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University takes national honors for financial reporting efficiency
University takes national honors for financial reporting efficiencyAugust 21, 2001Nicci Brownnicbrown@syr.edu
Syracuse University has been honored nationally for its financial reporting efficiency as one of two major winners of the National Association of College and Business Officers (NACUBO) Higher Education Awards. The awards were announced July 30 in New York City.
SU’s winning entry, entitled “How Syracuse University’s Fiscal 2000 Financial Statements and Auditors’ Certification Were Completed in Two Weeks,” won the “Management Achievement Award,” which recognizes higher education institutions that have successfully implemented a program to improve administrative and business processes and enhance service quality.
SU Comptroller Bill Patrick says winning the award is a great example of the “real life” success of the SUIQ (Syracuse University Improving Quality) approach put into place by Chancellor Kenneth A. Shaw. SUIQ was introduced in the 1990s, and reinforced the 1980s initiative to upgrade the timeliness of the University’s financial reporting. “What we’re talking about here is administrative processes,” Patrick says. “Where it really helps is in the arena of assuring people, such as the Chancellor, our trustees, donors and the banks we do business with, that we have very strong financial controls here at SU.”
Since introducing changes to the University’s financial reporting procedures, the auditors’ certification date has been consistently brought forward. For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1981, the certification date was Aug. 21; in 1990, it was July 25. For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2000, the certification date was July 14-the fastest year-end accounting closing of any major educational institution in the country.
Associate Comptroller Len Granozio says the new reporting procedures have required a total change in the culture of university financial processing. “We’ve applied commercial business practices used in “for-profits” to a “not-for-profit” environment, which is unusual,” he says. “The real key to success was to develop a very sophisticated monthly financial reporting network, where we close books at the end of each month and we do analytical work and generate financial statements.” The new approach identifies accounting and reporting issues that can be resolved immediately, rather than waiting to fiscal year-end.
Patrick says the success of the program has attracted interest from schools all over the country. “I’ve had calls from more than 100 schools over the years,” he says. “Usually, unfortunately, what they want is some fast solution. They want to be able to buy a piece of software and plug it in the wall and do what we do. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. It’s a multi-year project, which has seen us address many different processes and procedures.”
Patrick says the financial reporting initiative has required campus-wide collaboration and the development and implementation of such tools as the University’s online accounting system. In return for their support, faculty and staff have been aided by faster and easier access to data used in making budgetary and other business decisions. A new Web site will soon enable even more timely data access.
NACUBO’s Higher Education Awards program is held every year. Judges use criteria developed by the U.S. Department of Commerce to select winners in two categories. Along with SU, the other winner in the 2001 Awards was the University of Miami. It took top honors in the “Process Improvement/Resource Enhancement” section. The winners were selected from among 50 entries.