CHARLES Sturt University acknowledges the possibility of missing wages after a NSW Audit Office report deemed a review of staff payments one of two "high-risk" deficiencies to be rectified before the tabling of its annual report in parliament.
The report showed Charles Sturt's significant progress in wiping out its multi-million dollar operating deficit but also found the university failed to adequately address a review into over or underpayment of casual staff.
The review is ongoing, so the extent of any potential erroneous payments is yet to be determined and while interim vice-chancellor John Germov said there is no evidence, the annual report was adjusted to reflect the possibility.
"We undertook the review voluntarily because ... a number of universities have found errors, so we brought in an external agency [but] it hasn't concluded its work yet," Professor Germov said.
"As yet, we haven't uncovered anything of concern. We have been asked to put a notation in our annual report to flag this as a potential liability going forward.
"It's because of the complexity of casual payments [and] how people are categorised. This is what you see across the sector."
The Auditor-General's report also found CSU misunderstood the application of new accounting standards by failing to include a $34 million grant for capital works as revenue.
Subsequent discussions delayed the tabling of the university's annual report in parliament, however, Professor Germov said it has been rectified, which resulted in CSU recording a net surplus of $19.5 million.
The report confirmed that, overall, the university finished 2020 with an operating deficit of $15.5 million, a reduction of $34 million from previous forecasts.
It reduced expenditure by 9.2 per cent, though that came with a number of restructures which resulted in hundreds of jobs being cut along with almost 600 subjects.
"We were forced to take a lot of tough decisions in the budget remediation," Professor Germov said. "The whole goal was to move towards a position where we're no longer reliant on international student income for our viability, so we've rejigged our operating model to ensure we're sustainable, long-term.
"Proportionately, we've reduced our expenditure by more than any other university in NSW and that's because we acted swiftly. We're on track to break even or do better by the end of the year."
Professor Germov said the report also highlighted strong growth in domestic, Indigenous and low socio-economic enrolments along with sector-leading graduate employability.