Mixed blessings

Money, money, money. Managing an end of financial year process
across so many different services after 12 months that has seen
many changes has been akin to herding cats.

All our services had pro-formas to complete by a specific time
and although many achieved this in advance of the deadline there
was a problem with a hard core of delinquent cats intent on doing
things in their own time and to a different set of rules.

Following up information provided by one service, I asked why
they had spent less than their allocation, despite asking for extra
money for most of the year to offset cuts we were forced to make to
their service. The answer was that they had spent all their
allocation. Confused I asked why they had returned a signed form
declaring a spend of X when they now say it is Y? “Ah well, the
person that does the books hasn’t put in the salaries for
Pauline who has been doing extra hours on the Children’s Fund
work because Carol has gone off on maternity leave – sorry, what do
you want us to do?” I bite my tongue, ask how Carol is getting on
and say I would like the truth and quickly please.

I hear on the radio that there is a rare state of mind which is
the opposite of paranoia. Instead of feeling everything is
conspiring against you, you believe everyone is there to help you.
Listening to our service providers explain how being late with
returns will actually be better in the long run I wonder if they
think that the finance officer and I are afflicted by this altered
belief system.

Of course, we are just one of several sources of money for them
– anything from 5 per cent to more than 90 per cent of their annual
incomes. The rest is made up from various funding streams, all with
different payment, reporting and accounting protocols. It is easy
for us to be seduced by a sense of our own importance – “do my
forms, sort out my return, prioritise our requests” – ignoring the
competing demands on these organisations.

“Year end” seems to go on for weeks. There is a story about a
music teacher doing an end of year report on a fictitious child who
was slipped on the bottom of a register out of mischief. The report
confirmed the child was quiet and conscientious, but really did
need to practice the recorder more at home. I suspect that some
services are so overwhelmed with returns at the moment that if we
asked them to sign off a spend they hadn’t had they would do
it to get us off their backs.

At the end of it, all the books balance and I am beyond happy.
There are rightly miaows of discontent and requests to change
financial processes so they coincide rather than collide with other
commissioners and funders, but for now I’m just glad to leave
last year behind. Cheers.

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