Part 3: Data collection and documentation standards

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise: Administration of grant programmes - follow-up audit.

In this Part, we discuss our findings on NZTE’s:

  • data collection and reporting; and
  • documentation standards and guidance.

Data collection and reporting

Overall finding from 2004 report

In 2004, the quality of data about the five grant programmes we examined varied. For some, it was difficult to get basic information such as the number of grant recipients and amounts paid out.

Our expectations

We expected NZTE to have improved its information systems to provide comprehensive information on all grants (including how much funding has been approved, how much has been paid out, and information about the grant recipients).

Our findings

Information systems on grants

NZTE’s information systems for administering grants have improved substantially since 2004. Pivotal, an electronic client management system, is now used for all grant programmes. This system can readily provide a range of information about grants and their recipients.

NZTE’s grant administration framework states that it is essential that all relevant transactions between NZTE and a recipient are promptly recorded in Pivotal. There should be enough information in the system for any staff member to access a recipient’s record and be able to hold a constructive meeting with them.

Use of Pivotal for grants in our audit sample

Pivotal was used for recording recipient and funding information for all the grants we examined. Most grants had important recipient information routinely entered into the system (such as contact information and addresses), although we identified several cases where some entry fields we expected to be completed were empty or not updated. For example, some records did not have the recipient’s GST number entered in the relevant field, and the system recorded some grants that had been closed as being in progress.

The extent to which the three grant programmes we examined used Pivotal varied. Overall, the EDG-MD programme tended to have the most comprehensive information stored electronically.

Use of electronic client management system

The variation in use of Pivotal may be partly because of a mixed range of guidance material available on when to use the system. User manuals for Pivotal were available for the SIF and EDG-MD programmes, but not for the GSF programme.

We understand that NZTE’s more generic Use of Pivotal Policy is under review, with the aim of reducing variation between grant programmes and reinforcing the importance of using Pivotal. In addition, a wider review of NZTE’s client management system is due to be completed by mid-2008 and will examine how Pivotal can be best set up to meet NZTE’s future requirements. Both of these reviews should provide NZTE with the opportunity to ensure consistent use of its client management system in a way that best meets its requirements.

Documentation standards and guidance

Overall finding from 2004 report

In 2004, we found variable standards of documentation held in all five of the grant programmes we examined. Some important documents were missing from some grant files, including applications or signed contracts.

Our expectations

We expected:

  • grant programmes to have
  • clear guidance to clarify the types of documents and information that should be held on file for approved grants; and
  • periodic checks of grant files to ensure that required information is complete.

Our findings

Documentation standards and guidance for grants

NZTE’s business process improvement reviews have put in place comprehensive documentation standards and guidance for grant programmes. The grant administration framework outlines general filing principles and requirements for grants. These principles are reiterated in operating guidelines for each grant programme, along with programme-specific requirements and instructions.

In our view, the document control system (see paragraph 2.8) is an effective way of controlling and tracking revisions to core documentation on the administration of grant programmes. For example, we were able to easily identify what amendments had been made to various updated versions of operating guidelines for the grant programmes we examined.

Checklists for required file documentation

Staff must use paper-based checklists for all grant files. These checklists are used to ensure that files contain all relevant documentation and information for an approved grant and its recipient. Links to electronically stored material can be recorded on checklists if required. This is sensible acknowledgement that documentation for a grant or recipient can be a mix of both paper-based and electronic referencing. Checklists are required to be kept at the front of each file and to be regularly updated and maintained.

Internal review of adherence to the framework

As noted earlier in Part 2, NZTE has reviewed grant programmes after changes were made to them under the business process improvement project. These reviews include testing that a random sample of grants from a grant programme meet the requirements of the grant administration framework, and that the grant files contain all required documentation as stated in the checklists. In our view, this is a useful way of both testing adherence to new grant administration processes and identifying training or improvement opportunities.

Adherence to required documentation standards

Overall, the documentation on the grant files we examined was well organised, and files were generally managed consistently. This appears to be at least partly the result of using the checklists, which have been designed to follow the distinct stages of administering a grant through its life cycle.1 Their use therefore encourages a logical filing of documentation. We were usually able to trace the progress of grants from application to closure, based on file documentation.

All the grant files we examined contained checklists, although we found some cases where the checklists had been only partially completed or had only recently been updated. In our view, grant administrators should ensure that checklists are routinely updated so that required grant documentation is complete.

Checking claims assessments for EDG-MD grants

The EDG-MD programme has a team of grant administrators who assess claims lodged by recipients against a detailed schedule of eligible and ineligible costs. To assist with this task, the administration team uses a custom spreadsheet to convert claimed costs made in foreign currencies into New Zealand dollars, inclusive of GST.

We found minor calculation errors with use of this spreadsheet in two of the 10 EDG-MD grants we examined. This resulted in incorrect claim amounts being approved. In one case, GST was incorrectly entered as 12.55%. In the other case, conversions for one currency were incorrectly applied, even though another currency in the same claim assessment was correctly converted. To help prevent these calculation errors, we suggest that NZTE review the design of its EDG-MD claims spreadsheet and that peer reviewers check completed claims calculations.

1: These stages include application, assessment, approval, contract, claims, and monitoring/reporting.

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