The Alabama Bureau of Investigation is looking into several instances in which student-aid funds have gone missing from an account at Alabama State University, the Montgomery Advertiser reported on Wednesday. The inquiry is one of several under way at the institution, including a broad forensic audit ordered by the state’s governor that is expected to cost more than $500,000, according to the news group AL.com.
The student-aid fraud involves some $50,000 that was diverted into private accounts from a university account that held money designated for student refunds. Freddie Gallot, the institution’s vice president for business and finance, described the fraud as “sort of like being hacked” and said the university had taken steps to deal with the problem. University officials said they didn’t know who was responsible for the theft or whether the person was an employee.
The Montgomery newspaper learned of the fraud investigation through e-mails it obtained regarding the university’s departing president, Joseph H. Silver. Mr. Silver, who resigned as president last month under an agreement that will pay him $685,000, complained in some of those messages that he had learned of the investigation by chance and that other university officials had failed to inform him of it.
The audit, which was ordered by the governor’s office, also relates to complaints raised by Mr. Silver. He alleged in November that he had been placed on administrative leave for asking questions about contracts he found suspicious. At the behest of Gov. Robert Bentley, the trustees hired an outside auditor to review the institution’s contracts. Mr. Bentley announced two weeks later that he was also ordering the broader forensic audit, which will be conducted by Forensic Strategic Solutions Inc., of Birmingham. A spokeswoman for the governor’s office estimated that the audit would take two to six months to complete. University officials have maintained that it will reveal no wrongdoing.