Finance Best Practice

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Staff, Students, and other individuals conducting University Business should familiarise themselves with all of the University’s Finance Policies which set out the details of Finance Best Practice. This document is not a substitute for these Policies but sets out key points with particular focus given to aspects which the Finance Team have experience of users not understanding, or not complying with.

The University is a Charity and it is essential that Finance Best Practice is employed in all aspects of its business undertakings.

Financial Management

It is expected that expenditure shall be reasonable and that individuals conducting University business shall:

  • Procure goods and services in compliance with Scottish and Other Procurement Regulations
  • Achieve the best value and aim to 'spend as if it’s your own'.
  • Where income is generated, invoices should be issued on time to customers registered on FMS.
  • Where expenditure is incurred, goods/services are required to be goods receipted timeously on FMS to allow the invoice to be matched to Purchase Order, and the invoice paid on time.
  • The University employs a ‘No PO, No Pay’ policy meaning all suppliers must be registered on FMS and Purchase Orders must be created prior to purchase.
  • Where VAT reliefs apply (e.g. medical research-related expenditure) care should be taken to ensure this is identified and the correct documentation is in place.
  • Customs coding and procedures should be adhered to ensure the university receives applicable reliefs subject to HMRC regulations (e.g. exemption for import VAT – medical research related).  
  • P-cards should be used only by the named individual for general departmental expenditure where a supplier is not able to accept an FMS order – for example, online-only suppliers.  They would typically be used for smaller value purchases. P-card statements must be reconciled within 14 days of the statement upload to FMS.
  • T-cards should be used only by the named individual or a nominee booking travel on their behalf. T-card statements must be reconciled within 14 days of the statement upload to FMS.
  • Where the P-card and T-card are not reconciled as per the current Policy, Finance will arrange for the card to be put on hold until the reconciliations are completed. Repeated failure to reconcile without highlighting extenuating circumstances, will result in the card being withdrawn.
  • All descriptions for transactions in FMS should be comprehensive and complete.

Procurement

  • Staff with delegated authority to approve the purchase of goods, services and works need to have sufficient training to be able to comply with the University’s Procurement Policy, Procedures and Guidelines and Financial Regulations. This training can be found at Procurement Guidance - University of Strathclyde. 
  • University spending is governed by external Procurement Legislation.  To ensure compliance with this Legislation the Procurement Team should be involved in all procurement activity with a value of above £25,000 for goods and services and above £100,000 for works irrespective of the intended process being used to establish the contract.  Please request assistance from the team through the completion of a Request for Procurement Action or at procurement.enquiries@strath.ac.uk.

Managing Budgets

  • Sub-project managers are responsible for the management of managing the income and expenditure for their sub-project within the agreed budget.
  • They are accountable to the relevant Head of Department, Executive Dean or Senior Officer for this budget and should ensure that funds are used only for the purposes for which they are allocated.
  • Further information on sub-projects including, Key Controls Checklist produced by Internal Audit, types of projects, project and sub-project structure, how to create new sub-projects etc. can be found on the FMS Knowledge Hub.

Budget Statement Reports

  • The budget statement reports provide information to the sub-project manager to allow them to manage their budgets.
  • These should be reviewed on a regular basis by Sub Project Managers for the purposes of examining income and expenditure transactions, checking the accuracy of coding, and assessing budget variances and overall financial position.
  • Detailed guidance on the Budget Statement reports can be found on the FMS Knowledge Hub

FMS Tasks and Roles

  • Guidance is available on the FMS Knowledge Hub.
  • Particular attention should be paid to the sections on assigning substitutes to approve tasks in your absence.
  • Departments should ensure that staff have the appropriate FMS access to undertake their respective roles. It is good practice for this to be reviewed on an annual basis and throughout the year as and when new staff start/staff transfer roles within the department. Examples of roles on FMS include:
  • Sub Project Manager (currently approve spend up to £25k and all expenses charged to subproject)
  • Delegated Authority (currently approved spend up to £10k)
  • Fast Track (can raise a PO up to £1k without further approval)
  • Proxy (no approval role but can act as an administrative support in initiating expenses claims/upload of receipts etc.)
  • FMS Supervisor (approves transactions where the initiator is the sub-project manager and the spend is against the same subproject ie avoids self-approval)

Personal Expenses

  • Staff should submit claims only for expenses incurred wholly, exclusively and necessarily in the performance of University business
  • Claimants and Authorisers have the responsibility of progressing claims, only if compliant with the expenses policy.
  • For all staff, the budget holder will be the main approver, but for senior staff, a further Governance Approval Control is in place within FMS to ensure appropriate senior scrutiny.
  • Alcohol is permitted for business entertaining only in moderation relative to the cost of food, and only when staff will not be returning to work duties. Alcohol therefore cannot be claimed as part of subsistence.
  • For business entertaining, the attendee ratio should be 3 University staff to 1 Non-University attendee. The names and organisations that the external attendees represent should be noted on the claim.
  • The University considers reasonable expense levels for business entertaining are: Lunch - £25 per person, Dinner - £50 per person.
  • Expenses related to the undertaking of Agile or Flexible working will not generally be payable, including but not limited to: desks, chairs, internet/phone/mobile charges.
  • Claimants should attach digital receipts and destroy paper copies once a claim is processed and paid. VISA, Mastercard, debit or credit card counterfoils and credit card statements are not acceptable forms for proof of purchase.
  • The claim should clearly identify VAT that has been incurred. VAT incurred should be detailed in the supporting receipt that forms part of the claim. Care should be taken where expenses are incurred overseas to ensure the expense claim accurately details where the expense has been incurred and VAT is not inaccurately included in an expense claim. 
  • Gifts for colleagues that recognise personal occasions (eg. Birthday, Retirement, Wedding, Bereavements and Leaving gifts) are not permitted University expenses under the policy.
  • Claimants should submit claims in a timely manner to assist recognition of expenses in the correct Month/Quarter/Year to avoid budget underspend/overspend and timing differences.
  • Tax liabilities may arise for staff who submit expenses which would be considered by HMRC to be a benefit in kind. These tax liabilities would not be supported by the University.

Travel

  • The University’s Travel policy has Sustainability at its heart but of course, travel costs can also be substantial, so online, alternative or multi-purpose travel should always be considered first in support of carbon impact principally, but also cost management.
  • The lowest class of travel should always be selected, subject to certain particular exceptions specified in the Policy and with prior approval.
  • Approval should always be sought from budget holders prior to booking travel
  • The Travel Management Company (TMC) is the University’s preferred route for booking travel.

Fixed Assets

  • The University’s Financial Regulations require that all assets with a purchase price greater than £5,000 be recorded in the RAM Asset Management System or a local register.
  • Records must also be maintained of all personal computers regardless of value, and all other assets viewed as vulnerable to theft or misappropriation, regardless of value.
  • The Financial Regulations set out the requirement for Heads / Directors to ensure that departmental records of the University’s Assets are kept up to date in University systems, in accordance with the University’s Asset Register processes. They have specific responsibility for the care, custody, and security of assets under their control.
  • The Notification of Non-purchased Asset Additions, Asset Disposals or Asset Loans Form should be used to inform Finance of any disposals or write-offs, or situations where assets are loaned to or by the University or donated.
  • This form should be used for Notification of Asset Verification purposes using the central or local Asset Register as a source for purposes of physical verification and vice versa. Sufficient detail should be included in the asset register to allow this check to be undertaken at least annually, and assets should be appropriately labelled.

Payroll

  • All overtime forms (e.g. P1/P2 for overtime) and P3 forms (must be fully completed, authorised and submitted to the Payroll team (payroll-payments@strath.ac.uk) by the 5th of the month to ensure inclusion in the payroll paid on the second last day of that month.
  • Absence returns, including Nil Returns, should be emailed on a weekly basis, by Monday of the following week, to returns@strath.ac.uk with the department name and date in the subject line.
  • Changes of bank details for current staff must be submitted to the Finance Helpdesk in sufficient time to allow the appropriate due diligence on the changes to be completed by the 5th of the month to be actioned for that month's payroll.

Employment Status

  • HMRC require that employment status checks are undertaken, and the University uses HMRC’s online Check Employment Status for Tax test (CEST). The CEST is an online assessment tool which asks questions in relation to the practical day-to-day working of the relationship that the individual has with the University department that has engaged them.
  • The CEST must be completed by the individual who best understands that day-to-day working relationship. The name of the member of staff completing the CEST along with the date should be recorded on the CEST outcome record.

Insurance

  • Insurance services Insurance-services@strath.ac.uk need to be notified of the acquisition of substantial assets, motor vehicles, research equipment, etc. by cash, exchange or donation.
  • Additionally, our insurer needs to know if we have new locations of work outside of the main University campus. If we are taking on leases for properties not owned by the University, additional cover may be needed, as well as associated insurance cover for assets being used on the site. Particularly high-risk studies may carry additional liabilities and require additional insurance cover.
  • Whenever University assets >£60,000 move from one location to another the University needs to arrange supplementary goods in transit cover. For goods in transit cover please email the Insurance mailbox with dates of movement, courier details, cost of all items and details of packaging. We will then contact our Insurer for the additional cover, the cost of this will be charged directly to the Department.