Accounts Payable Department Improving University-Wide Services

Posted: April 18, 2001 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Jeremy Lasich

Editor’s Note: This is the second feature story of a four-article series exploring services that received low ratings on the support services survey conducted last fall, and reporting how those services have improved since that time.

When the Accounts Payable Department was privatized almost two years ago it was seen as a good opportunity, but instead it became a point of irritation for many university customers. However, George Mason regained management of the department last October, and Accounts Payable is in the midst of remarkable turnaround.

“We knew we were not providing the level of service the university required,” says Diane Turner, operations analyst in Fiscal Services. “We listened to the community, we’ve understood what their problems are, and we’ve taken action. In the six months since the university took accounts payable back in-house, the compliance rate for prompt payment has averaged more than 98 percent — a dramatic improvement.” That represents approximately 24,000 transactions over the last six months.

Accounts Payable has made a number of improvements during that time, including consolidating utility payments and log maintenance with one technician; scanning signature cards for more efficient processing; streamlining the process for bookstore purchases; guaranteeing a three-day turnaround time for processing check requests; and designing a web page with procedures policies and forms online. The university is also actively pursuing the decentralization of check printing.

“Consolidating the utility payments has saved us an incredible amount of time and effort, and we eliminated a number of steps from the bookstore process,” says Turner. “We implemented the guaranteed three-day turnaround immediately after we took the operation back in-house and we have been able to back that up.”

Maintaining these high quality standards is a two-way street and Turner notes that there are several things customers can do to help. These include using American Express cards whenever possible for purchases under $2,000, saving both the department and Accounts Payable numerous steps; promptly returning payment approvals to Accounts Payable with one designated individual as the departmental contact person; requesting that all vendors send invoices directly to Accounts Payable (MS 3C1); and attending relevant workshops, such as Purchasing Made Easy, Food and Beverages, and Fiscal Basics.

“A great amount of credit goes to the current staff,” says Turner. “They are very hard working, dedicated, and service-oriented. Thanks to them, I don’t think there is a department or office that is not impacted by these improvements.”

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