U scraps troublesome accounting systems

Kelly Wittman

At their Thursday meeting, members of the regents’ Audit Committee discussed disbanding two computerized financial management systems at the University.
The first system, the Grants Application and Management System, tracks the progress of grant monies through the University system.
GAMS was developed as an experimental prototype by IBM, the University and three other universities. The University is pulling out of the project because GAMS is not sufficient for its needs, said Jim Infante, vice president for Academic Affairs.
The program has several problems, said Infante, who was one of the main proponents of bringing GAMS to the University. The first problem is that the software is based on 1970s technology. Additionally, he said the program was not very user-friendly.
Infante added that he has “deep regret” that GAMS did not work out for the University. GAMS was introduced in October based on recommendations from the National Institutes of Health, which questioned how the $280 million it allocates to the University each year is spent.
GAMS development cost the University $50,000. But had the system been fully implemented, it would have cost an additional $2.5 million.
The University foresees the same kind of problems with GAMS that it experienced with its accounting system, Infante said.
The University’s present financial management system — the College and University Finance System — has its own problems, said Richard Pfutzenreuter, vice president for Finance. One problem with CUFS is that it doesn’t know how to account for the year 2000, and it will register that as the year 1900, Pfutzenreuter said.
The short-term goal is to modify CUFS to allow the University to move into the 21st century. This update will cost $1 million to $2 million.
CUFS was installed in November 1991. Officials budgeted $11 million for the system, but the University had coughed up $17 million as of January 1994 because of alterations that made the system compatible with equipment the University already had in place.
CUFS must eventually be replaced because it won’t be compatible with the new student access and human resources systems the University plans to implement around the turn of the century.
Audit Committee members also decided to implement some techniques to improve accountability.
Regents first heard the proposal last quarter when the University’s external auditors, Coopers and Lybrand, recommended University administration adopt the system to ensure responsibility for projects.
The framework would help the University evaluate not only its own performance, but also how proposals are processed within the organization, said Gail Klatt, director of audits at the University.
Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations Jo Anne Jackson said the plan will provide the ability to look at programs’ risks and their effects on the University community before putting them to work.
Klatt said the framework would provide a well-defined route through the University’s administrative layers for proposals. The framework would require new proposals to have a sponsor and, therefore, someone responsible for them.
The framework would reduce superfluous proposals since those that didn’t require the board’s attention would not end up on the table.