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Review, Report, Repeat

Jeff Gunderson

Jeff Gunderson

Sea Grant living under a magnifying glass! Sometimes it seems like it's hard to get much done with all the reporting, evaluation and accountability to which we're subjected. I understand the need to demonstrate that we are using public dollars appropriately and to the best of our ability, but it can still feel punishing.

The words, "you are being audited," can send shivers down anybody's spine. This summer we underwent our first audit in over 10 years. While I've been with Sea Grant for a long time, this was the first university audit that I was directly involved in. Not sure what to expect, I admit to being surprised by how positive the experience was. According to the auditors, Minnesota Sea Grant's was one of the best audits they've conducted, and our staff worked well with them. This quote from the auditor's report is especially gratifying.

The response rate for the employee survey was excellent at 100%, and the results of the survey indicate that employees share a positive view of management and support staff. All survey participants responded positively to statements regarding management's receptiveness to customer feedback, support staff having the right knowledge and skills to perform their duties, and management adhering to University policies and procedures.

The auditors, who specialize in finding problems, only found one essential, but easily fixed, issue for us to address: our outdated overtime and compensation time policy for Civil Service staff. This audit came at a time when we were replacing two staff that, combined, had been with the university for over 80 years. This audit became an excellent opportunity to get Peter, our new accountant, and Megan, our new front office specialist, off on the right foot.

As the audit wound down, we began thinking about the next review. In January, a team of five is flying to Duluth to examine our program for three very specific things:

  1. Program Management and Organization within the University,
  2. Stakeholder Engagement, and
  3. Collaborative Network Activities.

This national site review happens every four years, although it tends to feel more often than that. This review is not about our impacts and accomplishments. That happened last year (did I mention we get reviewed a lot?). I have no doubt that we will sail through the January review with flying colors, but planning for it still puts a fair amount of strain on me and the rest of the Minnesota Sea Grant staff.

You can help! For this review we rely on people like you to tell our story. I invite you to send an email commenting on Minnesota Sea Grant to: oar.sg.feedback@noaa.gov. Whether complementary or constructive, send your emails before January 19, 2015.

Even though we at times feel like we are examined to death, our annual reviews, our site visits, the scrutiny of our impacts and accomplishments, and the occasional audit are designed to help us to continue to excel. Your feedback helps, too. Let me or any of the Minnesota Sea Grant staff know if you have questions, concerns, great ideas or great things to say.

By Jeff Gunderson
December 2014

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