Friday, July 3, 2009

financial year end

So I did think of something that is not exactly an everyday experience for people back in the states. A couple of weeks ago the Ministry of Education decided that they wanted all of the schools to do their year end financial report in a new way. So on a Tuesday our headmaster had all of the teachers come together to go over the years finances. Some of them had met the night before and started going through the numbers and had a little bit of the required information. So the next morning we are all together going through the numbers and we are making good progress. I had to remind them that they cannot just change the numbers however they want to make the end result correct but we got to a point where everything added up correctly and we were looking good. All of this only took from about 7:30 am to 1:00 pm straight through. And I was feeling very good thinking we were all set and might actually be able to teach a couple of classes before going home for the day. Then the headmaster, who had been acting like we were going too slow or wanted to rush through some of the information, announced that it was time to begin the second part of the process! It would have been nice to know that there were two parts of the whole thing to begin with especially when I realized that the thing we had just spent 6 hours on is actually supposed to be a summary of the part we have not yet begun! Wow!

So the 'second' part was suppose to be a running total of expenditures and a running balance of expenditures and deposits. Now schools here do not have checking accounts; instead they write vouchers for everything they spend money on, basically a receipt and keep those as a paper trail. So the headmaster brings out a stack of papers that are the vouchers for the past year and we have to decide what section the monies came from. (The money from school fees is split between rotating textbook fund, tuition, central development fund, and something else that I can't remember). We got to a point where I thought we had everything sorted well and in order according to date and put the numbers in and then we noticed a small stack not quite 1/4 the size of the original stack that was sitting on a desk across the room. Surprise, we have to go back and redo the whole thing. At this point it is about 3:30 in the afternoon and I still haven't had a chance to pee. So I just say I'll go through it all at home. The headmaster says okay and hands me the stack of receipts.

I walk home and Tina just looks at me (she had not been feeling well that day and was not at school for any of this). She shakes here head and says "Imagine your mother having the principal walk into her room with a random stack of papers and tell her to balance the budget for the past year. Oh, and do it all by hand."

So I got up at 2:00 am and started re-working the whole thing trying to add up numbers with a tiny calculator that Aunt Becky sent us and I am thinking I'm doing well (getting up at 2:00 is not a big deal by the way. My body has decided that 3:00 am is a good and normal time to get up each day). I have all the number in and am ready to do the summary in the correct order and then I notice that...you guessed it, the vouchers that we had put all together somehow had been split into two stacks again and I only got through one of them. So, it is now 7:30 and I finally have all of the vouchers in and I start checking the numbers. Not a single one matches with what I am expecting to have. At this point I'm a little concerned that maybe someone has been messing with the schools finances but then I think to my self why would the headmaster ask me to do this if they were messing with the money he would know that I'd find out.

I take the stuff over to the school explain what has happened and tell them that I can get all of this done in a matter of hours if I just take it in to Mzuzu and put it on a spreadsheet. By 9:00 I'm on my way to the road with all of the vouchers now (we found 3-4 more that morning). I arrive about 11 and work till about three find three vouchers that had been written twice (when they were doing the summary they thought we needed to change some of the dates on the vouches to make them match something or other and had made new ones which replaced the originals but didn't take the originals out) and had all of the numbers done correctly. That when I realize I left my flash drive at home and the printer at the transit house is not working.

long story short I get it printed and end up getting back to my house in Kacheche about 6:45 pm. Computers really do make things more simple, if you can keep the information on them from the get-go. The good news is that I think we will be able to keep a very good book this financial year since I know what to expect now. So we are learning and taking steps for improvement. I think Uncle Dan needs to come and visit and do a one day training on keeping a budget (personal and institutional). I'm only half joking too. actually anyone who would like to come and do some kind of training with our students or staff is more than welcome. I'll even roast a chicken for you.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Somewhat reminiscent of taking a stack of papers home to grade, and then realizing over and over and over again that you're using the wrong key. Oh wait, that's right, I don't take papers home anymore :-0 Good to hear from you, man. God bless you and Tina.