Chairman McCall's Letter to Trustees on SUNY Procurements

December 2, 2016

Chairman McCall Letter to Trustees on SUNY Procurements


Trustees,

Our November 29 and 30, 2016, meetings come at an opportune time for The State University of New York. Outside of our anticipated adoption of SUNY’s operating and capital budget requests, and the usual debates and discussion surrounding them, recent allegations involving economic development activities at SUNY Polytechnic Institute have cast a very public shadow over the private campus-affiliated entities that serve many of our campuses, our campus foundations, and even our procurement policies in general.

As I know you are all keenly aware, SUNY’s commitments to transparency and efficiency with regard to such entities and processes are unwavering. Since coming to SUNY seven years ago, Chancellor Nancy Zimpher has made sure of that, time and time again.

I want to take the time as we begin this week’s meetings to thank Chancellor Zimpher for her leadership on this issue, because like no chancellor before her, she has immersed our university system, our Research Foundation, and all of those we and our campuses work with in absolute accountability, openness, and transparency.

I also want to thank each of you for the volunteer time you put in as a member of our Board and the passion for public education that you bring to our table. Chancellor Zimpher’s vision for SUNY could not have become the national model it is for public higher education today without your support.

2011 Procurement Legislation

We continue to see the effectiveness of 2011 procurement legislation called into question as allegations surrounding the economic development projects overseen by SUNY Poly’s affiliated entities are publicly scrutinized. I cannot stress enough that this is an apples to oranges comparison in its finest form.

Before 2011, comptroller pre-approval was required for every SUNY contract totaling more than $250,000. This often caused delays in getting needed equipment to our campuses or beginning new construction. The 2011 legislation was put in place to eliminate pre-approvals, with the exception of non-construction service purchases over $250,000. Importantly, the comptroller has always – and still has – post-audit oversight of every SUNY transaction.

The purpose of the 2011 legislation is to support SUNY’s educational mission and in no way impacts the oversight of campus-affiliated organizations created to serve the economic development needs of a particular campus. Such entities at SUNY Poly were never subject to Comptroller pre-approval – not before 2011 and not since.

Earlier this year, this important legislation was renewed through 2021, because it works. In fact, a 2014 audit by the Comptroller found that SUNY has "generally established good internal controls over procurement.”

SUNY supports Empire State Development’s recent recommendations for reform with regard to Fort Schuyler Management Corporation (FSMC); and shares Governor Cuomo’s interest in ensuring transparency by appointing an Inspector General for SUNY.  However, these measures should have no bearing on the 2011 procurement legislation that continues to benefit our campuses and students today.

Revised Guidelines for Campus Foundations

Earlier this year, following review and approval from the state comptroller and attorney general, our Board adopted the strongest guidelines for Campus Foundations in the history of SUNY.

Our relationship with the Foundations, as outlined by the revised guidelines, allows us to be confident not only in our level of oversight but also in the quality of the work the Foundations are doing every day in support of our campuses, our faculty, and our students. We continue to receive regular financial statements from each of the campus foundations and reserve our right to audit them at any time.

The work we have done to this end is something to be proud of, but we are not standing still. Our continuing conversations are worthwhile and they are ongoing.

Transformation at the Research Foundation for SUNY (RF)

The Research Foundation, in cooperation with the SUNY and RF Boards, have made strides as well.

Chancellor Zimpher’s 2011 charge for two task forces to review recommendations made with regard to RF governance and the RF’s role to effectively support SUNY research, intellectual property commercialization, and public-private partnerships. This process resulted in a fundamental transformation to a culture built on core principles of transparency, integrity, accountability, collaboration, and compliance. It also resulted in the establishment of an RF Office of Compliance, which ensures that management of SUNY’s $1 billion research portfolio complies with more than 100 federal and state government laws and regulations, as well as with sponsor and university policies and procedures.  The RF shares its business, operation, finances, and performance measures openly and in great detail.

Few, if any, public university systems nationally have undergone such a transformation in these areas.

As budget season lies out before us, I am proud to have worked with Chancellor Zimpher and together with each of you to create a public university system with such strong and clear commitments to transparency, openness, efficiency, and accountability.

Sincerely,

H. Carl McCall

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, with 64 college and university campuses located within 30 miles of every home, school and business in the state. In 2015–16, SUNY served nearly 1.3 million students, including nearly 600,000 in credit-bearing courses and programs and more than 700,000 through continuing education and community outreach programs. SUNY students and faculty across the state make significant contributions to research and discovery, resulting in nearly $1 billion of externally sponsored activity each year. There are 3 million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunity, visit www.suny.edu.


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