The state government and a number of Western Australian not-for-profit organisations have expressed their support for the creation of a standardised accounts system, similar to those used in Queensland and New South Wales, to streamline the process of app
The state government and a number of Western Australian not-for-profit organisations have expressed their support for the creation of a standardised accounts system, similar to those used in Queensland and New South Wales, to streamline the process of applying for government grants.
Last week, representatives from the human services industry roundtable – made up of not-for-profit and government agencies – met to discuss ways to make grants applications simpler.
Currently, many government agencies and grants bodies use different definitions of key terms to assess applications for funding, creating additional paperwork for organisations and confusion over eligibility.
The forum was addressed by Professor Myles McGregor-Lowndes, director of the Centre of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies at Queensland University of Technology (QUT).
During the past two years, the centre, along with the Queensland government’s treasury department and the not-for-profit sector, has developed a standard chart of accounts and dictionary of financial terms for not-for-profit organisations that receive government funding.
Professor McGregor-Lowndes said the system was designed to overcome inconsistencies in the grants application process.
“Not-for-profits usually don’t have one source of funding from government, they have multiple sources,” he told WA Business News.
“The problem is that each government department, and often each funding unit within the government departments, has a very different definition of wages, salaries and postage.”
Professor McGregor-Lowndes said the research team had discovered 113 different definitions of wages and salaries used by Queensland government departments, with a further 15 definitions of postage.
Both Queensland and NSW have adopted a standard accounts charter, with NSW making some amendments to Queensland’s original document.
WA Network of Alcohol and Other Drug Agencies executive director, Jill Rundle, said the organisation’s 90 members would benefit greatly from a standardised system.
Ms Rundle said most of the network’s members had multiple reporting requirements to adhere to.
“It would certainly add to simplifying and streamlining the process of financial reporting,” she said.
Ms Rundle said that, while a standard charter would be beneficial in the long term, changes could be made sooner using informal guidelines.
“My sense was it will take time to actually put (the charter) in place, but there’s good will from the various funding bodies to work towards it,” she said.
“We could put guidelines in place quicker than government legislation, if we could justify the model, so you could see benefits earlier.”
According to Western Australian Council of Social Service senior policy officer, Lynn MacLaren, the ultimate objective is for a national body to manage the intellectual property of the charter, with all the states coming under its jurisdiction.
Ms MacLaren said there was no consistency in the grants application process between federal and state governments and other funding bodies.
“Right now, organisations have a multitude of different ways of handling their accounts and acquittal of grants,” she said.
Ms MacLaren said a common system would also benefit government, by making financial information about grant expenditure more transparent.
“It would be amazingly beneficial, not just for not-for-profit organisations that can reduce their administration costs and time spent on accounts,” she said.
Ms MacLaren said the industry roundtable had considered other issues, such as assessing the value of work performed by not-for-profits.
“The not-for-profit sector has identified that one of the challenges for us is basically asking for what we’re worth and making sure that we’re costing everything in,” she said.
Communities Minister Sue Ellery said support was needed from the federal government to establish a national standard chart of accounts, while Minister Assisting the Minister for Federal-State Relations, Margaret Quirk, said not-for-profit organisations and charities faced the same red tape issues as small business and required special consideration.