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FAF case studies 2018



Case studies from the Financial Assurance Fund call 2018

Nine applications were received to the October call; six were recommended for funding whilst three were declined. Below is a summary of the applications provided as a guide for teams considering applying to the Fund in future calls. It is not meant to be prescriptive in any way as there will be a broad range of ways teams may wish to develop applications that meet the Fund’s remit.

Successful applications to the October 2018 call

 1: Improve financial management relating to documentation, policies and procedures, build capacity and mitigate risks identified as part of due diligence during project set-up:

  • Partner A: Funding requested for a Financial Consultant to work with the team to implement and support improvements to foreign currency management and for members of finance team to attend a course on financial management to build capacity, strengthen structures and apply for GFGP accreditation.
  • Partner B: Funding requested for an accountant for 12 months to develop financial policies, procedures and manuals to provide sustainable support for existing staff beyond FAF funding for the purchase and training in Quickbooks software; to support application for GFGP accreditation.

 Key activities:

  1. Assessment of transactional accounting systems;
  2. Staff training in financial management;
  3. Purchase of, and training in, Quickbooks software;
  4. Support application for GFGP accreditation. 

 2: Improve, and increase capacity for, financial management; clarify areas of uncertainty and bridge gaps identified as part of due diligence during project set-up:

  • Partners A and B: Training to support identification of financial management gaps and creation of a structured plan for working towards full GFGP compliance.
  • Partner C: Training to support transition of paper-based financial management system to electronic system; strengthening of effectiveness of transaction reporting.
  • Partner D: Support in achieving Gold GFGP status from current self-assessed Silver level.

Key activities:

  1. Initial remote GFGP workshop to explain intent of GFGP questions and demonstration of GFGP portal to enable all partners to upload current self-assessments;
  2. Diagnostic assessment visit, identification of weaknesses and necessary actions to be taken, and creation of roadmap to GFGP compliance for partners requiring improvement in current financial management processes;
  3. Certification visit by approved certifier to review all self-assessment; documentation and give recommendations for the achievement of Gold status
  4. Cross-partner workshop event to share learning, documents, best practice and findings from assessments and certification pilot.  

3: To leverage expertise and best practice across the Group’s network of partner organisations; to strengthen existing financial management and facilitate cross-partner training; to work towards additional GFGP accreditation: 

  • Partner A: Financial and technical support for procurement and implementation of, and training in, accounting software to replace current Excel system; training in best practice financial management, good governance and risk management; attendance at cross-partner workshops for training, networking and skill-sharing.
  • Partner B: Improve skills of finance team to enable finance manager to implement improvements and changes to current system; complete revision of finance manual and creation of HR handbook; encourage finance team representation at senior management level; attendance at cross-partner workshops for training, networking and skill-sharing.
  • Partner C: Formal training to bridge gaps raised in previous GFGP assessment; ongoing support to facilitate full compliance with GFGP Gold level; staff development to allow partner organisation to lead on capacity development across cohort of partner organisations; attendance at cross-partner workshops for training, networking and skill-sharing. 

Key activities: 

  1. Creation of peer group of partner organisations to share resources and best practice;
  2. Provide 1:1 support to partner organisations in applying for GFGP accreditation;
  3. Build capacity of finance leads in all partner organisations through targeted, customised training;
  4. Strengthen profile of partner organisations’ finance departments to improve prospects of securing future funding. 

4: To strengthen skills in grant writing and financial costing of grant proposals, to support LMIC partners on current project and to develop their capacity for future grant applications. 

  • Partner A: Foster greater understanding of processes, language and best financial management practices between UK and LMIC partner, providing the opportunity for all 3 LMIC partners to self-assess GFGP with improved understanding of the terms and language used in the checklist.
  • Partner B: Provide training to enhance confidence in costing of future collaborative research grants, and in quarterly reporting schedule and process.
  • Partner C: Increase understanding of terms and language used in the financial management of research projects; increase awareness of the type of activities to be estimated when determining the cost of a research proposal and how to cost them; improve confidence and capability in completing quarterly returns.
  • Partner D: To provide an opportunity for this partner to engage in training to support GFGP self-assessment, and to clarify financial management terms to improve partner’s confidence in completing future self-assessments. 

Key activities: 

  1. Provision of bespoke training programme across all 4 partner organisations to cover:
    1. Grant writing and how to cost grant proposals;
    2. Financial Assurance training – language and definitions;
    3. Reporting quarterly expenditure.
  2. ?Cross-partner training in this way will facilitate sharing of best practice, build capacity for future reporting and new grants, and establish peer support between the financial officers of the partner organisations in this award. 

5: To build long-lasting financial capacity in partner organisations to allow them to support future research applications and to deliver sustained economic and welfare developments.  

  • Partners A & B: Provide support and training in managing foreign currency cash flow, expenditure management, cash, bank and treasury management and build on current governance processes.

Key activities: 

  1. Assessment of current transactional accounting and petty cash systems;
  2. Establishment of action plan to implement required changes/new systems;
  3. Engagement of Financial Consultant to support implementation;
  4. Staff to attend course on essentials of financial management;
  5. Application by both partners for GFGP accreditation.  

6: To improve partner’s financial capacity to enable them to sustainably manage grant funding in compliance with donors and international accounting standards through training and South-South mentorship.  

  • Partner A: Identification and strengthening of key areas within finance, administrative and governance structures and procedures. 

Key activities: 

  1. Through South-South mentorship, to support partner in conducting organisational capacity assessment and strengthen financial and administrative management to GFGP bronze level;
  2. Employ a management accountant to provide partner with oversight of finance and administrative operations and ensure compliance with statutory, organisational and donor requirements;
  3. Use of external organisation to provide training and mentoring in financial and grants management.  

Unsuccessful applications:

 7: Request to purchase new financial software package for one of the partner organisations.

 Summary of feedback provided:

  • There was concern that the process for selecting the proposed finance system had not been sufficiently thorough and had only been made on costs, and it was unclear whether the proposed software would meet the team’s specification.
  • Whilst it was noted that the nominated partner would support the system in the future, the Committee was not assured they were clear what this would entail.
  • The Committee would have liked to see more evidence on how the system would be supported more broadly, beyond just the purchase of the software license. 

8: To develop an ongoing project performance assessment process to improve compliance and/or better information governance and to provide training on financial management and capacity building.

 Summary of feedback provided: 

  • In comparison to others considered, this application was felt to be relatively brief, with the design and timelines not fully described and the costings very broad.
  • It was unclear what training and support would be delivered.
  • The Committee was unclear about how the funding would be made sustainable and learning embedded within the organisation.  

9: To employ a chartered accountant (CA) to develop and implement a financial management system, policies and procedures for one of the partner organisations; to assess another partner’s systems to identify gaps and to support them as they develop to take over from the CA in due course; to provide consultations for other local groups/units; to improve financial governance across all partners through sharing good practice.

 Summary of feedback provided:

  • The Chartered Accountant (CA) costs appeared high which raised concerns around value for money.
  • The Committee was unclear what the role of the CA would be and whether an appointment at this level was approriate. There were concerns that this approach risked dependency on the CA that may not be sustainable beyond the end of the funding period. The Committee considered that either the work of the CA have a different focus more fitting with a 12 month role, or that proposed work be re-assigned to lower cost staff.
  • The justification of the additional high costs and logistic issues for the proposed number of flights had not been clearly presented and supported concern on the relative value for money of this proposal compared to others being discussed.