‘Very much needed’: AMS seeking to adopt new financial system to address long-standing reimbursement issues

The AMS is planning to replace its financial system in order to solve the society’s long-standing woes with reimbursing people in a timely manner.

At last night’s Council meeting, AMS Council heard from Managing Director Keith Hester on a financial system replacement — Hester is suggesting that the society switch from the system its been using for 20 years to Microsoft Business Central, with built-in expense management system Continia. The switch will cost the society $150,000.

The VP Finance office has been plagued with criticism over reimbursement processes, from when former VP Finance Lucia Liang began in her position in 2019 until today. Over the summer, an Indigenous poet criticized the AMS for how long it took the society to pay her for her services.

At Council two weeks ago, Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS) President Emily Reid expressed displeasure that the EUS’s payment requests had not been approved yet, after waiting for a month.

VP Finance Mary Gan has been hinting at this solution for months, but Hester showed Council a comprehensive presentation of the new system, its cost and its potential benefit to the society.

Currently, the society uses several different systems — MicroSoft Dynamics GP 2016RP for accounting, Sharepoint for clubs, Optimum Control for inventory, Squirrel for POS, Prophix for reporting and budgeting and Caterease for invoicing.

Hester said the society has run into problems with the reimbursement process being “quite manual” making it difficult to promptly verify receipts.

Hester also said this new system has the potential to reduce costs — the current system costs about $24,000 to maintain annually, with a system upgrade every three years; the managing director predicted the new one will cost $16,000 in maintenance annually.

In terms of benefits, Hester highlighted increased efficiency, accuracy and ease in reimbursements.

Councillors generally expressed approval of this new system. Reid asked how the AMS would prevent further delays from moving to a new system.

Gan said staff will be trained on this new system and once it’s implemented, all of the reimbursements will happen “much faster.”

“This is very much needed, a great improvement, so it’s great to see this coming to Council,” Board of Governors rep Max Holmes said of the change.

The $150,000 will be taken from the Capital Projects Fund. Of that $150,000, $145,000 will go to the implementation of the new system, with $5,000 going to annual licensing costs.

No motion was brought forward to approve the funding at last night’s meeting. Once approved, the system will take three months to implement.