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April 18, 2005

Officials Take Steps to Refine UConn 2000

Seven initial steps to strengthen the management of UConn 2000, the construction and renovation program that has transformed the University’s infrastructure, are being taken by the senior administration.

The steps, part of a preliminary plan, include strengthened oversight of the program and audit and compliance; organizational restructuring; a new inspection office; revised project budgeting and reporting; enhanced contract and expenditure approval and administration; personnel actions; and legal action to recover costs related to making buildings code compliant.

The actions will address problems that have arisen with the program, entering its second 10 years and which has resulted in more than 70 projects of more than $1 million. Recently, however, the University discovered fire code compliance issues in three residential complexes and had to increase the budgets for the Student Union and Pharmacy/Biology Building.

“We have been engaged in a detailed assessment of the building process to obtain a broader review and to identify weaknesses in the construction program that allowed these problems to occur,” said President Philip E. Austin. “Our goal is to maintain the positives of the first 10 years and make the changes necessary to establish a strong foundation for the next 10 years.”

The UConn 2000 program, the subject of a hearing before the legislature’s Committee on Finance, Revenue, and Bonding April 13, is also being studied by a committee appointed by Gov. M. Jodi Rell last week.

The Board of Trustees’ Finance and Audit Committee has asked UConn’s internal auditors and an independent outside auditor to look at the program and report back during a special meeting of the board called for May 17.

The two audits will help the board learn what happened; where, if anywhere, the UConn 2000 systems can be fixed or refined; what steps need to be taken to address the problems; what legal actions are needed; and issues of accountability and personnel performance. The committee will look at what needs to be communicated internally, with the Board of Trustees, with the governor and other public officials, and with the public, said Denis Nayden, chairman of the committee.

Organizational restructuring is designed to better align reporting relationships; differentiate duties more clearly; strengthen accountability; and improve management reporting. The Office of Architectural and Engineering Services now reports directly to the vice president and chief operating officer, while oversight of the accounting function for building projects has been assigned to the vice president and chief financial officer.

The University has also established a new Fire Marshal and Building Inspector’s Office under the Division of Public Safety.

To ensure expanded board review and greater budget stability, there will be a new process for project budgeting and reporting that will require – instead of the single budget system used currently – three steps: a planning budget; a design budget; and a final budget.

“Because it is inevitable that there will be occasions when either program modifications or unforeseen conditions affect cost, a revised budget may still be necessary,” said Linda Flaherty-Goldsmith, vice president and chief operating officer.

She noted that the University is also acquiring a comprehensive capital asset software system that will expand its capacity to track projects, including project forecasting.

Other changes will include increased scrutiny of construction change orders and contract approval.

The University is also aggressively pursuing recovery of all costs associated with correcting the code violations at the student residences.

“The changes we are putting in place will go a long way toward assuring that the University can accomplish its mission,” said Austin. “Our plan is a necessary course adjustment, but the University continues its positive trajectory.”