Nothing 'political' about UH financial oversight
I WOULD certainly agree with University of Hawaii-Manoa Associate Professor Amarjit Singh ("Gathering Place," Star-Bulletin, Dec. 3
) that our university needs to devote more financial and human resources to the maintenance of our facilities to improve our performance on behalf of our students. However, some of Singh's assertions are simply untrue and need to be addressed.
Singh characterizes as "absurd" the decision to delink capital improvement projects from facilities management, and speculates darkly about "political reasons." In fact, no such decision was made. Rather, under the autonomy legislation overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2000, the delinking that occurred involved separation of the university's facilities manage- ment and our capital improvements projects from similar activities undertaken by the Department of Accounting and General Services.
Singh also states incorrectly that the university misleadingly reports to the federal government that it spends 38 percent of its on-campus research overhead on facilities. The 38 percent rate, rather, is the total amount of indirect overhead costs the federal government itself allows for research projects, based on a review of UH experience managing these projects. According to state statute, the overhead must be used for research-related activities, which include, but are not limited to, maintaining our research facilities.
Singh also suggests that faculty salaries are losing ground. He neglects to mention that this year salaries rose 5 percent, and under the collective bargaining agreement are scheduled to rise by 9 and 11 percent in the next two fiscal years.
The external management audit he references was in fact requested by the UH-Manoa chancellor in an effort to assess and improve the maintenance of the facilities on the Manoa campus. Chancellor Denise Konan recognized a problem and asked for professional assistance from those who know best practice at other academic institutions.
THE AUDIT identified areas of needed improvement in facilities management practice, and offered some constructive, if dramatic, criticism, including the interesting observation that the facilities maintenance problem was not principally one of sufficient funding, but rather of leadership in the facilities management operation.
How has the state funded repair and maintenance at UH during the past decade? During this period the university's Board of Regents has approved health, safety, repair and maintenance budgets totaling $512 million. In response to these requests from the regents, the state legislative and executive branches have appropriated $288 million.
In the lean years of 1998, 1999 and 2003 we received only $5 million per year, but overall we've received an average of about $29 million per year during the last decade.
Our rule of thumb for R&M is that we should be spending between 2 and 4 percent of our building inventory value for R&M, and with a base of $1.6 billion that calculates to $32 million to $64 million per year.
Sam Callejo is vice president for administration in the University of Hawaii system.