Online Approvals Frequently Asked Questions


  • Automatic Routing of Approvals
  • Entering Transactions to be Approved Online
  • Financial Authority Roles and Approval Routing
  • Research Funds Approvals
  • Scanning and Attachments
  • Seeing Pending Transactions
  • Viewing Approved Transactions

Automatic Routing of Approvals

Can Claimants, Delegates, Reviewers , and Approvers see what stage a claim is at in the system?

A Claimant and a Claimant’s Entry Delegate can always see where an Expense Report or Cash Advance is at in the system at any time. It is the Claimant’s responsibility to monitor his/her transactions to ensure that the transactions are processed.

Reviewers and Budget Approvers (Account Holder and Delegates) can only see Expense Reports and Cash Advances while they are participating in the workflow. Once a Reviewer or Budget Approver takes action (Approves, Denies, or Sends Back), they will no longer see the transaction in FINS.

Payment Services staff can see ALL Expense Reports and Cash Advances in the system at any time. Staff is more than happy to assist anytime with viewing transactions.

If there are multiple delegates, who does the Expense Report or Cash Advance Principal go to first?  Does the INVESTIGATOR see it as well?

If the transactions arecoded to Fund 25, 31, 32, 35 or 36 (research projects), the workflow will route the transaction to both the Provisional Delegate and the Account Holder (PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR). Whoever takes action first, approves the transaction and the transaction will no longer display in the other person’s pending queue.

If the transaction is coded to Fund 11, 13, 21, 23 or 40, the transaction will route to the Small Transaction Delegate. If a Small Transaction Delegate has not been nominated or if the transaction is above $500, the system will route the transaction to the Provisional Delegates.

If a Provisional Delegate has not been nominated, or if the transaction is above the Provisional Delegate’s limits, it will route to the Account Holder.

If we want to forward a transaction to another approver at a higher level for fund 11 expenses, can we do this? 

The system currently does not support ‘ad-hoc’ approvers.

There are possibly two possible alternatives in which to solve this issue.

1.    The Budget Approver may contact a Finance Workflow Administrator (Lesley Dougans for Expenses and Jennifer Thibeault for Requisitions) and request to have the transactions reassigned to another Budget Approver (if the original Approver is not comfortable in approving the transaction.).

2.    Manual signatures may be obtained, scanned, and attached to the transaction as backup and then the Budget Approver may proceed with approving the Purchase Requisition online.

If a delegate submits a PURCHASE REQUISITION transaction, is the PRINCIPLE INVESTIGATOR or account holder made aware of it?

There is no current Purchase Requisition process which notifies the PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR or Account Holder when a requisition is created by a delegate on their behalf.

However, once that requisition has been approved by Procurement, the Requester will get notified that their requisition has been sent to Procurement for processing.  When that requisition gets sourced to a purchase order, another email notification will be sent to the Requester informing them that their requisition has been sourced to a purchase order.

Will a PURCHASE REQUISITION go to the account holder first for review?

If there has been a Reviewer identified for that department, the PURCHASE REQUISITION will always go to the Reviewer first. Once the Reviewer has reviewed it, the PURCHASE REQUISITION will move to the Budget Approver for Requisitions in your department.  

Entering Transactions to be Approved Online

If one person enters Expense Reports on behalf of someone else, will the system assume the requester is the claimant?

The Expense application distinguishes between the Claimant and the person who created the transaction on behalf of the Claimant. Transactions are routed based on the Claimants identification not the Claimant’s Entry Delegate or Submitter ID (if different).

Will the system notify the claimant that an Expense Report has been created on their behalf? can they view details of the transaction?

The Expense module is a self-service application and for that reason we strongly advocate and encourage people to enter their own transactions into the system. For those individuals that need assistance, an entry delegate can be authorized to enter on behalf of the Claimant.

A notification is not generated when an Expense Report has been created and submitted regardless of who has entered the transaction (the Claimant or Claimant’s Entry Delegate). That is not to say that there are no other system generated notifications. There are four as follows:

1.    On final “Approval” by Payment Services, both the Claimant and the Requestor are notified that the Expense Report has been approved for payment.

2.    On “Send Back” both the Claimant and the Requestor are notified that the Expense Report has been sent back.

3.    On “Deny” both the Claimant and the Requestor are notified that the Expense Report has been denied.

4.    On “Payment” the Claimant will receive a notification that the Expense Report has been paid.

Would payment processing of invoices be included in workflow eventually? When? 

Yes, online approvals for invoices is on the list of transactions to be included.  Dates are not yet known.

How are expenses for hosting events or alcohol handled?

Both of these types of expenses require special handling. When possible, pre-approval for these expenses should be obtained through email. The approval email is to be attached along with any scanned receipts.

If pre-approval is not possible, please obtain an email authorizing this expense before you enter the expense claim and attach the email to the expense claim when entering the transaction.

In both scenarios, in the Comments field, enter a comment that indicates you have attached an email authorizing either for hosting an event or for purchasing alcohol.

Financial Authority Roles and Approval Routing

Does workflow include non-employees?

Occasionally, non-employees may be granted financial authority. For example, retired SFU Employees that continue to hold a Research Grant. Non-employees will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

The department completes the Financial Signing Authority Request Form to request financial authority and then submits the completed form to the Signing Authority Managment (SAM) Database Custodian (Ida Luo). She will evaluate the request and determine how best to register the authority within SAM.

If the non-employee is granted financial authority, the individual will automatically be granted FINS PeopleSoft access, for a defined period of time, to participate in the on-line financial workflow process. The individual will be able to sign into FINS with their SFU computing id and password credentials.

What happens if there is a vacant position in SAM on a project? Does this apply to department and program? 

Vacant positions are skipped in workflow. The application will look ‘one-up’ from the vacant position for an approver to route the transaction needing approval.

The same holds true if no financial authority has been registered with financial authority for projects or programs. The authority automatically reverts to the department financial authority. 

What happens when two people share a position number? 

The answer will depend on how these individuals have been registered in the Financial Signing Authority Matrix system (SAM).

There are essentially two ways in which shared positions can be registered in SAM. When there are multiple incumbents in a position, the authority can be anchored to a specific incumbent or both incumbents can hold financial authority. In the latter case, workflow will route the transaction to both individuals as pooled approvers.

Only one approver out of the two is required to approve the transaction and whoever actions the transaction first, will rule the day. Once the transaction is actioned (approved, denied, send back or held), it will be withdrawn from the other person’s queue.

What happens if one or all approvers are on leave?

If an approver is on a leave, the transaction will continue to route to that person. It is because SFU has more than one type of leave. Some individuals, even though they are on a leave, are still participating in authorizing his/her transactions.

If an individual is on a leave where they are physically incapacitated and not able to approve transactions, it would be advisable to have SAM updated to “temporarily” assign authority to someone else. It should be discussed with the SAM Database Custodian.

A workflow administrator in Finance may also reassign workflows in the event an approver is absent. 

If delegates are assigned by position, do we need to start indicating the position numbers on PAFs?  Many Research Assistants (RAs) have had multiple position numbers over time.

The Personnel Action Form (PAF) is a payroll form and is not used to request financial authority to be granted. Financial authority must be requested by filling out and submitting the Financial Signing Authority Request Form.

What happens with approvals when a “person of interest” is an approver?

There are two types of non-employees – a Person of Interest (POI) and Contingent Worker (CWR). If justified, non-employees will be setup in SAM and granted access to the FINS application to participate in online approvals. 

Can we have access to view our Financial Authority set up in SAM (Signing Authority Management system) rather than look at the SAM spreadsheet?

SAM was a developed as a bolt on to the Human Resources Peoplsoft and HAP application and access at this time is limited to the SAM Database Custodian.  Although we will be implementing functionality called “row level security access” where people can see information specific to their department, it is not yet available. When SAM was developed, the feedback received was that a report on the whole department was more desirable than having to look up each department individually in the system.    

Often graduate students are designated as Small Transaction Delegates but there are multiple individuals in a given position number. Not all the individuals in that position number will have financial authority. Can we set these people up as a Person of Interest (POI) in the system so they can be given financial authority?

Typically, financial authority is registered to a position number. Position based authority is the standard basis for assigning authority over responsibility centers in all funds except Fund 31 Sponsored Research, Fund 32 Research Networks, Fund 35 CFI Non Capital Grants and Fund 36 Canada Foundation for Innovation. For these funds, financial authority is registered on a named / individual basis.

From time to time there may be other unique position limitations within the HAP application or other circumstances that require authority to be assigned based on a named basis. For example, if the individual does not have a position (i.e. postdoctoral fellow), we would create a Person of Interest (POI) record in HAP, so that the individual could be associated to a pooled position and then further anchored to a specific incumbent for SAM purposes.

I know an example where the Person of Interest (POI) functionality was used to grant signing authority to a person that is not an employee of SFU. What is the process for applying for a POI?

The POI functionality is used to facilitate granting authority for example to PI’s that still hold grants but no longer hold a ‘valid’ job record in HAP. The University does not typically grant financial authority to non-employees but exceptions may be granted when there is a valid business case.

There is not a process specifically to apply for POI as this is handled through the regular process for requesting financial signing authority and the Financial Signing Authority Request form.


  1. Submit Financial Signing Authority Request form
  2. If request includes a non-employee, the SAM administrator will work with the requestor to obtain all necessary information to determine if expenditure authority can be granted
  3. The granting of signing authority for a non-employee via POI will be decided by the Associate Director of Financial Services or Director of Financial Services

Research Funds Approvals

What happens if there is more than one grant on Expense Report (i.e, a Fund 13 grant and Fund 31 grant)?

If the authorized Budget Approvers are different for the two Grants, the Expense Report will route to both Budget Approvers for approval.

The Expense Report will not move forward for payment until both parties have approved the transaction.

Can Research Accounting send Expense Reports back to us if there are issues?  Who would the reports go back to? Reviewer or PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR?

Research Accounting may send Expense Reports back to the Claimant if there is something incorrect.

The Claimant is notified by an email that the Expense Report has been sent back. Only the claimant is notified.

When a transaction is rejected by Research Accounting due to a lack of funds, do we know why and can we change the transaction details (e.g, the chart fields)?


If a transaction is rejected (denied) by Research Accounting (RA), they will have to enter a comment as to why the transaction is being rejected.  RA will not be able to ‘deny’ the transaction without entering a comment.  Once they reject the transaction, it goes back to the Claimant and not to the Budget approver.

·         If the entire document gets denied, the Claimant can reuse that Requisition, update it, and then resubmit it back into workflow.

·         If the Requisition is partially approved and one line gets denied, the approved line will move forward but the denied line is killed and cannot be updated.

Expense Reports

If a transaction is rejected (denied) by Research Accounting, they will have to enter a comment as to why the transaction is being rejected.  Research Accounting will not be able to ‘deny’ the transaction without entering a comment.  Once they reject the entire Expense Report transaction, an email notification is sent to the claimant notifying them of the rejected Expense Report.

·         If the entire document is denied, the Claimant would need to create a new Expense Report. This is because the system kills the Expense Report and it is locked from further editing.

·         If the Expense Report is partially approved and one lines gets denied, the approved lines will move forward but the denied line is deducted from the total. Any expense lines that are denied can be un-denied by any subsequent approvers. Who in this case is Payment Services.

Scanning and Attaching Receipts 

Do we need to keep original receipts?

There are three different retention practices depending on the type of transaction - (a) T&E Transactions, (b) Faculty Relations Professional Development Claims and (c) CentreSuite Credit Card Transactions.

a) T&E Transactions (Expense Application): Retain until paid
b) Faculty Relations PDR (Expense Application): Retain for 7 years
c) Credit Card (CentreSuite): Retain for 6 months

See the Expense Receipt and Imaging Guidelines document for additional details.

Can we use a mobile phone to scan receipts?

Yes. There are a number of phone Apps that will scan receipts for attachment to an expense claim. Five examples are:

· Scanner Pro
· Turbo Scan
· Tiny Scanner
· Finescanner
· Microsoft Office Lens

See the Expense Receipt and Imaging Guidelines for specific details. It is preferable, to make the review and approval of your transaction easier for all, that you choose an App that consolidates a number of images into a PDF file that can be easily attached to the claim.

Seeing Pending Transactions

Why can’t I see any content in the My Work menu?

The first time you logon to FINS to view your pending transactions to review or approve them, the My Work menu will be collapsed. You can easily expand the menu so you can view all transactions that are pending action or on hold.

Viewing Approved Transactions 

Is there somewhere in FINS where an Account Holder can view all transactions that were approved by Provisional Delegates and Small transaction Delegates?

Not yet but it is coming. This requires us to implement something called “row level security access” where people can see transaction specific to their department. Stay tuned.

Cash Advances 

When am I allowed to get a Cash Advance?

For any prepaid expenses like Conference fees and Airfare, you may request a Cash Advance right away. When you are getting closer to your travel date, you may request a second advance if needed. You must clear the advance within 30 days of return.

How do I return money not used on my Cash advance?

When entering your claim, add a line and choose the Expense type ‘Returned monies from Cash Advance”. Enter the amount you are returning, apply your cash advance so the balance owing is zero.

Send your cheque to the attention of Payment services stating which Advance you are clearing or the Expense claim you have applied it to. Payment Services will do the rest.

Uploaded on February 20, 2019