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Delays to UCPath project to cost millions

By Rafael Sands

March 5, 2015 3:19 a.m.

University of California officials said this week that a University-wide payroll and human resources project is now two years behind schedule and will cost millions more than originally expected.

The UC Payroll, Academic Personnel, Timekeeping and Human Resources project, or UCPath, was initially slated to cost about $175 million but will now likely cost much more since its deployment date has been delayed multiple times and the UC has had to modify its loans to pay for the project. At the July 2014 UC Board of Regents meeting, officials estimated that the project would cost the University $220.5 million, about $45 million more than the initial estimate.

The project, which began in 2011, seeks to replace campuses’ outdated and decentralized systems with one processing center. The program, part of the UC’s Working Smarter initiative, was initially predicted to save up to $123 million annually by cutting down on administrative inefficiencies.

The University has delayed the project because testing has not yet been completed thoroughly enough, said Mark Cianca, the UC deputy chief information officer in charge of the project, in an email.

The UC Office of the President would not provide specific information on the added costs despite multiple requests, Cianca said. He added that the new timeline has not been finalized yet.

The payroll and personnel system being used at UCLA, just like the ones at all of the other campuses, is more than 35 years old.

At the July 2014 regents’ meeting, officials announced a plan to launch the new system in December 2014. Deployment would have then proceeded at UCLA, UC Merced and UC Santa Cruz in early 2015, with the remaining campuses following soon behind.

By early February, testing still had not been completed, and Cianca said on the UCPath website that he expected it to be finished by the end of the month. However, Cianca said in an email Monday that the project is being delayed again, with a pilot deployment at UCOP being pushed to September.

At UCLA, UCPath is being implemented separately for the general campus, the Health System and Associated Students UCLA, which employs more than 1,500 students in addition to staff in the UCLA Store, campus restaurants, student government and UCLA Student Media.

The delayed program testing is costing ASUCLA tens of thousands of dollars as it must pay for extra staff who will have to work more hours to complete additional testing, said Bob Williams, executive director of ASUCLA.

Mary Gilly, a professor at UC Irvine and chair of the UC Academic Senate, said many professors are frustrated that the project has been delayed multiple times and is turning out to cost much more than anticipated.

“A lot of faculty think it is reflective of these big projects the (UCOP) engages in,” she said. “We see a benefit in it, but is it worth the money and the time being spent? It’s hard to know. I think a lot of people are already really upset about it.”

Chris Newfield, an English professor at UC Santa Barbara who writes for the blog Remaking the University about changes in public higher education and has been outspoken against UCPath, said he doesn’t think the project will actually save the UC any administrative costs, especially considering all of the delays with implementing it.

At the July 2014 regents meeting, the Board approved an external financing change, which extended the loan to pay for UCPath from 12 years to 15 to 20 years.

“When you’re borrowing for 20 years for an efficiency program that may save a fraction of 1 percent of your total (payroll) budget, you might want to admit you made a mistake,” Newfield said.

Gilly said it would be helpful if UCOP provided more updates and information on the status of projects like these. Until Wednesday, no press release or update had been issued from the UCPath office regarding the six-month delay.

“I find that when I ask questions, they’re answered, but unless I ask the question the information is not forthcoming,” she said.

Cianca said he plans to update the regents on the project at some point in the fall.

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Rafael Sands
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