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Audit: NAU President Spent $40,000 In Policy Violation

Rita Cheng
Mariana Dale/KJZZ
Rita Cheng

Northern Arizona University paid out more than $40,000 in travel expenses that did not comply with university policies.

state audit shows the funds were given to Rita Cheng, the school’s president, and her husband.

The report, released by the Arizona Auditor General on Friday, shows the school’s use of the money did not comply with policies established by the Arizona Board of Regents.

The University reimbursed the president and her husband’s airfare to Russia. That included both business- and first-class tickets.

The audit found the president’s travel summaries lacked appropriate documentation and put public money at risk. 

University officials believed they were following all policies and were unaware they were not properly documenting expenses, officials said.

The audit recommended improving review and documentation procedures and that all exceptions to travel policies should be pre-approved in writing, the audit said.

Each of the trips mentioned by the audit had a public purpose of "further advancing the institutional mission of the university," NAU Chief Financial Officer Bjorn Flugstad said. The trips led to "demonstrable results" such as enrolling new students or creating new visiting scholar programs, he said.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

Senior field correspondent Bridget Dowd has a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.