San Diego State University president Elliot Hirshman — also called the $492,000 man in honor of his salary, the highest of all state university presidents — has by some accounts been busy behind closed doors, plotting a way for the school to get a piece of the 160-acre parcel of city-owned land also known as the Qualcomm Stadium site, freshly forsaken by the Chargers for a spot with the Rams in Los Angeles.
Though verified details have yet to come to light, local promoters have been talking up a $100 million deal that Hirshman may be hatching for a stadium being hustled by Mike Stone and other wealthy La Jollans tied to billionaire Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs and his son Paul, Qualcomm's executive chairman.
But while Hirshman is wheeling and dealing for a new football venue, he has been neglecting the store elsewhere, says a November 17, 2016, audit released this month by Larry Mandel, California State University System vice chancellor and chief audit officer.
"The campus was not in compliance with system wide requirements regarding administration and approval of international agreements," per the audit, which targets a costly academic operation that SDSU runs in a troubled country, formerly a republic of the former Soviet Union.
"Although the campus process required the president’s approval on international agreements, the president had delegated comprehensive signature authority for a specific program in the country of Georgia to the vice president of administration and finance," the audit says.
In addition, Hirshman ignored state policies adopted in 2012 requiring the CSU chancellor's office to review all such foreign deals, leaving the door wide open to further abuse in San Diego.
"The campus made a conscious decision to retain approval authority for all international agreements, rather than forwarding these agreements to the [Chancellor's Office] for review and approval as required by such policies," according to the document.
"We also noted that some agreements for international activities did not receive presidential approval due to a misinterpretation of the new policies."
Per the auditors, "We noted several instances in which study-abroad agreements were signed by an authorized buyer in procurement rather than the president because the address of the other party was in the United States, and in the interpretation of the campus, that meant it was not an international agreement. "
Thus, says the report, "Not all international agreements were subject to review and approval by the [Chancellor's Office] before they were signed by the campus president.”
The audit goes on to suggest that other problems may remain undiscovered.
"Our review focused specifically on campus-created international programs and did not specifically include partnerships or consortium programs, nor did it include review of every category of international activities available to students."
Notes the document, "Specific limitations that may hinder the effectiveness of an otherwise adequate system of controls include, but are not limited to, resource constraints, faulty judgments, unintentional errors, circumvention by collusion, and management overrides."
Due to the negative findings, SDSU has agreed to "terminate the delegation of authority for the Georgia program" and revisit the matter by this spring.
"The campus will obtain the president’s approval for international activities agreements as governed by [Executive Order 1080] and not identified in an exemption approved by the [Chancellor's Office]…by April 30, 2017."
Without specifically referring to the Georgia program, SDSU officials said they intended to "request an exemption, by April 30, 2017, that excludes [Chancellor's Office] review and approval for specific international agreements that are based on templates already approved by the [Chancellor's Office]."
A July 2014 SDSU news release announced the school's agreement with the nation of Georgia to open multiple campuses in the capital of Tbilisi.
"SDSU-Georgia — with campuses at Tbilisi State University, State University of Ilia and Georgian Technical University — will initially offer degree-granting programs in electrical engineering, computer engineering, computer science and chemistry/biochemistry," per the release.
"SDSU was one of 28 universities that competed for funding from the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation to create a joint higher education program in Georgia. An international committee of Georgian officials and U.S. diplomats and aid officers awarded the $30-million contract, which is financed by MCC with some financial input from the Georgian Government. No state funds will be used to support the program."
According to a description on the website of the Council on Foreign Relations, the so-called Millennium Challenge Account is "a U.S. government program that gives development aid in the form of grants to poor countries that adopt economic and political reforms.” It was inaugurated by president George W. Bush in 2002.
In the years since, the government-run corporation has come under fire by critics for its close ties to U.S. intelligence, and waste of tax money, though others defend it for its ability to project U.S. power and influence abroad.
A February, 2016, SDSU release said, "The project is part of $140 million that the United States government is providing in aid to Georgia through Georgia’s compact with the Millennium Challenge Corporation."