Greater control of your money

14th December 2007 at 00:00
Your school pays its bills, registers a small carry-forward each year, and has no great problems in matching expenditure to budget. But is this enough?

Certainly, the Government thinks that tighter financial controls are needed. Enter the financial management standard in schools (FMSiS). All secondaries should have met it nearly a year ago, and now it's time for primary and special schools. The first 40 per cent will be tested before the end of March, with the rest to follow over the next two years.

The standard is not just about doing the right things, but being able to show that you do them. There is a lot of paperwork to be produced, and if you leave it till the middle of March it will be too late. For example, the auditors who come on behalf of the local authority will want to see evidence that the financial committee has written terms of reference, that its decisions are reached carefully, that it checks spending regularly, and that it has a clear statement of how much money the headteacher can move.

All this is within the competence of a well-run governing body. But there will be other requirements. My own local authority, for example, requires you to have a financial policy, although this is not a statutory requirement.

While a lot of the standard deals directly with the governing body, much goes beyond its direct remit. Do you know what your system is for approving the bank reconciliation? Who can draw petty cash and up to how much? Do you have a whistleblowing policy? Have the financial staff done a self-evaluation of their competencies?

Local authorities aren't meant to be heavy-handed, but the checklist on the FMSiS website is nevertheless lengthy. Not for nothing is "count" at the heart of "accountability".

Stephen Adamson, Vice-chair, National Governors Association.

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