- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 11, 2014

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - A consultant reviewing Iowa’s three public universities has identified possible ways to save money and improve services in eight broad areas ranging from purchasing to information technology, according to a summary of its initial work released Wednesday.

Deloitte Consulting LLP will now develop details about the costs and benefits of specific plans, which may include ways to cut energy costs, find savings in the purchasing of goods and services and more efficiently schedule classes and use buildings, according to the document released by the Iowa Board of Regents.

The board hired Deloitte earlier this year to conduct a wide ranging look at academics, administration and athletics programs to identify ways to cut costs, improve revenue and better deliver services. The board voted last week to increase Deloitte’s initial $2.5 million contract by $1 million. Regent Larry McKibben said then that the board would “quite successfully” surpass an industry benchmark of finding 6 to 10 times as much savings as what is spent on the consultant.

The four-page summary released Wednesday did not include any estimated savings or many specifics. Instead, the document said that Deloitte consultants in general found limited collaboration among the three universities, silos within the schools that lead to “overlapping and duplication of roles, services and programs,” and some inefficient business practices that cause delays and frustration.

McKibben is leading a regents subcommittee that is meeting in private to push the review forward. He promised in an interview Wednesday that officials would reveal more details at town hall-style meetings at the campuses, which start Monday at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. He also said he would release potential savings before July 4, along with details on the plans the committee wants Deloitte to analyze so the universities can implement immediately.

“Based on the numbers that our committee has received and where we’re at, especially in the areas of IT and finance and human resources and facilities management, I think the citizens of Iowa will be very pleased with the direction we’re headed,” he said. “The opportunities are there.”

McKibben said the subcommittee doesn’t have to meet publicly because it doesn’t have a quorum of the nine-member board. He said the committee finalized the summary document during a conference call Monday but withheld more specifics so that faculty and staff on each campus would learn the details in person at the meetings.

The eight areas were chosen during a 10-week review during which consultants held interviews and focus groups with nearly 700 people. Deloitte will now look for savings through possible changes in purchasing practices, expanding distance education, reforming contracting practices for buildings and changing class scheduling to more efficiently use buildings, among other areas.

The board has decided to focus this summer on developing changes to administration while delaying the review of academic programs until the fall when faculty, students and staff return to the campuses so they can have input.

McKibben, a former Republican lawmaker, also addressed criticism about the way the board approved the $1 million amendment to Deloitte’s contract last week. The board did not list the item on its agenda, as generally required under the public meetings law. McKibben said he asked Board President Bruce Rastetter to add the item so that he could keep the review moving, but that he would be willing to take another vote on the issue if required.

“Did it dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s? I don’t know,” he said. “But every month before I can get into the implementation phase … that’s simply money lost. I’m a fiscal conservative and I don’t like to lose money.”

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