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Stanford Financial Management Services has a new toolkit of resources to support this critical role in the financial ecosystem.

Financial approvers play a key role in the financial ecosystem at Stanford. In addition to serving as a major line of protection from risk,  approvers are responsible for ensuring proper financial stewardship and documentation of expenses. They do this by enforcing compliance of financial policies and procedures and by guiding their teams in moving funds within and outside of the university. 

Stanford Financial Management Services recognizes that the university’s financial ecosystem is complex and ever changing, so a new package of refreshed resources are being made available to approvers to support their critical function. This complements the updated package of resources to support purchasers at Stanford that was released earlier in 2022.

Transaction approvers and finance managers, whether they are new to their role or not, are invited to explore this article and the resources mentioned below to expand their knowledge and ability to promote financial stewardship excellence at Stanford. 

Financial Approval: The Basics

Financial system (including financial transaction approval) and reporting authority at Stanford University is granted and updated by units through Authority Manager. Employees responsible for reviewing and approving expenditure transactions must be granted financial approval authority and complete required training. For more information, see Financial Transaction Approval

Approval authority can be granted based on a specific project-task-award (PTA), specific project, all projects of a specific owner (such as a faculty member who may have several research projects or gifts) or an organization (department, school or business unit), and is granted at specific dollar amounts. There are many types of approval authority and they must be granted considering the experience of the staff in the unit, their role, capability, training, reliability and integrity. 

In addition to ensuring proper documentation for each expense, financial approvers are responsible for verifying that expenditures charged to their PTAEs are:

  • Reasonable and necessary.
  • Consistent with established university policies and practices.
  • Consistent with sponsor or donor expenditure restrictions.

Within the financial approval process are built-in internal controls, such as approval limits, additional approval routings for specific types of transactions and system controls to help ensure a separation of duties and defined escalation workflows.

An Updated Toolkit for Approvers

FMS has embarked on a new initiative focused on helping approvers perform their responsibilities for the university. The initiative includes a focus on refreshing and creating new resources and increased outreach and engagement to the approver community at Stanford. 

  • Redesigned course: FIN-PROG-0103: Approving Financial Transactions has been updated to support approvers. Please note that this course, among others, is required for new Requisition and Expense Journal approvers and is now required for new Labor Distribution approvers. For specific requirements, see Financial Transaction Approval. Seasoned approvers are invited to retake the course, which covers approving transactions in Oracle Financials, such as travel and business expenses, PCard verifications, purchase requisitions, iJournals and Labor Distribution Adjustments.
  • Refreshed and enhanced checklists: Depending on the type of transaction, these checklists serve as a framework for approvers to use when reviewing or auditing a financial transaction. The previous checklists have been streamlined into two types:
  • Updated Fingate content: Refreshed guidance on Fingate: Covering the basics from authority to proper use of funds, this content serves as reference for the context and associated policies supporting financial approvers.
  • Helpful reporting tools: FMS offers several existing tools and reports to help approvers in their role.
    • Before approving expenses to an account (PTA), transaction preparers and approvers should verify that the charges are appropriate for the account. Learn more about solutions on the View PTA Details page. 
    • To take action, use Pending Transactions, which provides a consolidated, integrated tool where preparers, verifiers and approvers can obtain information about all of the pending purchasing and business expense transactions related to them in one place and in certain situations, click to take action. Recently, a quick link to this tool was added to the Oracle Financials homepage for easy access. 
    • During the requisition approval process, use the Inquiry Tool: Requisition and Purchase Order Query to view approval history to view information such as rejection reasons and who the current approver is for a requisition. Searching by approver finds a transaction (at any point of the workflow) that you may be a part of.
  • Workflow tool for preparers to help the approval process:
    • My Approvers is a great tool to help preparers add and notify the appropriate approvers  in the Expense Requests System (ERS), PCard system and iProcurement. Approvers should encourage their preparers to set up their approver preferences to add sets of approvers and FYI recipients. Once added, preparers can simply select these sets from a drop-down menu in the approvals sections within the three systems. 
  • Information sessions and events
    • FMS recognizes that approvers appreciate live demos, presentations and opportunities to ask questions of the experts. To support these needs, a new Purchasing Primer events series has been launched in early 2022 to provide guidance on the purchasing processes at Stanford. Sessions include topics such as "How to Purchase in Amazon Business and SmartMart Catalog Suppliers" and "Reviewing the Purchase Order Process at Stanford." Visit the Procurement Services Events page to register for upcoming events or to view past recordings. 
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