securing information.

“Things like my social and other things about my history. I don't want people to know unless I give it to them. That’s pretty bad,” student Andrew Clausen advised.

The audit goes as far as saying the university lacked security and control of confidential information.

“I’m already nervous for going to school and that sort of just makes me more nervous to know that it’s not always safe, especially my information and the things that I'm helping them pay for,” Caroline Stancil said.

Cheng says all but 121 of the missing computers have been found. They were older models, some misplaced in closets and classrooms.

Cheng says the missing money was first found and reported by SIU. Howerton no longer works there and will have to pay back the stolen cash.

The university has made changes to prevent this from happening again. They've created a position dedicated to security information, stepped up measures to prevent future data breaches, and more eyes are on cash transactions now.

In Edwardsville, the money was taken from the school of education. A spokesperson there said they’ve made an arrest, but he didn’t know who took the money.

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