A consulting firm says the University of Connecticut can be more efficient in the areas of purchasing and information technology, according to Provost Peter Nicholls, who declined to comment on how many savings could be achieved after a Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday.
The assessment comes from a status update by McKinsey & Co., one of two consulting firms the university approved this year to review specific issues within the university.
The Washington-based McKinsey was hired by the university at a cost of $3.9 million to address find areas for new cost-saving and revenue sources.
During the board meeting Nicholls, who serves as the chair of a more than 20 member committee charged with oversight of the firm’s ongoing review, addressed the work it is doing as it closes out its last four weeks of the project.
While the firm has been working on campus since February, they have provided no official report on cost-saving measures or new revenue stream, he said. But based on preliminary reports recently received on the basis of the cost cutting efforts outlined by McKinsey, there were areas where cost saving could be made.
McKinsey is not the only firm the university hired to address an issue on campus recently.
Last month the university confirmed the hire of MGT of America to conduct an evaluation of Athletic Director Jeff Hathaway.
The university to date has paid the consulting firm around $28,400 for the company to evaluate Hathaway, according to university spokesman Michael Kirk.
The company remains on retainer up to $600,000 if they decide to conduct further evaluations, according to Kirk.
The two recent hires are not a sign of a new trend; according to officials the university hires outside consultants, including Alden and Associates, a Massachusetts-based firm, who aided in the search for a new football coach after former coach Randy Edsall took a job at University of Maryland earlier this year.
Kirk said in most cases the university handles personnel matters internally, but for certain cases, they will bring in an outside agency to conduct an independent review separate from influence throughout the institution.
Despite a diverse staff of professionals and administrators who have worked on issues similar to those being done by MGT and McKinsey, Kirk said there are times when the school needs consultants to play a role that the university cannot.
Jonathan Pelto, former state representative from Storrs and communications strategist, disagrees.
He wrote on his blog, “while consultants can certainly play a valuable role some will wonder why the university’s own administrators couldn’t take on some of the duties being delegated to these consultants. It’s not like the Board of Trustees doesn’t know that UConn has a plethora of senior administrators.”
But Kirk maintains the university brings consultants in for specific reasons.
“When the university hires a consultant it’s done to bring in an independent assessment or it may be to address something the university cannot conduct on their own,” said Kirk, using the cost-saving review by McKinsey as an example where the university did not have the enough personnel necessary to address it.
In the past the university handled cost saving issues by forming task forces. Former university President Michael Hogan created a task force in 2008, following a cut of about $12 million in state allocations, to the university to review cost, operating and revenue efficiencies.
The task force was able to recommend measures that could save more than $10 million, and some of the university acted upon some of the recommendations, according to a letter from former President Phillip Austin in 2010.
But the university brought in McKinsey because they had their sights set on a much loftier goal. According to Larry McHugh, chairman of the UConn Board of Trustees, the university hoped to find cost savings and new revenue sources in the range of $50 million.
Despite giving a positive report to the Board of Trustees Finance Committee on what he knew from the preliminary reports, Nicholls refused to comment on whether McKinsey could reach that goal.
McKinsey will give a final report to the board and other university officials in September and the university intends to hold a town hall discussion, according to Nicholls.