Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sometimes I'm Amazed That Anything Gets Done Anywhere by Anyone When We Have to Deal with Our Systems

This is a Wednesday morning rant. It comes following Tuesday, when I was filled to the brim with bureaucracy and I wanted to throw in the towel. I wasn't the only one, either. Migraines were caused, some went home sick, and the stress piled on.

Why? Let's just say that a funding source (a State) sent out emails to all those who were funded (like me) with a note that all budgets had to be finalized today. Granted (no pun intended), the funding end-date was June 30th. This, of course, was from an award given in August that wasn't sent until the end of March. We've spent two months doing charge revisions and figuring out what was left. The trick of all this is, though, that control of the numbers is not in my jurisdiction. The funders go to the top, and the top trickles it down, and each layer has its own accounting system and numbers, so that the simple task of buying a pen becomes a multi-digit, 19-layer approval that requires signatures.

Now, I keep all records on Excel and always know where I stand. This would be too easy, though. Instead, I need to purchase everything on credit card and submit receipts for reimbursement. This, of course, must go through the multi-digit, 19-layer process of paperwork and I never know where the money is. The accounting which could be simple from allowing me control, instead becomes complex because there are many in control.

That pen I order? It becomes 4234324 on the accounting system of Person A and 454536 on the accounting system of Person B. I get reports that say I spent $this amount on 4234324 and $this amount on 454536. That's what I get in paper form. Yet, no one tells me that these are the numbers they gave the pen.

I understand why strict records need to be kept and I recognize that the vast majority aren't as honest as I am - perhaps in one of my journeys on earth, I will come as a corrupt bastard who figures out how to screw the system without getting caught - and without a conscious for caring. But that's not me. I like to play by the rules.

And so, that is my a.m. rant. The paperwork is abundant, time consuming, unnecessary, but a function of how institutions run. The only thing worse than this is actually attending meetings where there never seems to be a purpose for why we gather. I'll save that for another day.

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