This topic overview describes the different types of financial transaction approval authority, roles and responsibilities of approvers, and how approver routings are defined.  

Most transactions generated in Oracle Financials must be approved by a person or persons with the appropriate financial authority before they are considered complete. However, there are certain internal financial transactions that don’t require any contemporaneous local approval, for example UIT billing for phones and computer support. This is addressed in Administrative Guide Policy 3.2.3 Allocations and Offsets section 1.d Approvals.

Some financial transactions originate in systems other than Oracle Financials, for example those related to Student Affairs (e.g., Graduate Financial Support) and HR Systems. The approvals in those systems are not governed by the Oracle Financials workflow.

Prior to approving financial transactions, approvers must be granted appropriate approval authority and complete the required training. The following table summarizes financial transactions that require approval, how approval authority is granted and the specific requirements for receiving approval authority. System authority is updated within 24 hours of prerequisite completion. If authority is not granted as expected, please submit a support request for assistance.

Financial Transactions Approval Privilege(s) How Authority is Granted How and When Approval Access is Enabled

Expense Requests 

  • Expense Reports
  • Travel Card
  • Advances
  • Digital Payments
  • Non-PO Payments
  • Petty Cash 

iProcurement 

  • Amazon Business
  • SmartMart
  • Non-Catalog orders

Purchasing Card (PCard) 

Financial System > Approvals > Requisitions Privileges are granted by authorized school/department management. Authority is dependent upon completion of required training:
Expense Requests and Purchasing Card (PCard) transaction escalation for dean-level approval Financial System > Approvals > Expenditure Escalation

Escalation Designees' privileges are assigned by the administrative dean or business unit finance office.

Authority is granted within 24 hours of authority grant. 

For more information, refer to Escalation of Expenditure Transactions.

iProcurement requisitions for Tax Exempt Research Alcohol Financial System> Approvals > Tax Exempt Alcohol To appoint an alcohol approver (typically a chairperson, manager or principal investigator) complete the Alcohol Purchase Authorization Form. Authority is granted within 24 hours of authority grant.
iProcurement requisitions for purchase or lease of capital equipment Financial System> Approvals > DPA Screening Privileges are granted by Property Management Office upon request of authorized school/department management

Authority is dependent upon completion of required training:

iJournal transactions Financial System > Approvals > Expense Journal (PTAEO Expenditure Type transfers)
 
Privileges are granted by authorized school/department management Authority is dependent upon completion of required training:
Labor Distribution Adjustment Transactions Financial System > Approvals > Labor Distribution Privileges are granted by authorized school/department management Authority is dependent upon completion of required training:
Labor Schedules Labor Schedules are not routed for approval. When a Labor Schedule is created, an FYI notification is emailed to the individual with Labor Distribution approval authority over the PTA and the PTA Task Manager.
iBudgets Transactions Financial System > Approvals > Budget Control
Or
Financial System > Self Service > iBudget Manager or > iBudget Administrator
Privileges are granted by authorized school/department management (Budget Control approval)  or the University Budget Office (iBudget Manager or Administrator) Authority is granted within 24 hours of authority grant. 
Note: It is recommended that iBudget transactions approvers complete iBudgets training requirements.

 

View Authority Privileges

Financial approval authority is a formal delegation that allows an individual to spend or approve university expenditures within the scope of their management responsibility, such as a school, department or administrative unit. Financial approval authority does not include signature authority.  Financial approval authorizes the charging of expenditures to a specific PTA whereas signature authority is a formal delegation that allows an individual to sign or otherwise enter into an agreement on behalf of the university. Authorized approvers are expected to follow these Administrative Guide Policies when reviewing and approving financial transactions:

Financial transaction approvers are responsible for reviewing all salary and non-salary expenditures to ensure Proper Use of Funds.

Approval Limitations

Generally, there are four potential participants in the workflow process for a given transaction:

  • Preparer initiates the transaction which starts the approval workflow process. Preparers are responsible for entering transactions accurately, selecting appropriate approvers as described below and for collecting, submitting or maintaining backup source documents.
  • Approver(s) provide the official financial authorization for the transaction, attesting that the transaction is reasonable and necessary, allowable and allocable for the PTA, as well as correctly coded and documented. This is explained further in Administrative Guide Policy: 3.1.4: Cost Policy and Proper Use of Funds
  • FYI Recipient(s) receive an email notification informing them that the transaction has been initiated. FYI Recipients are not responsible for approving the transaction. For example, an FYI notification is automatically emailed to the Labor Distribution Approver when a labor schedule change occurs. The FYI Recipient can follow up with the transaction originator as required.
  • Central Office(s) are typically added via an automatic end-route approval based on business rules. End-routes send transactions to central office staff (e.g., Controller's Office or Research Financial Compliance & Services) for additional review and approval. Some routing rules have been set up at the school level such as Engineering Research Administration, and will automatically add an appropriate approver.

Depending upon the type of transaction and the financial authority of the preparer the transaction may route to additional approvers. Some units may always require an additional approver be added, and best practice is to have at least one approver in addition to the preparer. The following table summarizes routing requirements in addition to the end-routes:

System Routing Requirements
iProcurement

If the requisition was created using the Non-Catalog form or by SmartMart Contracts, and includes one or more of the following:

  • Is greater than or equal to $25,000
  • Includes a Moderate or High Risk data or system risk classification
  • Indicates a signature on behalf of Stanford is required
  • Is related to a Subaward

Then, it will automatically route first to Procurement Services or to the Office of Sponsored Research Administrator (for Subawards), before routing to financial approvers.
 
The preparer must add the Department Property Administrator (for capital equipment or leases) or Tax-Exempt Alcohol Approver (for research alcohol) if applicable; the system will check that one has been added.
 
If the preparer has adequate authority and the requisition is less than $5,000 no further routing is needed, although adding an approver is suggested as a best practice. Please note that schools and units may have local policies that disallow self approval. Otherwise, for transactions of $5,000 or more,  another approver will be suggested. The preparer may enter their own approvers or select another approver with adequate authority and then remove the pre-generated approver if appropriate. Consider using  iProcurement preferences to create a favorite approver list.

If the transaction benefits a senior executive, the preparer must add an independent reviewer (see section below: Independent Review of Senior Executive Expenses).

Expense Request System Preparer may not approve the transaction. The system will suggest an appropriate approver or preparer can enter approver(s) with adequate authority themselves. The approver cannot be a beneficiary of the transaction.
PCard

Cardholders or verifiers may not approve their own PCard transactions. The system will suggest an appropriate approver or preparer can enter one with adequate authority themselves.  The approver cannot be a beneficiary of the transaction.

If the transaction benefits a senior executive, the preparer must add an independent reviewer (see section below: Independent Review of Senior Executive Expenses).

iJournals An approver is selected by the system, but the preparer can add or change PTA approver(s) as needed, as long as the final approvers have adequate authority. If the transaction exceeds $10,000 and there is not an automatic end-route an approver other than the preparer is required.
Labor Distribution Adjustments An approver is selected by the system, but the preparer can add or change PTA approvers as needed, as long as the final approvers have adequate authority. If the transaction exceeds $10,000 and there is not an automatic end-route an approver other than the preparer is required.
iBudgets Transactions automatically route to all budget officers responsible for the award-owning organizations.

Workflow differs slightly among the Oracle modules (iBudget, iJournal, Expense Requests, iProcurement, Labor Distribution and PCard). For more information, refer to Workflow Variations by Oracle Transaction Type.

If the originator of a transaction does not have adequate financial authority to fully approve the transaction, it will be routed to an authorized approver for review and approval. Oracle Financials uses the account structure to identify authorized approvers based on the PTA account(s) included in the transaction. If the transaction contains more than one PTA, the system will select appropriate approvers based on approval limits for each PTA included in the transaction. Many Oracle Financials systems allow the preparer to enter their own approvers or select another approver with adequate authority and then remove the pre-generated approver if appropriate. An authorized approver may be identified via the Financial Approval Authority Query.  

Expenditure Approver Hierarchy

For expenditure type transactions entered in iProcurement, Expense Requests, PCard, iJournals (for cost transfers where the approval side expenditure type line starts with a 5) and Labor Distribution Adjustments, Oracle Workflow starts looking for an approver at the specific task (Level 1) and then continues to subsequent levels, as needed, until it finds an authorized approver. If the system finds more than one authorized approver, it will route to the approver with the lowest dollar limit that is greater than the total dollar amount of the transaction line.

  • Level 1 – The specific Project-Task combination
  • Level 2 – The parent Task, if one exists
  • Level 3 – The Project
  • Level 4 – All Tasks owned by a Principal Owner
  • Level 5 – The Task Owning Organization
  • Level 6 – The Parent Org of the Task Owning Organization

Non-expenditure Journals and Fund Transfer Approval Hierarchy

For revenue journals, fund transfers, and other journals not related to expenditure types, Oracle Workflow starts looking for an approver for the specific Fund (Level 1) and then continues to subsequent levels, as needed, until it finds an authorized approver.

  • Level 1 – The specific Fund (corresponding to the Award)
  • Level 2 - All Awards owned by a Principal Owner
  • Level 3 – The Award Owning Organization
  • Level 4 – The Parent Org of the Award Owning Organization

Approver Selection

If authority is identical for two people, the system will route to the first name it finds in the authority table. The best way to control the routing of transactions to approvers is to establish a unique authority for each approver. For example, rather than grant Project level approval authority to three people at the same dollar amount, they can be assigned different dollar limits. The system will always choose the person with the lowest limit that will cover the transaction within a level. The person with the next higher limit will only be chosen when the first approver's dollar limit is exceeded. 

For example, if three people have Project level authority, one at $10,000, one at $25,000 and one at $100,000:

  • A transaction of $12,000 would route only to the approver with the $25,000 limit.
  • A transaction of $75,000 would route only to the approver with the $100,000 limit.

Independent Review

Specific transactions require independent review. Depending on the transaction type, the independent reviewer is either automatically added or must be added manually. For more information, see Independent Review of Senior Executive Expenses.

Oracle email notifications signal approvers when a transaction is pending their approval. The email notification includes information about the transaction. In most cases, approvers are required to log in to Oracle to review and take action on the transaction. 

All university employees with a SUNet ID receive authority to access the Workflow Notification module in Oracle through the responsibility SU Workflow Notifications. The Oracle Workflow Notification module provides a consolidated worklist containing all transactions requiring approval action, regardless of the Oracle module they originated in. The first three items on an approver's Worklist are listed at the top of the Oracle home page, with one-click access to the Full List.

From the Workflow Notifications Worklist, approvers can:

  • Review notifications for transactions awaiting approval
  • Approve or reject transactions
  • View approval history and current routing lists
Worklist Delegation or Sharing

Oracle Financials allows both vacation delegation (selecting someone to act on your behalf for a specified period of time) and the ability to give someone access to your Worklist (typically, to allow colleagues with similar authority to act for each other at any time, or for emergency backup). Refer to Delegate or Share Oracle Approval Worklist for more information. An approver to whom you have delegated your approval will receive an email workflow notification when a transaction requires review and approval. However, a colleague with whom you share your worklist will not receive workflow notifications. They will need to access your worklist directly.

Transactions may be  escalated  for dean-level review when the cost of the expenditure seems excessive or the expense is outside of university policy. Those with Expenditure Escalation authority may refer to How to: Review/Approve Escalated Expense Requests and PCard Transactions for more information.

Expense Reimbursement Expenditure Escalation

Business Expense auditors may request some transactions be escalated to an escalation designee assigned by the administrative dean or business unit finance office, this is commonly referred to as the “VP, Dean’s Office or designee.” Escalation to the designee will only be requested  when a transaction has unusually high cost or is outside of normal university policy and has already been approved by all other approvers in the standard approval workflow.

The escalation designee will receive notification requesting review of the transaction. When the escalation designee approves a transaction, they are attesting that their dean's office or unit finance office supports the expenditure and the amount paid.

PCard Expenditure Escalation

PCard users are expected to request pre-approval from their Expenditure Escalation Approver when the cost for the expenditure, such as a local business meal, might be excessive or considered outside of standard policy. The Escalation Approver will consider the circumstances and determine if an exception is warranted. If so, the verifier will attach the pre-approval as part of the PCard transaction as explained in step 9 of Verify PCard Transactions, and they will add the Expenditure Escalation Approver to receive Pre-approval  notification. PCard users who are not sure who their Expenditure Escalation Approver is should contact their dean’s office or budget officer.  If the verifier did not include the pre-approval during verification a PCard auditor may escalate the transaction as part of their audit process.

Independent review is a process that applies to Stanford expenses made on behalf of the President, Provost, and senior finance leaders of the organization. Independent review is an additional safeguard to ensure that senior executive expenses are approved by someone who does not directly or indirectly report to the senior executive. Transactions that are not made on behalf of the President, Provost, and senior finance leaders of the organization do not require independent review.

The independent review approval workflow process varies depending on the transaction type:

  • All senior executive expense transactions entered in the Expense Request System (ERS) are automatically routed for independent review.
  • Transactions outside of ERS, including Purchasing Cards (PCards), petty cash and purchase requisitions, require manual entry of an independent reviewer in the approval workflow routing.

Transaction preparers should consult with the organization’s Dean’s office to determine which individuals require independent review and to identify independent review approvers by organization.

Last Updated: Sep 27, 2022