UNM amps up compliance
In an effort to prove its commitment to transparency and to its code of ethics, UNM continues to develop its newly established Compliance Office.
In a presentation in a Board of Regents’ Audit Committee meeting Thursday morning, UNM Chief Compliance Officer Helen Gonzales said the office is reviewing the University’s code of ethics. She said the office has also just assembled a Compliance Council, which is set to meet for the first time next week.
Gonzales said her office is a “change agent to facilitate and assure that management is addressing key risk areas.” She said the office would monitor University processes tightly.
“Compliance is now front and center in higher education,” she said. “As well as the federal laws, there’s just hundreds and hundreds of state laws and sometimes, local laws. There are so many compliance requirements that we need to pay attention to.”
UNM President Robert Frank established the Compliance Office early this year following the recommendations of Pennsylvania State University’s Louis Freeh Report. Lawyer Louis Freeh compiled that report in response to the child abuse charges of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky. Frank appointed Gonzales to head the office in January.
Gonzales said her office has worked to develop a website for the office. She said the University community can access compliance assessments of different University departments, such as the Office of Financial Aid or Athletics, on the website.
Gonzales said the compliance assessment process begins with individual assessments done by each department. The self-assessments are then passed on to the Compliance Office, which selects certain departments that have more “budget, legal and reputational risks.”
The office has also developed a compliance hotline through which employees could report ethics violations anonymously, she said. She said she encourages employees to report whatever issue they have regarding ethics on campus.
“We’ve had this hotline for a long time, but almost no one knows that,” she said. “One of the things we’ll do is encourage individuals to report issues to their manager if they’re comfortable.”
Gonzales said the Compliance Office has developed sexual harassment and ethics training programs for all UNM employees. But she said that although the programs are mandatory, there are no definite penalties for not completing them and only about 60 percent of UNM employees do so.
But Regent Gene Gallegos said although the training is helpful, the office should also focus on the enforcement of policies. He said ethics violations would be “inevitable.”
“The spirit of the Compliance Office is more than just the policies,” he said. “I’m not comfortable to say that it’s just the process. There’s going to be violations so there has to be enforcement. We have not had a compliance office like this before, and we’re having one now because we’ve seen what things could happen. It’s more than just the process and the training.”
Gallegos said the office should also promote the transparency of UNM financial matters.
“We fill out these financial disclosures and send them off,” he said. “Where do they end up? Who checks it? It seems to me this is a perfect time to say, ‘Let’s get our arms around it for the Board of Regents and senior administrations.’ Do they just go into a filing cabinet? We’d like for that to be addressed.”
Faculty senate President Amy Neel said faculty members should also be active in the Compliance Office.
“This discussion worries me a bit because I don’t see any representation from Academic Affairs or the faculty senate,” she said. “I imagine that many of these complaints regarding ethics violations would be against faculty members.”
Gonzales said the office is developing a compliance philosophy that will clearly determine the role of the office in maintaining compliance on campus. She said the office expects to finish this by the next Audit Committee meeting in September.