TSU budget system fail: Comprehensive review begins

By Forrest Murphy—

Staff Writer

Tarleton is reviewing hundreds of financial accounts after negative balances were discovered at the beginning of the semester officials say.  Since then, several differing clarifications of the exact scope and impact of the problem have been made from within the university.

Spanning 2,000 accounts across 92 departments, FAMIS, the accounting system used by Tarleton State University, has recently found itself at the center of two conflicting reports surrounding a system failure this semester.

The controversy surrounding FAMIS stemmed from a comment made by Dr. Karen Murray, Vice President of Academic Affairs, at the end of an academic council on Sept. 22, 2015 that “it had failed to rollover,” according to Communication Studies Department Head Dr. Charles Howard.

“There was hardly any discussion about the matter,” Dr. Howard said. “It was just thrown out there at the end of the council.”

When contacted by Texan News Service about the potential crash, Dr. Murray’s office simply reiterated FAMIS’ place within the A&M system and that switching to another accounting system “would be a much broader conversation than a Tarleton conversation, and when/if we do it will be very expensive.”  She neither confirmed nor denied whether FAMIS crashed.

While talk of a “crash” regarding FAMIS has been dismissed by the office of Tye Minckler, Vice President of Finance and Administration, not all accounts reportedly transferred from the fiscal 2016 budget module to active FAMIS accounts, according to a memo sent out to Tarleton department heads from the same office.

“We were told to assume we have the same amount of money as last year while accounts are being examined and re-worked,” Dr. Howard said. “From what I’ve seen, everything appears to be correct. People seem to be operating in FAMIS accounts as intended.”

Cecilia Jacobs, Public Relations Manager for Marketing and Communications, also said that FAMIS did not experience a system failure.

“The university’s FAMIS system did not crash. However, in some cases, new funds did not flow into accounts,” Jacobs said. “Departments were seeing negative balances when funds should have been in the account. It’s as though you forgot to write a deposit into your checkbook, and the balance is less than what you actually have available to spend.”

Tarleton is conducting a comprehensive review of all FAMIS accounts.  Specifically, the university plans to review 250 accounts a week over an eight-week period as of Sept. 23, 2015, according to the same memo.

Departments that are potentially “quick-fix based on the work that has already been done,” are scheduled to have their accounts reviewed first. According to Jacobs, this does not mean that those operating within FAMIS cannot utilize funds, however.

“Departments still have access to their accounts,” Jacobs said. “Finance and Administration has informed departments that they still may conduct business from accounts that did not receive full funding. Department managers should be aware of their operating budgets. If not, they can get that information from their college dean. Account balances will be verified as Finance and Administration completes the review process.”

Difficulty utilizing FAMIS is nothing new to Tarleton. In his memo, Minckler described it has been described as a “quirky, old system that is difficult to use… and difficult to manage.”

“While it has been around for many years, it is still widely relevant within college campuses,” Jacobs said.

“FAMIS is… used throughout the state and was adopted by The Texas A&M University System and Tarleton decades ago,” Jacobs said. “Twenty-two Texas A&M System members and the Texas A&M Research Foundation use FAMIS.”

While there have been issues with a number of Tarleton’s accounts, according to Texas A&M FAMIS services, the system is working as intended.

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