Magazine article Corrections Forum

Tracking Assets = Controlling Cost

Magazine article Corrections Forum

Tracking Assets = Controlling Cost

Article excerpt

As with all large, complex organizations, today's correctional instituions have massive investments in high-value assets such as computers, including laptops, PCs and fixed location servers for the infrastructure of computerbased systems. In addition, these institutions have a great amount of money invested in communications devices, closed-circuit television systems and other expensive equipment.

Some of these products are segregated to specific users or classes of users, resulting in a series of property pass programs and compliance screenings, increasing man-hours and budgets.

Unique to many public organizations, costs of these assets and their maintenance are often not paid for locally, but by a centralized authority who bills the local institution via accounting. In most cases, the local facility sees only a charge, rather than the individual bill, not knowing specifically what it is paying for. Nonetheless, that item and its cost, whatever it is, are applied to the local budget.

Laissez-faire approach?

In an era of increasing demand for correctional institutions combined with the public's unwillingness to pay for them, neither the local nor centralized budget and planning organizations can afford to take a laissez-faire approach to asset management. Many aren't.

Determined to improve the management of high value assets, including those that are mobile, programs are being created by institutions to understand how budgeting, finance, information systems, operations, human resources and security can work together to reduce the impact of lost, misplaced or unused assets. They are devising methods of how systems, such as in access control, can be extended to improve the use and management of these assets, integrating them with other departments and their computer-based systems.

Resource Management and Inventory is Only the Beginning

Most correctional institutions, in one way or another, have an inventory of their assets. Most use some version of the property book. For any item used at the facility, this book provides the serial number of the item, its cost and acquisition date, lease expiration date if not owned and, sometimes, its location within the facility.

Periodically, manual inventories are taken. Since they are very time-consuming, most facilities undertake such updates only once a year. Because some assets, such as communications gear, are mobile, tracking them is difficult. Even more sophisticated systems using barcodes don't help much. The item must still be located, the barcode discovered as it's usually on the bottom or back, and then the item must be correlated with the information in the property book.

Questions & Answers

After all this, the only thing the institution knows is that it still has the property! Although the inventory of assets has been tracked and identified, nobody still has an idea of what the budget analysts really want to know and what is this item costing? What are its costs of maintenance and servicing? Has the item been upgraded? Is it out of lease? Is it being used?

These are very important questions with answers still unknown to the central authority signing the checks and the local institution being charged.

Answers to these questions could avoid costly expenses such as:

Expired leases. All too frequently, if a product is not returned at the end of its lease period, billing reverts to a more costly month-to-month.

Phantom service.

Quite often, service, including routine maintenance and upgrades, is called for in the contract but never provided. …

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