Approvers in the University’s Enterprise Financial System (EFS) play a critical role in ensuring that appropriate financial activity occurs throughout a highly decentralized operation. Approvers are often the last “click” before money leaves the University, transfers between chartstrings occur, or charges recorded to a sponsored project. Consistent, thoughtful, accurate, and professional work is essential in these roles for good financial management to exist at the University.
Approvers must have a solid understanding of the pertinent University policies and procedures associated with any transaction type for which they are exercising this key role, and they are expected to ensure that transactions adhere to applicable financial and administrative policies (and sponsor policies, if applicable).
Approvers are expected to ensure that an appropriate justification is provided and also ensure the accuracy of the chartstring.
Approvers should augment their knowledge base with an aptitude for finding answers to the variety of questions that can arise (i.e., consultations, research, elevating questions). For example, an approver may wish to check with their IT department on the supportability of a software purchase before approving.
Approvers are responsible for ensuring administrative and financial requirements are met, and are not responsible for determining questions of scientific or academic appropriateness. In practice, this can mean approvers are to review types of expenses for allowability, not the choice of items (e.g., if chemicals are an allowable expense, the PI is responsible for the type of chemical purchased, not the approver).
Approvers should say “no” when they need to say “no,” without being confrontational, and they should retain a professional independence from those for whom they are providing approvals.
Approvers are expected to exercise good judgment in evaluating reasonableness of transactions with an awareness of the scrutiny that is applied to a public university.
Approvers should be accountable for their decisions and should be able to answer questions that may arise from initiators, auditors, or external interests.
Each RRC within the University should have standard practices for escalation of difficult issues and resolution of any disagreements.
Some University financial transactions require two approvals—the EFS approval and a “one up” approval from an employee’s supervisor or a person one level higher in the organization. It is important to recognize that these approvals serve different and distinct functions. If concerns exist by the approver, the presence of a one up approval on a transaction does not necessitate an EFS approval. An approver can still deny the transaction even if a one up approval exists.
Potential disagreements or disputes regarding University financial policies should escalate through the relevant financial organization within an RRC. The Chief Financial Manager within each college or administrative unit is accountable for the financial activities of the unit and should be a resource in resolving issues that arise when approvers are challenged or pressured. The policy owners in the Controller’s Office can also be a helpful resource in interpreting and/or enforcing policy. Ultimately, further escalation of these types of issues should follow the dotted line to the University’s Chief Financial Officer.
Potential disagreements or disputes with regard to sponsored project charging should follow the policies of the certified approver program and work with the Associate Dean for Research in the college.