Fumo defends PHEAA board

January 24, 2008 3:01:33 PM PST
A state senator on the board of Pennsylvania's student loan agency criticized an ongoing state audit of the agency's spending practices Thursday, alleging that it was politically motivated. Sen. Vincent J. Fumo, D-Philadelphia, said the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency's spending on business travel, entertainment and promotions have helped boost its revenues.

State Auditor General Jack Wagner announced in April that his office would audit PHEAA, citing news reports of lavish spending.

The audit is expected to be completed by the end of June.

"The going out ... and entertaining and marketing brought this agency a ton of money," Fumo said during the board's monthly meeting. "I think the auditor general should be ashamed for trying to run a political campaign on the backs of the students of this commonwealth."

Wagner is seeking re-election this year and is considered a potential candidate for governor in 2010. He issued a statement Thursday saying that the audit wasn't being driven by politics.

"This is a professional audit that we undertook to make sure that PHEAA was fulfilling its mission of making college more affordable to Pennsylvania students," Wagner said through spokesman Steve Halvonik.

Fumo is awaiting trial on wide ranging corruption charges alleging that he misused the staff and resources of the state Senate, a seaport museum and a nonprofit. Fumo denies the charges.