In his letter of 17 June the EFA Chief Executive, Peter Lauener, posed nine questions to Accounting Officers and Governing Bodies to emphasise their responsibility to maintain appropriate standards of governance and accountability. If you have not yet shared this letter with the Governors, then it would be advisable to do so.
The Accounting Officer is personally responsible for the regularity and propriety of all expenditure and for ensuring value for money in the use of funds. The Governors are also responsible for the proper stewardship of funds and for ensuring economy, efficiency and effectiveness in the use of funds.
The questions Peter Lauener has asked include:
- Are you confident you are procuring all goods and services in an open and transparent way?
- Do you have appropriate separation of responsibility in your finance sections? And are you providing proper management support to your finance staff to operate in a role where they are well-placed to provide you with a “first line of defence” in upholding propriety, regularity and value for money in the use of public funds?
- Are you making sure that conflicts of interest are avoided and that you are keeping registers of interest up to date?
- Are you confident that senior staff and trustees are not gaining any private or personal commercial or financial benefit as a result of their position, other than of course under their contract of employment?
- Are you sure that your Academy Trust is not being exploited for personal/private benefit and that fees for consultancy work are, where appropriate, being properly accrued to the Academy Trust?
- Do you have robust procedures for the recording, documenting, evidencing and monitoring of information and especially the reasons for entering into major spending commitments?
The DfE have published on their website copies of reports into investigations carried out by the EFA, which give insight into what can go wrong if the proper procedures and controls are not in place and not monitored. If they have not already done so schools should make sure they have suitable policies and guidance in place to cover the following and that these are communicated fully:
- Gifts and hospitality
- Reimbursement of expenses
- Financial limits for costs of on and off site meetings
- Private use of contract mobile phones and other such equipment
All academy trusts will be required to complete an annual value for money statement for the first time in 2013 to help them self-assess what they have done to maximise the impact of their funds. This is a separate statement which is not part of the annual report but must be signed by the Accounting Officer and a copy of the signed statement must be emailed to the Education Funding Agency (EFA) by 31 December. It must also be published on the school’s website. We will provide further information as soon as possible.
For more information contact Brian Laidlaw or Anna Crawford from our academies team on 0191 285 0321, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com .