2004 - January
Delphi Coordinators Teresa Rivas (left) and Nancy Wade.
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 Web site. 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 1995.
Delphi Question #526 (received September 30): I am involved
in a large, international, multidivisional project at UCAR.
The project involves long international flights. Employees
of certain divisions always make the long flights in business
class, while those from another division always go economy
class, ostensibly to save money (even though the project
has budgeted for business class fares). However, the employees
being inconvenienced do not benefit from this saving of money.
Why doesn’t UCAR have a consistent, nondiscriminatory
policy regarding class of service?
Similarly, on this project, UCAR employees of a certain rank
(say, division director and higher), stay in fancier (and
more expensive) hotels than lower-level employees. The less
fancy hotels are perfectly adequate. Again, why doesn’t
UCAR treat all its employees in a consistent manner?
Response (received November 30): UCAR’s travel policy
can be found at www.fin.ucar.edu/hr/polpro/manual/sec3/sec316.html.
The procedures that support this policy are found at www.fin.ucar.edu/procedures/sec3/proc316.html.
To answer the specific questions asked, the questioner is
directed to the following sections:
• Review and Approval Process, No. 5, Field Project Travel. “All
UCAR-supported participants in a field project receive the
same per diem rate per location and air tickets in the same
fare class. Decisions about fare class and per diem rate are
made jointly by Division and Program Directors who have staff
participating in the field project. These decisions must be
made prior to authorization of travel, and all field projects
that involve uniform per diem rates and standard fare classes
must be registered.”
• Review and Approval Process, No. 10, Field Project Travel. “Participants
in registered field projects are reimbursed according to the
business travel provisions included in this policy. For field
projects, UCAR provides the same per diem rate (land-based
and shipboard) per location and air tickets in the same fare
class for all UCAR-supported participants in that project.
Decisions about fare class and per diem rate are made jointly
by Division and Program Directors who have staff participating
in the field project. See UCAR policy 3-1-6, Travel Authorization,
for information about registering field projects.”
• Transportation Expenses, No. 12A, Lodging. “Domestic
and international travelers are reimbursed for the actual reasonable
costs of lodging. Single-room accommodations are appropriate
and should be requested by employees when traveling on UCAR
business. Travelers should seek government-discount or lower
rates for lodging accommodations whenever such rates are available.”
Therefore, if staff traveled with upgraded tickets, they
should have made the upgrades with their own frequent flyer
miles. On lodging, UCAR policy states reimbursement is for “actual” lodging,
so that is more subjective. If the above policies were not
followed and the variances were paid for with program or
deployment funds, the Travel Office needs to be informed
so that the situation can be evaluated. However, I understand
that it is not always comfortable for individuals to report
what they may perceive as an ethics issue.
It you would like to report an ethics issue, you may do so anonymously online
(go to www.fin.ucar.edu/ethics/internal/ethicsmail.php3). UCAR provides this
Web site for its employees to anonymously register concerns to management about
the ethical conduct of an employee. These concerns are forwarded anonymously
and automatically to Katy Schmoll, who will contact the appropriate people
to evaluate the matter.
—Shelley Richards-Craig, general
accounting manager Finance & Administration
Delphi Question #527 (received September 30): I would appreciate
a detailed explanation of the “overhead tax” imposed
on computer equipment purchases at UCAR. I understand that
there is a 50% tax on computer purchases less than $5,000.
Where does that money go? I heard a rumor that it was being
used to purchase home systems for F&A employees.
Because of the tax, purchasers typically load up computers
with unnecessary extras (big screens, speakers, etc.) so
that the cost exceeds $5,000. This is getting hard to do
now that computers are relatively cheap. When totaled up
UCAR-wide, this seems to be a huge waste of money. In addition,
when the computer is order is padded up like this, F&A
doesn’t get their tax anyway. I’ve seen cases
where the hardware price dropped and the order had to be
bulked up again. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have
a flat tax rate (how about 10%?) and have UCAR only buy the
hardware that it needs?
Response (received October 20): In order to respond to this
question, an explanation of why UCAR applies indirect cost
(or overhead) rates to all sponsored agreements is needed.
UCAR is primarily funded by the federal government and, therefore,
is required to comply with various Office of Management and
Budget (OMB) circulars, one of which is OMB Circular A-122, “Cost
Principles for Educational Institutions; State, Local, and
Indian Tribal Governments; and Non-Profit Organizations.” OMB
Circular A-122 requires that UCAR administer an indirect
cost rate (overhead) for costs that cannot be directly identified
with a specific program including direction on how rates
should be calculated (OMB
Many activities are funded by these indirect, or overhead,
1. Employee Benefits—medical, FICA, TIAA/CREF, non-worked
time including vacation, sick leave, and holiday
2. Communications—telecommunications, networking/network
3. Facilities—maintenance, custodial, building debt
4. UCAR General & Administration (G&A)—UCAR
Presidents Office, F&A, Corporate Affairs, library
5. NCAR Indirect—NCAR Director’s Office, division
administrative budgets, bid and proposal
6. UOP/EO Indirect—UOP Director’s Office, EO
Director’s Office, program administrative budgets,
bid and proposal
UCAR spends several months each year collecting data from
across the organization in preparation for developing indirect
budgets and rates. These rates are reviewed at several administrative
and management levels and, finally, by the UCAR President’s
Council, prior to submission to the National Science Foundation
for review and approval. The methodology for developing indirect
cost rates is detailed in the document titled “Management
Guidelines for the Development of the Indirect Cost Rate
As in many of the divisions and programs, some UCAR F&A
employees work from both office and home. When computers
purchased by F&A for office use are upgraded or replaced,
F&A employees may seek authorization to take an old computer
home to be used for business purposes. These employees usually
need a home system for when they cannot get into the office,
or to work nights and weekends. In many cases, however, the
old systems are so slow and inefficient by the time they
are available for home use that employees select to purchase
their own computers, at their own expense, without benefit
of UCAR discounts.
We are aware some divisions and programs “load up” computers
with unnecessary extras so that the cost exceeds $5,000 and
they avoid paying overhead. We have even seen groups pay
more in extras added to avoid overhead than the overhead
would have cost. The irony is that, as noted above, the costs
covered by the overhead revenue are real costs necessary
for UCAR/NCAR/UOP to function, and groups avoiding overhead
still depend on these services and resources to support their
research. These services and resources include electricity
to run computers and keep the lights on, payroll to ensure
that employees get paid, and purchasing and accounts payable
so that divisions and programs can purchase and pay for the
equipment and materials to perform research. These are all
functions critical to the success of the NCAR and UOP mission.
Of course, not all divisions and programs choose to “load” their
purchases to avoid overhead. The groups that do might spend
less for overhead than for the cost of the extras. We have
seen divisions and programs add $3,000 to a $2,500 purchase
to avoid overhead. In the long run, after multiple purchases,
they may be losing rather than saving program funds through
this approach. Ultimately, this is a decision that must be
made in the division or program.
Another matter to consider is that when divisions and programs “load” extras
to avoid overhead, the resulting item becomes classified
as a fixed asset because it exceeds the $5,000 threshold.
It then requires years of reporting and tracking, thereby
increasing staff workloads. The UCAR Property Office estimates
we track and report on more than 300 assets that were loaded
to force them over $5,000 to avoid paying overhead.
Although we need a methodology to fund indirect costs, the
method required by OMB A-122 would not be UCAR’s first
choice. UCAR has approached OMB over the years to propose
other, more effective methods (from UCAR’s point of
view); however, OMB has not been receptive. Until OMB is
willing to consider a different method for indirect cost
recovery, UCAR is required to comply with OMB A-122 as it
currently exists. As we all know, federal funding comes with
strings, one of which is compliance with the applicable circulars
and federal regulations.
—Melissa Miller, director
UCAR Budget and Finance
Delphi Question #528 (received October 26): Recently, a
co-worker of mine was eating in an out-of-town restaurant
when someone made off with her purse. In addition to the
usual hassles of dealing with lost credit cards, driver’s
license, etc., my coworker began worrying that the thief
might see her CIGNA health insurance card—which contained
her Social Security number. Unfortunately, once someone knows
your Social Security number, they can use it to commit fraud
and other crimes. For that reason, most credit card companies
and the Colorado Motor Vehicle Division do not put Social
Security numbers on credit cards or driver’s licenses.
In addition, many health insurance companies, including Kaiser,
have stopped putting Social Security numbers on identification
I’m wondering if CIGNA would consider issuing cards
to UCAR staffers with new identification numbers that won’t
be based on our Social Security Numbers. If not, what do
CIGNA and UCAR recommend to prevent us from becoming
victims of identify theft?
Response (received November 11): Your question could not
have been timed more perfectly. We just learned that CIGNA
is introducing a new member identification program for all
participants in 2005. Instead of using your Social Security
number on the CIGNA Membership Identification card, CIGNA
will assign you an Alternate Member Identifier (AMI) that
will appear on your ID card. All CIGNA participants, whether
or not they have changed plans in 2005, will receive a new
membership identification card with a newly assigned AMI.
Please look for the new card(s) to arrive at your home address
about the first week of January.
Please note that a member’s Social Security number
is still required at the time of initial enrollment into
the health insurance plans. Thereafter, members can use the
new AMI at the time of service by presenting the CIGNA membership
card. If a participant forgets to take their ID card anywhere,
their claim can still be cross-referenced with the Social
—Laurie Carr, benefits manager
Also in this issue...
2004 Outstanding Accomplishment Awards
from a pioneering woman scientist
off the juice
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