The final phase of the electronic travel reimbursement project, begun two years ago, is about to implemented, saving the university over a hundred thousand dollars a year as well as much manual labor. Effective Nov. 1, direct deposit of travel reimbursements will become the default payment method for individuals who have enrolled in payroll direct deposit.
The project, a collaboration between the UW Travel Office and UW-IT, permits individuals to enter travel reimbursement requests online, forward this information to the official “approver” who checks the request and assures compliance with laws and UW policy, and then process the reimbursement. Optimally, the reimbursement could appear in the requesting individuals account two business days from the date approved, showing on the bank statement as TRAVL REIM.
“The entire travel reimbursement initiative is built on a foundation of many years of working with campus collaboratively on process improvement, which began many years ago with the USER project to improve the payroll process says Cindy Gregovich, associate controller for Payroll and Travel. “Eight years ago, when we were still handling reimbursements on paper, it could take several months to complete the process. When we moved to electronic processing in 2009, we asked customers what additional improvements theyd like to see. The overwhelming response was, direct deposit.”
The project moved relatively quickly because it relied on the direct deposit information already kept in the Payroll system. The only individuals who cannot receive direct deposit are visitors to the UW, students and employees who have not signed up for payroll direct deposit.
The savings will be significant: Each paper check costs the university about $5 in human labor, whereas direct deposits costs are $.25 or less for each transaction. The Travel Office processes about 33,000 vouchers annually, of which about two-thirds will qualify for direct deposit.
“Our experience with the first phase made this second phase go smoothly,” says Teresa Crisostomo, manager of the Travel Office. “UW-IT tells us the programming, since it was primarily an expansion of functionality already build into the eTravel application, was not difficult, and having Cindy leading both Travel and Payroll assured smooth communication.”
People already enrolled in the direct deposit program for paychecks need do nothing; individuals who enroll in payroll direct deposit for the first time will be able to participate in travel reimbursement one pay period after enrollment.
The travel project has moved so smoothly that it is paving the way for a similar project in procurement: miscellaneous purchases for which employees have paid out-of-pocket will soon move to a similar direct deposit system. Stay tuned….