Volume 13, Number 1 July 8, 2005

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Council given info on UniFi and promise of increased training

Following an outburst of criticism from professors at the May 19 University Council meeting over the alleged onerous administrative workload brought on by the new UniFi accounting system, the U of S administration has offered an explanation and some help.

At the May meeting, Vipen Sawhney, professor and former head of Biology, told President Peter MacKinnon, “UniFi has huge implications for researchers, who [now] each have to handle financial accounts.

“Myself and my colleagues in the Biology Department are extremely unhappy about it. We really wish we had been consulted. We spend more and more time on administrative duties.”

Other Council members jumped on the issue.

Psychology Prof. Jim Cheesman said, “It’s affecting all faculty now ... there are a huge amount of administrative tasks downloaded to faculty.”

Lawrence Martz, associate dean of social sciences in the College of Arts & Science, said it was realized in the College earlier this year that researchers hadn’t received UniFi training. Some was arranged for April, but Martz told Council, “It hasn’t been as effective as we’d hoped.”

Engineering Prof. Lal Kushwaha added, “The load has increased tremendously on researchers.”

President Peter MacKinnon and Vice-President Research Steven Franklin said they hadn’t been aware of the apparent extent of the problem, but they would find out and bring information back to Council.

Laura Kennedy, associate vice-president for financial services, gave a report at Council’s June 16 meeting. She said there had been some consultation about UniFi on campus and it was known there would be some adjustment needed to operate the new system.

“Training has been provided to over 800 members of the campus community,” Kennedy said. But that was fairly general. Now, Kennedy said additional resources will be available for training, and more and better sessions will be offered tailored to the specific questions and needs of UniFi users.

Some changes, like the need for department heads to oversee and sign ‘PCard’ (University credit card) and other expenses by researchers, is good practice which the auditors recommend. She said it’s also not much different from current practice for other forms of purchase, as well as for cheque requisitions and travel claims.

“UniFi is not a system for the accountants in FSD (Financial Services Division), nor do we want to turn the campus community into accountants.” Kennedy said UniFi has many pluses, including online, real time checking of accounts. “For researchers and project manages, UniFi offers enhanced capabilities for managing project.”

UniFi, costing $1.8 million to implement, began May 1, 2005. Kennedy said it has already eliminated “several shadow systems” and ended some duplicate data entry.

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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