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09/10/91

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While not 94599 (Entertainment), Chart of Accounts financial training a success

As a summer project, it doesn't sound like a day at the beach: arranging to subject more than 2,300 people to 90-minute sessions in Cost Policy and Chart of Accounts Training.

Nonetheless, the staff of the controller's office and other units who did it - and perhaps the trainees as well - "got a big boost out of it," Assistant Controller Judith Yarborough said. "It was a real family feeling."

The good vibes, Yarborough said, came from the Stanford community cooperating to address problems related to federal reimbursement for the indirect costs of research. The training aimed to help everyone who has signature authority to spend university funds understand policy and correctly handle finances.

The ultimate benefit will be in helping Stanford segregate from the start costs that are allowable and unallowable for reimbursement by the federal government.

"We'll be monitoring the general ledger codes very carefully," Yarborough said. "The computer will reject them if they don't come up right. And we'll monitor the new codes to see if they appear with the frequency we expect."

The immediate benefit, Yarborough said, was the teamwork and dedication the training displayed.

"I think it was a big success for two reasons," she said. "There was tremendous cooperation in developing the class and putting it on. We had more than 2,000 people to train and used resources from throughout the campus. We needed teachers from different schools. We needed rooms. We needed to check attendance. And we got great cooperation from everyone.

"To me, it shows how serious the Stanford administration is about proving to the world that we are a responsible organization. People felt tarred by stories in the newspaper and wanted to prove that we do things right.

"The second reason it was a success is that we got lots of cooperation from the trainees," Yarborough said. "General ledger codes are not the most thrilling subject. However finicky and detailed it was, though, there were almost no complaints.

"And 50 to 100 people called our hotline and asked tons of good questions - getting something clarified or saying that this or that general ledger code was hard to understand. That is indicative of how serious people are about doing this right."

Also indicative was the class roster, which included everyone from President Donald Kennedy to front-line clerical personnel. They were trained in policy on what is permissible as a Stanford expense and - a different matter - what is allowable and appropriate as a government research reimbursement. And they learned how costs should be handled and coded to meet those policies.

A sample exercise: A faculty member takes a visiting lecturer out to dinner. For dinner, they order appetizers, entrees, dessert, wine and coffee. During dinner, they discuss "work" (i.e., research, academics, etc.). How should the cost of the meal be recorded?

Answer: The wine should be coded to "Alcoholic Beverages or Entertainment" (94599) and the rest of the meal should be coded to "Food" (94631). Alcoholic beverages are never allowable for federal reimbursement, so they should go to a separate code to prevent mistaken billing.

That illustrates the biggest change in codes, Yarborough said - separating allowable and unallowable costs into separate codes. Formerly, both food and wine would have gone into "Subsistence" (now-deceased general ledger code 94631 on your program).

Also eliminated were departmental special codes, which were used for such things as group recognition dinners or overseas campuses, and designated services codes, which were used for a variety of outside services. As with "subsistence," these mixed allowables and unallowables together.

"If it was possible to record allowable and unallowable expenses in the same code, then that code had to go away," Yarborough said. "All those expenses have to be distinguishable."

Training is virtually complete for the more than 2,300 people who signed up, she said. The number of people with authority to spend money is much higher at Stanford than at a private business, Yarborough said, largely because the university has so many principal investigators.

The last scheduled class in this wave is Oct. 17, for faculty who were away from campus during the summer sessions. Future training classes will be scheduled for staff newly obtaining signature authority for expenditures.

Deans will take responsibility for training faculty, either one-on- one or through a videotape made during this summer's sessions, and will formally certify that it has been completed.

The hotline will remain in operation at least until the end of October at 725-7375. Questions and comments also may be sent by electronic mail to AS.HOT.

-ts-

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