Audit finds significant trouble at nation’s oldest black sorority

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In this June 2009 photo, Barbara McKinzie, international president of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, center, stands between wax figures of herself, right, and the late Nellie Quander, left, the sorority’s first international president, at a sorority function in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. AKA, the country’s oldest black sorority, is suing to have McKinzie removed alleging that she spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of the group’s money on herself _ some of it on the wax figure in her own likeness. McKinzie took offense to the contention in the lawsuit that she spent $900,000 on her wax likeness. She said a total of $45,000 was spent on the figures of Quander and herself. (AP Photo/Afro-American Newspapers, Rob Roberts) **NO SALES**

An audit of Alpha Kappa Alpha – the nation’s oldest historically black, college-based sorority whose former leader was accused of using sorority funds to pay for a wax statue of herself– has found what were described as significant accounting problems, including the use of a secret set of books by top officials of the Chicago-based, national organization to divert money.

The audit also found that two former top officials continued to use sorority credit cards after leaving their positions, failing to appropriately document tens of thousands of dollars in charges.

A pending lawsuit filed in 2009 against the organization and officials including its former president, Barbara A. McKinzie, contains similar allegations, and the audit could bolster that case.

The audit by the Illinois-based accounting firm Ragland & Associates covers the year 2010 and is an annual audit paid for by the society. It finds that McKinzie and two other top officials secretly created a second set of financial books that year to get around the sorority’s accounting policies.

“The intent was to divert and misappropriate AKA funds,” according to the audit, which found nearly $1.7 million in unauthorized payments.

About $282,000 in credit-card charges on the second set of books appear to be fraudulent, including personal charges the sorority wasn’t reimbursed for, the audit found.

A sorority document written in response to the audit says the organization discontinued the use of the second set of books in December 2010 and is developing written travel and entertainment policies that govern credit-card use.

Asked about the audit, Alpha Kappa Alpha issued a written statement saying it’s made “great progress in enhancing the organization’s operational policies and procedures,” including taking steps suggested in the audit.

“We remain committed to preserving the assets of the organization and to continually reviewing and strengthening our operations. The audit’s findings are essential to that process,” the statement said.


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