DIA Funding – What Are You Signing Up For?
It’s funding season at the Department of Internal Affairs again, meaning COGS and Lottery are open for business, or will be soon.
These grants come with some Terms & Conditions, i.e. some fine print that we are so overwhelmed with in our daily lives, not to mention the legalese inherent in many of them, that we tend to just ignore it. So here are some of the things that you sign up for when accepting one of these grants. Warning: some of this may be surprising.
- The grant must get separate mention in your annual financial report.
- You must acknowledge the grant in a suitable way (web site, posters, newsletter etc.)
- You agree to keep financial records pertaining to the grant for seven years, i.e. your tracking information and presumably all receipts, payroll info etc. You also have to make it available for inspection by DIA staff within 10 working days on request.
- You must inform DIA if there are any conflicts of interest arising in relation to the grant, if there are significant changes or events potentially affecting the grant, or if grant money has been stolen or misappropriated.
- For Lottery grants you sign that you have a tracking system that allows you to keep track of several grants and know how much is still to expend in each of them at any given time.
- You confirm that financial reports are presented regularly at governance board meetings.
- You confirm that you are compliant with all relevant legislation pertaining to your organisation.
- The grant must be spent within a year.
Track Those Grants!
The new reporting rules for registered charities require that organisations list in their accounts any grant money that has not yet been spent on the purpose it was given for.
In preparation for the new rules, CCA had encouraged all charities we were working with to implement a grant tracking system before the new rules came into effect. This was in order to have an opening balance for unexpended grants at the beginning of the year when reporting became compulsory. We provided help to anyone who asked.
Not all charities did so, however, and this caused large problems for some in 2016. Some charities had to re-do their cashbook for the whole year, assigning expenditure to grants, sometimes finding that some grants had been reported to funders as being fully spent when they were not, or in one case refunding part of a grant that had, in actual fact, been fully spent. Occasionally, organisations come to us to help them work out how much of their bank balance they can actually spend on a given purpose, as they have completely ‘lost track’. This is stressful for everybody involved.
There are also some tracking systems that are quite error-prone. For example, in some systems grant money can be showing as expended before it has even been received, or the GST-portion of expenditure is included when the organisation claims this back. There are sometimes no safeguards against allocating the same expenditure, in full, to more than one grant. Accounting software can also provide an inaccurate picture if you use the wrong reports.
Allocation of Grants
Every now and then we strike the practice where an organisation allocates a flat amount of (for example) 1/12th of an annual grant to the expenditure of each month, rather than using actual expenditure. For a $12,000 grant, they simply say they expended $1,000 each month towards their operating expenditure.
Funding agreements by the major grant makers all specify that their grant has to be spent on the purpose it is given for, or be paid back. The only way to demonstrate how exactly a grant has been spent is through allocating the grant money to specific expenditure items.
If grant money is allocated generically to ‘operating expenditure’ within a certain period, there is a risk of fraud. This is because it is then not clear for a specific expenditure item how it was funded, and whether grant funding has been used to pay for expenses funded through another programme. The organisation can generate illegal profits this way.
Using this method, the organisation may also disadvantage itself, because it does not know when a grant is, in actual fact, fully expended, and may even run out of cash while on paper still having money to spend. It also makes it harder to determine what expenses are still eligible to apply for further funding for, because the organisation can’t know for sure what it has already covered.
Our recommendation is: use the tracking functionality of your software, or our Accounting 4.1, to assign specific expenditure items to grants, and this way fully comply with the grant makers’ conditions.
Tracking Grant Expenditure
We continue to come across organisations that have no system whatsoever to track how they expend money they receive from operational grants. Some organisations do not even know that such money is given for future expenditure, and not just as a general contribution into the overall pot.
Funding from major funders such as Lotteries, Rata Foundation, Foundation North, City or District Councils and many others comes with agreements you sign. Those agreements specify some conditions, such as the timeframe, the purpose for which the funding can be spent (which is often very generic), and the responsibility to refund any unspent amounts. These conditions can only be met, if there is a system that records which specific expenditure items were paid from which funding. Without such as system an organisation cannot know if a grant was spent within the timeframe, or if anything is left, and also cannot prove to the funder, if necessary, that no amounts were spent on excluded items.
There are a number of ways to do this effectively, and we know a lot of them. We do not charge for helping you implement a system for this, or to train you how to use your existing accounting software to this effect. We have no interest in making you do unnecessary work, but this really is not optional, and it does not have to be complicated.