On the higher-ed beat: Auditor praises U of M upkeep

  • Article by: JENNA ROSS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 27, 2012 - 7:50 PM

Two decades after a rough couple of audits, the University of Minnesota has earned good marks for its building maintenance from the legislative auditor.

"It's almost night and day," said Jo Vos, evaluation manager for the office.

Back in 1988, auditors took a broader look at the U's physical operations, finding that they lacked financial controls and strong management systems: "These deficiencies are the result of years of neglect."

Compare that to the audit released Wednesday, which analyzed a smaller slice of the U's operations: "Overall, the university has implemented a good preventative maintenance program that addresses, in varying degrees, best practices."

Preventative maintenance is the work done to defend against the need for a repair. Legislative Auditor James Nobles compared it to the oil changes and check-ups you might do on your car.

"The theory is, if you do that, over the long run, you will extend the life of a machine, a building, a window," he said.

It's a big job. The university's Twin Cities campus spans more than 1,200 acres and boasts 25 million square feet within 276 buildings.

Auditors did list concerns. They recommended that the university's facilities management department supervise the maintenance of all university-owned buildings, including residence halls and parking ramps. The office also found that the U reported 90 percent of work orders completed on time when less than two-thirds of them were getting done by deadline. Turns out the U measured "on-time" as done anytime during the month due.

"We sort of thought this was a little misleading," Vos said.

Mike Berthelsen, the U's associate vice president for facilities management, told the group that the university has "made that change."

He said he welcomed the audit's suggestions and was pleased by its overall message.

"It's always good to hear people talk good about your program."

Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168

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