Areas To Watch Out For
The IAS team visit a number of areas within the University throughout the course of an academic year.
The recommendations arising from each of the reports are analysed to identify common themes and general areas for improvement. The common themes which arose from the audits undertaken in 2006/07 and the two years prior are detailed below. During 2007/08 our web site will be updated to reflect any new areas to watch out for as audit reviews are completed.
- Separation of Duties
- Commitment Accounting
- Single Source Justification Form
- Budgetary Control
- Asset Register
- Personal Consultancies
The vast majority of recommendations in this area relate to findings arising from the review of the sample of purchase orders and invoices. In general department's do appear to have adequate procedures in place for processing orders and invoices however audit findings have highlighted that these procedures are not always being adhered to in practice. The most common areas of weakness in this area are (i) Separation of Duties; (ii) compliance with commitment accounting policy; and (iii) completion of the single source justification form. These areas are discussed in greater detail below.
Separation of duties
In order to protect staff, ensure that the same member of staff does not authorize both the order and the invoice. Order needs to be authorized by the HoD or budget holder; invoices should be passed for payment by someone else who can confirm that the goods have been received and that the details on the invoice are correct.
Payments will only be made by the Director of Finance against invoices which have been certified for payment by an appropriate signatory. By certifying an invoice the signatory confirms the following :
- the goods have been received, examined and approved with regard to quality and quantity, or that services rendered or work done is satisfactory
- invoice details (quantity, price, discount) are correct
- the invoice is arithmetically correct
- the invoice has not previously been passed for payment
- where appropriate, an entry has been made on a stores record or departmental inventory
- an appropriate order number and/or account code is quoted.
The University operates a commitment accounting system; budget holders are required to take commitments into account before ordering goods and services. Heads of Department and budget holders are not authorised to commit the University to expenditure without first reserving sufficient funds to meet the purchase cost. Orders need to be forwarded to Finance Office without delay ie once the order is placed. It should not be held back until the invoice is received. This ensures that all university commitments to spend are promptly recorded on the University financial system and that your budget statements/FIS are more up-to-date.
Single Source Justification (SSJ) form
The University's overall aim is to achieve maximum value for money from all non salary expenditure. Not all purchases are covered by Recommended Contracts or are able to be competitively tendered or quoted for and this procedure allows Departments to continue their day to day business of running a University without wasting large resources of time on non-core activities. The purpose of the SSJ is to ensure that some form of marketplace or competitive analysis has been carried out before a commitment is made to spend money out with normal tendering procedures. In each instance, the Department is required to explain the specific nature of the purchase involved, why it is not possible to follow the traditional route of obtaining competitive offers and produce evidence to prove that that value for money is being achieved.
An electronic version of the Form is available.
Audit recommendations in this area have focused upon the absence/accuracy of the S17 training forms which every member of staff should have, S18 (risk assessment forms) forms, and the insufficient documentation maintained relating to the content and outcome of departmental safety inspections.
The control of income and expenditure within an agreed budget is the responsibility of the designated budget holder who must ensure that day to day monitoring is undertaken effectively. Budget holders are accountable to the relevant Head of Department, Dean or Senior Officer for their own budget. Weaknesses in this area have centred around primarily two areas
- Inadequate evidence that the mbs has been verified (ie signed off by the budget holder),
- Inadequate reporting mechanisms in place to provide the HoD with an overview of all departmental accounts on a month by month basis.
The University is required to keep an Asset Register. The results of our audit reviews has highlighted that very often the details held on the University Asset register for each area/department is out-of-date. Departments can often maintain good local systems, however this information does not always get updated on the University Asset Register. By not maintaining a comprehensive and up to date asset register departments run the risk of assets being lost/stolen and that going undetected. HoDs are responsible for departmental assets and departments need to ensure that systems are in place to track items coming into and being disposed of by the department. Departments should ensure that a member of staff is allocated the responsibility for overseeing the recording (disposal and movement) of departmental assets on the University Asset Register. A system that often works well within a department is to tie in new purchases of equipment to the asset register by ensuring that the person responsible for the asset register within the department receives a copy of the order/invoice as a prompt to update the Register.
University guidelines and forms can be found on the Finance Office website.
For professional development purposes the University Court permits full time academic staff to undertake, in addition to the teaching, research and other duties required of them as staff of the University, other paid work of their own choice in the field for which they are appointed. Such additional work may occupy no more than twenty-five normal working days in total per University financial year (ie during the period 1 August to 31 July inclusive). Such activity requires to be authorised by the HoD and the Director of Research and Innovation. A record of the days taken in this manner should be recorded within departments.
The number of recommendations made in this area is reducing as more departments and staff become aware of the University's Cash Handling and Till Procedures. In order to better protect staff involved in cash handling, it is essential that staff are familiar with the cash handling guidance.
All cash received within departments, from whatever source, must be recorded by the department on a daily basis and deposited with Finance Office as soon as practicable using Security Services. Any cash holdings (e.g. petty cash) must be held securely to comply with the requirements of the University's insurers. No deductions may be made from any cash collected on behalf of the University prior to paying into the University Cashier. Personal or other cheques must not be cashed out of money received on behalf of the University.