UGA’s efforts to streamline bill payment and to monitor its energy use are among the best business practices in the region, according to the Southern Association of College and University Business Officers. The organization honored the university with two of its five awards for best practices at its annual meeting last month in New Orleans.
A best practice award recognizes initiatives, projects or services that make a significant difference to the operation of an institution. UGA’s implementation of electronic check requests by the accounts payable department in the Controller’s Office has revolutionized the speed and accuracy of bill processing and payment on campus, and the joint effort of the Physical Plant and Faculty of Engineering to audit energy use of major buildings has led to significant monetary and energy savings as well as environmental benefits.
“We are honored to have been recognized by our peers in the region for excellence in our ongoing efforts to improve business processes and energy conservation,” said Tim Burgess, senior vice president for finance and administration. “With each of these initiatives, we realized savings and better efficiencies through the innovation of our team members. We look forward to even greater successes in these areas in the future, and we hope that other institutions will benefit from our experience.”
UGA’s energy audit program already is being used as a model by the University System of Georgia, with guidance and leadership provided by the UGA engineering faculty and facility staff.
“We first realized the need to audit our buildings in the aftermath of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina in 2005,” said Ken Crowe, energy services director. “At that time, energy costs skyrocketed. Through building audits, we can pinpoint savings measures that can be implemented at a reasonable cost; these measures pay for themselves in energy savings very quickly. The collateral benefit to the environment in terms of reduced carbon dioxide emissions is an added, and very important, bonus.”
The e-check request process enables mountains of paperwork to be converted into electronic files. It removes several steps along the way, making the entire process faster, more accurate and more secure.
“Our campus clients have embraced this system,” said Chuck Moore, accounts payable manager. “The backlog of unpaid check requests is now small and manageable, with a general turnaround of less than two days. Before, our staff was drowning in a sea of small check requests. Via e-check requests, our clients can monitor the progress of specific requests through the system, we can expedite requests when necessary and the stress on all parties is greatly reduced.”
The university received a plaque and $750 check in recognition of each initiative. In addition, UGA representatives gave 50-minute presentations on the initiatives at the conference.
The Southern Association of College and University Business Officers was founded in 1928 to foster, develop and promote improved principles and efficient practices in the business and financial management of colleges and universities. SACUBO is one of four regional associations that constitute the National Association of College and University Business Officers. Approximately 800 colleges and universities in 15 states across the Southeast comprise SACUBO. All member institutions were encouraged to submit entries in the annual best practices competition.