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A Publication Featuring The Information Services Technology of Maine State Government
|Volume V, Issue 10||October 2002|
By Eric Erskine
The newest and final addition to Maine Department of Transportations (MDOT) Free2000 web-based ORACLE forms system is the expense reimbursement process, which has been live since June 2002. The completion of this module brings to a close the Free2000 (FoRm Elimination Effort 2000) project.
This system replaces the paper expense reimbursement form, which was mailed to the Augusta office and double-entered into the MDOT and MFASIS systems, with an electronic form which feeds both systems electronically. The new system has automated real-time edits, approval routing, e-mail notifications, and MFASIS coding generation based on MDOT coding. It saves document histories, gives users access to strong reporting and search functions, and allows MDOT to enforce controls of various kinds. These improved controls have reduced the number of rejected expense forms and significantly reduced the preaudit effort. This has reduced payment turnaround time, and, along with the implementation of a document imaging system, eliminated the need for photocopies and daily hand-delivery of the paper expense forms and all supporting documentation.
More specifically, this system simplifies two separate reimbursement processes (one for expenses that include a cash advance and one for those without a cash advance) into one. Using the old paper forms, the employee filled out a yellow form for reimbursements in which they received a cash advance and a blue form if they had not. These forms were processed separately and yet a third form had to be created for repayment to the petty cash account. In the new electronic system, the petty cash advances are stored electronically and the expense system uses this information to determine what portion of the reimbursement is returned to the employee and what portion is repaid to the petty cash account.
The paper savings due to the elimination of the expense account forms and the photocopies is expected to exceed 100,000 sheets this year alone. Labor savings have already been realized in MDOT data-entry, Finance and Administration (F&A), and hopefully at Accounts and Controls as well. We have also reduced our expense reimbursement turnaround time. Prior to system implementation it took approximately two weeks from the creation of the expense form to the MFASIS check date. Today it takes no more than seven days (and is still dropping)!
Since June, more than 800 MDOT employees have used the system and the number of checks (or electronic deposits) issued has surpassed 4,000. Speaking of electronic deposits, it has been reported that in several cases an employee has filled out an expense form on Tuesday and had the money deposited in their accounts by Thursday that same week! Less tangible benefits have been realized as the result of participation in design and testing by F&A and field staff. They include improved morale, a greater depth of knowledge about MDOT expense reimbursement processes and cash management, improved communication between F&A and the other MDOT bureaus, Treasury, Purchasing, and Accounts and Controls.
In Information Services, we enjoy working with Oracle Application Server and the PL/SQL code language --- its extremely fast, versatile, well documented, and relatively simple to debug. We also look forward to retiring some high-maintenance 25-30 year old PL/I systems.
Eric Erskine, currently a Senior Programmer Analyst and acting team leader for the Free2000 project, has been employed by the Maine Department of Transportation since 1979. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.