Here are some precautionary tales from Finance - highlighting some key areas to be aware of where colleagues, or suppliers, have been negatively affected because there were misunderstandings, or a lack of knowledge, about financial rules.
When expenses leave colleagues out-of-pocket
Suppliers shouldn't have to chase payment
UEA cannot buy vouchers to thank volunteers
If you have any finance queries please look at Meet the team or contact your School Office and we'll discuss options with you.
One way colleagues find themselves out-of-pocket is buying things they need for work and then being unable to reclaim the expenditure. UEA has a formal agreement with HMRC to limit staff expenses to travel costs and incidental expenses only. Unfortunately, there are instances where colleagues and students have not been able to be reimbursed for items they’ve claimed. For example, paying for pens, DVDs, travel insurance, hardware or design services (which were not emergency purchases incurred travelling on UEA business). Staff should buy equipment, goods and services either with a Purchasing Card (if less than £500) or through UEA’s online purchasing system (ABW).
Please note that UEA has a travel insurance provider for staff and will no longer fund travel insurance which has been sourced from an alternative provider. Travel insurance must be booked prior to each overseas trip: https://portal.uea.ac.uk/en/finance/insurance/travel
Often, where colleagues have worked with suppliers before, they’ve reported that it’s much quicker to phone a supplier to request work starts on a new flyer, for example, than to use UEA’s online purchasing system (ABW) which generates a Purchase Order for the supplier. Suppliers shouldn’t accept orders and start work without a Purchase Order number, but if they do, this often delays payment as invoices will be rejected and returned to them. This is to protect UEA, administrative colleagues and the individual who’s placed the order, as failure to comply with Financial Regulations may result in disciplinary proceedings.
It is very easy for external and internal auditors to see where invoices have been received before a Purchase Order has been raised; and therefore not financially compliant. A Purchase Order is a legally binding document between a supplier and UEA. It provides concrete instructions for the supplier as well as a paper trail that can be used as a point of reference if things go wrong. For example, it is not uncommon to receive duplicate invoices from a supplier, or for delivered goods to be "not quite what you asked for". Suppliers can spend a lot of time querying and chasing payment and may be unwilling to deal with us in the future. Orders should be placed with a Purchasing Card or via ABW to ensure suppliers are paid on time and we purchase ethically, responsibly and legally.
“4,000 small and medium-sized enterprises ceased trading in 2008, citing late payment as the cause”, (1)
(1)Cabinet Office and Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, “Paying government suppliers on time”, 2015
One question we're often asked in Finance, is how to buy vouchers to thank students for volunteering with an event or project. However, we can only reimburse expenses directly incurred by the volunteer - for example, the cost of travel and meals out whilst volunteering. In order to reimburse expenses, we need to collect receipts from volunteers.
Any thank you gifts (vouchers, books, chocolates) is classed by HMRC as a benefit in kind if provided by UEA. Legally this is classed as payment for work and would fall under minimum wage legislation. You can pay students to support events and projects through Payroll and you can, of course, buy personal gifts from your own money.
You can give vouchers as a prize if this is advertised and open to all.