Kerkman: Audit raises concerns about UW relationship with WiscNet

State Rep. Samantha Kerkman (R-Randall) issued the following statement regarding a Legislative Audit Bureau report on the relationship between the University of Wisconsin (UW) System and WiscNet:

Samantha Kerkman

Samantha Kerkman

Today, the Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) released report 12-18 which details the relationship between the University of Wisconsin (UW) System and WiscNet. This audit report was statutorily required by 2011 Wisconsin Act 32. WiscNet is a private, nonprofit association that provides broadband and other services to its members throughout the state, the majority of which are public school districts, colleges and universities, libraries, and other public entities. The report highlights a number of issues that may confirm legislators’ concerns that WiscNet may have a competitive advantage over other providers in the market. WiscNet is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization, however, some of its administrative services are performed by UW-Madison and its staff is employed by UW System. The LAB reports that in FY 2011-2012, WiscNet members paid an average of $497 per month for services that would have cost $1,161 if obtained from commercial providers. This price difference can be attributed to several factors, including WiscNet’s lower operating costs and tax-exempt status. Also, the report found that in June of three consecutive fiscal years, UW made $2.3 million in payments to WiscNet that exceeded the cost of services provided in those years. UW officials reported that these payments were agreed to be applied to bills for future service. The LAB concluded that these prepayments were made in violation of state law, which requires appropriations to be used for expenses incurred in a specific fiscal year, and not in the future. “I’m concerned about the information this audit reveals about the relationship between UW and WiscNet,” said Rep. Samantha Kerkman (R-Randall). “Act 32 is a good starting point for reform, and this audit provides a greater understanding to inform decision-making going forward.” In response to Act 32, the UW System will discontinue its membership in WiscNet and the services provided through it as of July 1, 2013. UW officials have not announced how UW will obtain broadband services after that date. For a copy of LAB report 12-18, please visit


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