Using the EFA Library
As a new convertor it is likely that a large number of policies and procedures will need to be put in place. As an existing academy, it is useful to regularly review and update policies and procedures to ensure that they are fit for purpose and still cover all your activities. In order to make the process easier and also improve the quality of policies in Academies, the EFA have provided a number of templates. These can be found in the EFA library which is listed under resources on the National Association of School Business Management (NASBM) website. These documents should be used as a starting point and then tailored for the specific circumstances of the Academy. I will highlight below a number of the documents of particular interest to us as auditors but there will be others that you will be able to use.
The documents are in the following categories:-
1. NASBM and EFA factsheet
Included in this category is a Fraud Factsheet. This includes some of the signs that fraud may be occurring and also how to prevent fraud, This highlights the importance of effective segregation of duties, staff having limited access to their authorised duties and controls over any changes to Master Records. There is also a link to an Anti-Fraud Checklist. This should be completed as early in the life of an Academy as possible so that procedures can be put in place as soon as possible. There are a number of case studies of fraud in the document most of which have been highlighted in the press. The reputational risk of fraud to Academies is very high and should be considered in all areas of finance.
Also included in this section is Guidance on Connected Party Transactions. Again this is a key area which is scrutinised and reported in academies. It is important to know who the connected parties are and ensure that any transactions with them are handled correctly. This is not something that can be corrected retrospectively and again involves a high level of reputational risk.
2. Financial management and procedures
Included in this section is a template for a Business Continuity Plan which an Academy is required to have. This sets out the procedures to be followed in the event of a major incident. You should ensure that sufficient detail is included in the plan regarding financial plans, e.g. payment of suppliers or salaries in the event that you can’t enter the building, back up of the finance system and alternative computer resources.
There is also a full financial regulations manual and a scheme of delegation. As with all the documents, these should be tailored to ensure they fit the activities in your academy and incorporate all income streams and activities.
3. Financial Management templates
This section includes a regularity checklist which is a useful guide to the controls which need to be in place to allow the Accounting Officer to sign the Regularity Report in the accounts each year.
There is also a Register of Interests form which must be completed by Trustees, Local Governors and members of the Senior Leadership team.
4. Roles and responsibilities
Of particular interest are the responsibilities of the Accounting Officer. In a stand- alone academy, this is likely to be the Head teacher. It is important that they are aware of their responsibilities in this role and understand that they are responsible to Governors for ensuring regularity and propriety and for the efficient and effective use of available resources. It is likely that this responsibility has not been emphasised previously but is considered a vital role.
5. Terms of reference
This includes the responsibilities of the Audit Committee which the school may not have had previously. The Audit Committee has an important role is ensuring robust systems and procedures in the Academy. This includes determining the scope and level of internal audit required.
6. Managing risk
An academy is required to have a Risk Register in order to manage risk to the school. There is a blank template in this section which is useful given that risks will be different in each school. A general framework is suggested linking risk to elements of the strategic plan. Once completed, the register should be reviewed regularly and the risk profile adjusted as circumstances in the school change.
7. Policy templates
The number of policies required by a new Academy is quite extensive and the templates in the EFA Library are a useful guide. Included are polices for Whistleblowing, Anti-fraud and Corruption and Gifts and Hospitality. Again these should be put in place as soon as possible and communicated to staff effectively so that all staff are aware of their responsibilities and accountability. A list of the policies in place should be prepared together with the dates they were last reviewed and updated.
New documents are being added all the time so it is useful to review the list regularly. The school should also keep a list of the policies and procedures in place together when they were last reviewed and updated.
If you have any questions with regards to the above, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Academy team.