Questions and suggestions from the
staff to management may be submitted in confidence
to the Delphi Coordinators (Teresa Rivas, left, and
Nancy Wade). They should be submitted in written
form, preferably via interoffice mail in a sealed
envelope marked confidential. They must be signed.
Detailed procedures for submitting questions are
given in the UCAR Policies and Procedures Manual,
section 4-1-2, and on the Delphi
Staff Notes Monthly publishes questions and
answers of general interest to staff, and the Delphi
Web site has a log of all questions submitted since
Question #515 (received May 12): Years
ago, UCAR/NCAR had a property manager whose job
involved tagging and tracking UCAR equipment
from purchase to surplus, from computers to furniture.
UCAR/NCAR has grown to the point that one person
would be overwhelmed with the same job responsibilities
today. Let’s face the facts: equipment purchased
by UCAR/NCAR (cell phones, laptops, digital cameras,
tools, etc.) is taken offsite to work at home and
for (gulp) personal use. The majority of employees
will not take advantage of the situation, but here
is a worst-case scenario: a person with substantial
signature authority who is also the property manager
stocks his or her home and is able to both purchase
equipment and to make it disappear on a property
My questions are:
Who keeps track of the UCAR/NCAR property? Are
there any checks and balances in place to account
for improper purchases and equipment inventories?
26): Yes, you
are correct that the UCAR property administrator
would not be able to tag every fixed asset procured
through UCAR. In fact, the property administrator
does use an electronic database that tracks fixed
assets (original acquisition cost greater than
or equal to $5,000) from purchase to disposal (including
dismantling of the asset). In recognition of the
resource limitations of one person—i.e., the UCAR property administrator—each
division/program has a designated division property
administrator (DPA) who is responsible for tagging
fixed assets as they are received as well as other
property management duties. We’ve found that
centralizing the task of tagging within the division/program
provides an appropriate level of control. In addition,
this centralization of duties relieves the individual
who made the purchase from having to tag the asset.
Items such as laptops and some technical/scientific
equipment would be considered “sensitive property” (portable
property with an original acquisition cost between
$1,000 and $5,000), and these items are tracked by
the individual divisions/programs. Items such as
cell phones, digital cameras, and most tools would
be considered portable property (original acquisition
cost less than $1,000) and each individual division/program
determines if it wants to track these items. The
incidence of loss has been minimal with portable
items and, therefore, it becomes an issue of cost
effectiveness to balance the cost of tracking the
items against the cost of replacing the items in
the few instances where a loss has occurred.
respect to requisition authority, most of the DPAs
have minimal levels of authority; therefore, they
would not be authorized to procure fixed assets
since their level of authority is generally less
than $5,000. For every program, there is an identified
control in place whereby expenditures are reviewed
on a monthly basis by the division/program administrative
staff. If inappropriate purchases have been made,
this control would identify these purchases and
the division/program would then follow up with
the requisitioner/approver for additional information.
The UCAR property administrator’s
requisition authority allows for immaterial purchases,
mainly office supplies. This immaterial level of
authority is intentional to effect a separation of
duties, which is key to strong internal controls.
With respect to disposal
of fixed assets, items cannot be removed from
the property inventory without multiple approvals.
The DPA initiates the disposal request, the
UCAR property administrator reviews the disposal
request, and further approval is subsequently requested
from the appropriate source. The final disposal approval
could be from the funding agency, the associate vice
president of business services or, possibly, other
sources depending on the terms and conditions of
the agreement under which the asset was procured.
UCAR’s property database creates a log record
of who created the disposal entry. Access to dispose
assets via the database is restricted to specified
appropriate individuals. Finally, the supporting
documentation for disposal of fixed assets is audited
annually by UCAR’s external auditors.
As a final comment, UCAR assets are intended for
business use and not personal use. If there is a
specific concern regarding the use or disposal of
UCAR assets, please report the concern anonymously
via the UCAR
It is important that UCAR demonstrate sound fiduciary
and stewardship responsibilities with respect to
property management, and I encourage you to report
—Melissa Miller, director Budget and Finance
question (received July 9): A while back, I submitted
a Delphi question concerning UCAR property. Thank
you for your reply, but after thinking about it,
I have a follow-up inquiry. My initial concern
involved items less than $5,000. Items over the
$5,000 threshold have procedures in place to easily
track them but the “sensitive property” is
most susceptible to abuse. My question is this: are
there procedures in place for tracking assets of
less than $5,000, the so-called sensitive property?
Thanks in advance for your reply.
9): Sensitive property is tracked by the individual
divisions/programs usually via spreadsheets or
whatever mechanism the divisions/programs choose
to be the most effective. For the section from
the UCAR Property Manual that addresses sensitive
property, see www.fin.ucar.edu/property/propmanual/propmanual_sec8.
The recordkeeping section is where you’ll find
the DPA responsibilities that pertain to this type
of UCAR property.
We recognize and acknowledge your concern regarding
this type of property. Often, the items are portable
and small enough to easily conceal. That is a fact
of life, at least, with technology. Everything is
getting faster, smaller, and less expensive, which
means more and more items will fall under the threshold
for UCAR fixed assets and qualify as sensitive property.
We believe our responsibilities with respect to sensitive
property are integral to the overall success of UCAR
property management and, therefore, we take these
responsibilities seriously. As stated in the previous
response, if you have reason to believe there is
a specific situation we should look into further,
please report the concern anonymously via the UCAR
#516 (received June 28): Why are employees
allowed to keep the mileage earned through NCAR
business trips for their own personal use? With
recent budget cuts to the NCAR divisions, shouldn’t
the institution consider using these miles to help
contain travel costs? While I know some employees
consider this a perk for the inconvenience of job-related
travel, isn’t that part of their regular job
for which they are already being compensated?
9): UCAR employees are allowed to
retain frequent flyer
miles for personal use for many reasons, including:
The federal government allows
its employees to retain frequent-flyer miles
for personal use (section 1116 in the National
Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002).
Universities also generally allow their staff to
retain frequent-flyer miles for personal use.
Attempting to track frequent-flyer miles (e.g.,
sorting out business versus personal travel, miles
received due to credit card purchases, etc.) would
create an administrative nightmare that would result
in costing more than is saved.
Most traveling staff are exempt by job status
and, therefore, are not compensated when they are
continually required to travel on weekends or evenings
(personal time) to events and meetings.
can contain travel costs by making sure that all
trips are absolutely necessary and that travelers
follow travel guidelines and reasonable economies—for
example, not renting a car unless it is absolutely
necessary, searching for hotel bargains, etc.
—Shelley Richards-Craig, general accounting manager Budget and Finance
Also in this issue...
A pair of sixes: NCAR bolsters
its scientific staff
the hill and picking up speed
day at the beach: SOARS protégés
tackle research projects