GOVERNMENT TECHNOLOGY/Funds control tracks spending
As a result of intensified public and private scrutiny, many local governments are reinventing themselves, adopting best practices from the private sector, including new methods for budgetarycontrol. Most have incorporated technology into their reorganization efforts to help them closely monitor budgets, spending and resource allocation.
Many are now using funds control technology, which enforces total fiscal responsibility through fund accounting and fund checking across multiple departments. It also allows managers to precisely define how their budgets are controlled. For example, the manager can determine: * whether funds should be checked as documents are entered or only after they have been approved; * whether requisitions and purchase orders should reduce available funds in the period in which they are entered or in the period in which goods and services are expected for delivery; * whether budgets should be controlled on a year-to-date or annual basis; and * whether non-recoverable tax should be taken into account when checking funds.
In October, the Volusia County, Fla., school district implemented a funds control software program for fund checking and fund accounting needs. The district, which supports about 60,000 students, had struggled with a non-Y2K compliant system with limited reporting capability. “We wanted more automation in our processes,” says District Project Manager D. J. Lebo.
With funds control, decision-makers have full access to the status of funds and areas requiring remedial action. It also ensures that sufficient cash is available before payments are made. “The schools and the departments know instantly how much money they have,” Lebo explains.
When requisitions or purchase orders are submitted, the new system checks for available funds and subtracts money as the requests are approved. Making the transaction after approval ensures that funds are pulled from the correct department or account and prevents mistakes in withdrawals.
The district also uses the funds control program to run queries or reports for different departments’ spending. For example, janitorial costs for a particular time period can easily be surveyed to learn the number of check requests or number of approvals and checks written. Reports can be run at any time – a vast improvement over previous operations, Lebo says.
Volusia County customized many aspects of the funds control program, including security measures. Because financial management necessitates confidentia lity, most basic funds-related software includes security measures. The county customized its security system to create security groups with limited access for employees based on their duties and positions. Each employee has a log-in code and password. “[The setup] prevents someone in one school from seeing information from other schools,” Lebo says.
The district made additional customizations on budget amendment processes, accounts receivable, payroll and even made tie-ins with human resources functions. The customization and implementation process required about three months of work. Employees received about three days of training on the new system; high-end users required more time.
Funds control can be used to automate and streamline financial management by working in a real-time budgetary format. Improved funds control prevents staff members from making financial commitments beyond their budgets or without proper authorization.