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Audit: Research funds misused

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A Health Sciences Center employee who was supposed to purchase food for nutrition food research projects improperly spent thousands of dollars on steaks, cookies, energy drinks and other food items, according to a University of New Mexico internal audit.

Of the $25,000 spent on the program, the audit says it appears that about $5,700 was spent on food items not allowed by the program and that receipts were either missing or had been altered for another $7,500.

UNM officials identified the employee late Wednesday as Karen Delgado in response to a request under the Inspection of Public Records Act. UNM also said she is no longer with the university. Efforts to reach her were unsuccessful.

News of the missing funds came as a result of an audit report obtained by the

Journal . Manu Patel, the head of the internal audit division, said some of the receipts, which were supposed to represent purchases from Smith’s food stores, raised immediate questions.

“(One) didn’t even have a Smith’s logo,” Patel said. “That’s a red flag right there.”

Delgado worked in the bionutrition department, a part of UNM’s Clinical and Translational Science Center. The bionutrition department is funded through a federal grant from National Institutes of Health, according to the audit.

Delgado bought food used in the bionutrition program’s research projects. But she also, according to the audit, bought food she shouldn’t have and she had doctored receipts. A staffer in the Clinical and Translational Science Center initially reported Delgado to internal audit in November.

Delgado left that division last year in October, according to the audit report. The audit indicated that employee then took a job at the University of New Mexico Hospital. She no longer holds that position, said John Arnold, a spokesman for the Health Sciences Center.

Arnold said he couldn’t disclose why the employee wasn’t working with UNM any longer. Her last day was Sunday.

The audit also found the bionutrition program needs more safeguards, such as a process for tracking food or approved shopping lists, to prevent similar malfeasance in the future.