At UIC, payment requests are often delayed or simply ignored. Successful payments are not systematically reported, so the missing payments aren't visible as missing reports. This page gives several examples of UIC payment screwups. (Deliberate refusals to pay are different from screwups and are covered on a separate page.)
I noticed halfway through 2001-2002 that UIC had not yet collected any money from the course-buyout line. I promptly notified the department head. He was pleased and promptly scooped up the money.
Payment delays can easily cause problems. The danger appears when you ask how much money is left in an account, or in a particular line in an account. If payments have been authorized but not made, then the money is still in the account, so you have an unrealistically large notion of the amount of money left. (This isn't a problem if you keep track of accruals rather than cash, but the department doesn't know how to do that, even though the old and new university accounting systems have a column for it.)
This particular delay didn't cause problems, because I knew in advance exactly what was supposed to happen with that line; but the possibility of delays is still worrisome.
Even worse, the grant accountant never ordered another piece of computer equipment that I asked for in November 2002.
Many of my colleagues have reported similar problems: for example, having to apologize profusely to their visitors for UIC still not having reimbursed the visitors' travel expenses.
Either way, when the university takes money from a grant salary line, it takes additional money from the grant to cover employment benefits such as retirement funds and medical insurance. (Almost none of this money is actually spent on medical insurance, but that's beside the point.) The current benefit rate for me is 25.2%: $252 benefits for every $1000 in salary.
UIC agreed to accept a total of $35000 from one of my grants for three course buyouts. The UIC MSCS grant accountant, attempting to divide $35000 into salary and benefits, made two mistakes:
I pointed out this error in a message to the UIC MSCS department head, and the UIC MSCS associate head for administration, on 25 September 2003. After I received various account records on 16 April 2004, I sent several further messages explaining that the correct budget was $27955.27 salary, $7044.73 benefits.
I'm pretty sure that the university ignores the department benefit numbers, and recalculates 25.2% of the salary number, turning the accountant's incorrect $27250+$7794=$35044 into $27250+$6867=$34117. The correct $27955.27+$7044.73 would have provided more money, namely the agreed total of $35000. In other words, the 25.2%-versus-28.6% error outweighed the division error.
But the department repeatedly refused to fix the errors. The UIC MSCS associate head for administration even spent a while claiming, fraudulently, that I had signed the $27250+$7794 budget. Amazing.