Finances in order
Forms and instructions for financial reporting
Our forms are occasionally updated, so make a habit of always downloading them when it’s time to report, to make sure you have the latest version.
Core support: Financial managementIn core support, also called organisation support, the funds are used freely to achieve the goals of entire organisation.
Core support is when the Palme Center and, if appropriate, a Swedish member organisation, supports an organisation’s strategic plan. That is, makes a contribution to the operation as a whole. This means that the funds given are not earmarked for a specific project. The organisation is free to use them as it sees fit in order to achieve its overarching goals.
In such cases, what the Palme Center requests is not a specified project budget, but a general budget for the entire organisation and an income budget.
Before the Palme Center agrees to provide core support to a partner organisation, we normally perform a system audit. This type of audit analyses how the organisation works by examining routines and systems within the organisation that are to guarantee the reliability of the work and the reporting.
Depending on the size of the support, the system audit may be performed by an external, independent auditor or by controllers and programme managers at the Olof Palme International Center.
Budget changes during the year
Changes in budget entries and total costs for individual programmes within the organisation that exceed 15 percent must be approved in advance by the programme manager. For changes in staff salaries, etc. the limit for such changes is 10 percent. Information about the above-mentioned changes and their approval must be presented in writing.
A partner organisation receiving core support must present a report on its financial position and activities over the past financial year. A complete financial report package consists of:
- An audited set of financial accounts (in the organisation’s own format)
- An auditor’s report in accordance with the Olof Palme International Center’s audit instructions
- A Management Letter and, if appropriate, Management Response
Project support: BudgetingHow to manage finances in collaborations that focus on a specific project. The first step is estimating the costs that you will have.
It is, of course, impossible to know in advance precisely how large the costs of your operation will be. However, a reasonable estimate of costs and revenues must be completed before an application is submitted to the Palme Center. Preparing a budget is also one of the steps in planning the operation.
Remember that there must be a clear link between activities and budget. For example, if an activity is a course, all costs that may be attributable to the course must be included in the budget. (Air fares, hotel accommodation, meals, other transport expenses, renting a space to hold the course, etc.).
The budget must be presented in Swedish kronor (SEK), as this is the currency used for the project agreement. Budgets are divided up between costs in Sweden (if you have a Swedish partner organisation) and local costs (in the operation country).
Examples of costs (budget entries) that may arise in a project include: food and accommodation in connection with seminars and courses, room hire charges for seminars and courses, fees for lecturers, travel expenses for participants and the project management, interpretation and translation costs, purchase of materials and administration of activities. Do not forget to budget for follow-up and evaluation activities, and for an audit of the project.
Always use the most recently updated budget form from the Palme Center when preparing your budget. There is a set of instructions for the budget forms which explains each budget entry and what it may and may not include. For example, expert fees cannot be paid to members of the partner organisation and the Palme Center does not pay compensation for loss of income. To Forms
Division of costs
(This only applies if you have a Swedish partner organisation.)
The Palme Center requires that costs be divided between costs that the Swedish organisation has to cover in Sweden, and funds that are to be passed on to the partner organisation in the country of operation. This division makes it possible to establish what proportion of the funds is actually paid to the partner countries.
This means that you need to plan your budget in close consultation with your partner organisation. You also need to work together to prepare estimates of costs and agree on the division of responsibility in the budget and what share of the funds is to be passed on.
The project costs must be followed up on a regular basis. It is a good idea to do this monthly or immediately after each activity has taken place. The Palme Center does not make any requirements to use specific bookkeeping software. It is perfectly acceptable to use Excel spreadsheets or even hard copy format. In contrast, there may be other regulations which require organisations in certain countries to apply double entry bookkeeping, for example. If you notice that you have budgeted incorrectly, or if something unforeseen occurs that affects the project costs, you can request permission to redistribute your budget.
Project support: Financial reportingA project must present a report on its financial activity from the most recent project year, i.e. January 1st through December 31st.
In order to comply with the timetable and maintain a high level of quality in the report, it is essential to plan, maintain good communication and follow up on the project at regular intervals throughout the year. Do not forget that it often takes longer than you think to finalise the reports.
A complete financial report package consists of…
- The accounts in local currency/Expenditure specification in SEK (Excel) form, signed by both the auditor and the person authorised to bind the company.
- An auditor’s report in accordance with the Olof Palme International Center’s audit instructions.
- A Management Letter and, if appropriate, a Management Response.
Project support: Financial midyear reportWhen around half the year has passed and around half the planned activities have been completed, a midyear report consisting of a specification of costs based on the budget granted must be submitted to the Palme Center or your Swedish partner organisation.
Please note that there are two sheets in the Excel template for the specification of costs which must be completed. You then need to submit this together with requisition no. 2, as this is a precondition for having the second half of the project funds for the year paid out.
You will find the template for the financial half-year report on the Palme Center’s website under Forms.
The midyear report is principally intended to show whether there have been any major deviations from your budget, or to demonstrate that everything seems to be going according to plan. It is also an important control point for the Palme Center. If you have not used all the funds granted – or if you need to make changes to your budget or your operation – it is typically at this point that you have the chance to do so.
It is in no way odd if, as the project progresses, it transpires that your plans have to change for one reason or another. It may be that the budget proves to be inaccurate, or that some activities have to be discontinued on account of unforeseen circumstances. That said, do not make any changes until you have contacted your programme manager at the Palme Center and had them approved. If you implement changes that were not endorsed and approved in advance, this may result in your being obliged to reimburse your funding. The midyear report does not need to be audited.
Cost-efficiencyCost-efficiency is a measure of the capacity of the operation to achieve the stated goals by making the best use of the resources allocated.
There are many ways to be cost-efficient. One way is to choose goods and services that offer good value for money, and to compare prices.
Good planning often helps to keep prices down; air travel booked close to the date of departure can be twice as expensive as the same journey booked early. However, it is also a question of achieving results at a reasonable cost. If the operation fails to achieve its goals, it cannot be said to be cost-efficient, even if the activities were completed at low cost. This means it is important to view the costs of the operation in relation to what you believe you can achieve, as well as how many – and which – people the operation is targeted towards.
When the programme managers at the Palme Center assess cost-efficiency, they look at aspects such as whether the costs of the activities are justified by the anticipated results. As a rule of thumb, the fewer people stated as the target group, the more important it is that these people are, or have the potential to be, key change players in the environment in which they are active.
You should run an assessment of cost-efficiency both during the planning phase of the operation and following the conclusion of the project. In the planning phase, the project groups can assess different options for achieving a given result.
Questions you could ask include:
- What is the method that requires the fewest resources to achieve the desired goal?
- Are all activities needed to achieve the goal?
- Will we reach enough people?
- Will we reach the right people?
- Would it be better to train a small number of people, who can then teach others?
A justification of the budget can be included both in the budget template and in the “Budget” section of the application. For example, you could justify why you have chosen to hold training courses in a remote region with the associated high travel costs, rather than holding several smaller courses close to the capital city.
Drawing conclusions at the end of the operation
On completion of the operation, it is relevant to assess how well the goals were achieved and at what cost. Are the costs reasonable in relation to the level of goal fulfilment? Would we have been able to achieve greater goal fulfilment using the same resources in a different way? In this way, lessons learned can be applied in future projects.
For the financial officer in the working group
There is detailed advice for the financial officer responsible for the project/operation. It concerns bank accounts, interest, procurement, what to do if there are funds left over or if the budget needs to be revised, as well as how to handle documents and receipts.