Solid financial reporting and processes are critical to a programme’s success.
Oxfam’s Programme Finance Manager Kevin Clapperton is hugely experienced in supporting our partners across the Pacific. Solid financial reporting and processes are critical to a programme’s success. Fortunately Kevin’s nous with numbers means that Oxfam’s partners have a seasoned advisor to turn to if the sums stop adding up.
But Kevin’s expertise extends far beyond number crunching at his desk in Auckland. Oxfam regularly drafts him overseas to help firm up partners’ finances in the field. He has made a substantial contribution to the enhancement of our programmes in the Pacific.
For example, last year Kevin visited one of our partners in Vanuatu, Farm Support Association (FSA). FSA is a non-government organisation that helps smallholder farmers in Vanuatu use environmentally sustainable agriculture to improve their livelihoods.
Accounting for efficiencies
With Oxfam’s help, FSA is enabling more growers to enter the lucrative global market in organics, which provides them with a much better price for their produce and the chance to improve life for themselves and their families. FSA does this through the implementation of innovative and sustainable farming practices that have been tested with local experts.
They support farmers through technical assistance, training, field visits and mentoring to become organically-certified, as well as helping them access new markets by establishing producer organisations. Their programmes include an organic spice network, growing Vetiver grass for erosion control, vegetables, a working horse programme and poultry rearing. They also support agricultural training in Rural Training Centres on Tanna and Malo.
FSA’s strength lies in its members’ ability to execute their fieldwork, but the back-office work began to get left behind. Their financial systems were not as robust as they could have been and in some cases prevented them from carrying out their fieldwork effectively. Their reporting capacity was not at a standard that MFAT could work with, and MFAT ended their support of FSA under the bilateral aid programme.
But Oxfam knew how important it was to FSA’s smallholders that the organisation got back on track.
We began discussions on forming a partnership and sent Kevin to Vanuatu to strengthen their fiscal foundations. His task was to find and implement a financial management system that was flexible enough to compliment the sheer breadth and complexity of their field work.
Kevin spent ten days with FSA. His time there began with assessing FSA’s existing systems to identify exactly what the financial management system needed. He then made recommendations that ranged from field staff interviews to open and regular financial reports.
He worked closely with FSA’s directors to understand the planned field activities and importance of creating financial systems could be easily adapted to meet their needs. He trained the administration and finance team on the new system, physically inputting six months of real data into the system and generating backdated reports.
Excelling the field
The immediate impact of having a workable, flexible, easy-to-use financial management system has been that FSA has an understanding of their financial position. There is increased capacity for staff to handle financial transactions.
FSA’s administration and finance team is able to generate monthly and quarterly reports on spending and budgets. Kevin continues to provide technical support and monthly feedback on the reports.
FSA has been able to use the finance system to plan and monitor spending of activities with other programmes that they are carrying out. Kevin says: “Financial management capacity building is an integral component of all our partnership arrangements. Oxfam’s partner finance policy and donor reporting requirements ensure that partners like FSA can operate as effectively in the office as the do in the field, and earn them widespread respect, and most importantly, results for the people they work for.”
Kevin’s input has meant that with strengthened finance systems in place, FSA’s field staff are able to focus on their activities with farmers, respond quickly to their needs and continue to help them secure better futures for themselves and their families.