Reports from Ryan Lim
One recurring problem faced by organizations and offices in the University is financing projects and events. Cases of carelessness in certain transactions have occurred in many student organizations, specifically when it comes to reimbursement. Until recently, however, this issue was typically overlooked.
As established in the current Student Activities Manual, the University provides financial support to all recognized student organizations and groups through allotted budgets for their activities. These student organizations, in return, must be responsible in managing their respective finances and must comply with the policies and guidelines regarding its use.
General protocol for modes of payment
As the mother organization of the of accredited professional (PROF), special interest (SPIN), and socio-civic organizations, the Council of Student Organizations (CSO) is accountable for overseeing the preparation, execution, documentation, and financing of the projects and initiatives. Its Finance Executive Team, in particular, assures the efficient flow and maximum of the financial transactions of the organizations. CSO Executive Vice Chairperson for Finance Marg Vasquez points out that cash advance is the immediate measure when financing for operating expenses, while reimbursement serves an alternative.
Mechanical Engineering Society (MES) Finance Vice President Bianca Yiu explains that finance committee must coordinate with the documentations committee when processing a cash advance. Yiu also expounds the relevance of the petty cash fund as a substitute for cash advance. “If cash advance was not done for the activity, the organization has to use the petty cash fund provided so that the organization would be able to pay for expenses,” she states.
This is also the case for the Chemical Engineering Society (ChEn) as Finance Head Amos Tan discloses that reimbursement and petty cash replenishment (PCR) were the methods that the organization uses whenever there is no cash advance. “Everybody keeps doing reimbursement because its difference from PCR is basically the amount. PCR has to be small while reimbursement is unlimited,” he elaborates.
Before this academic year, the administration was already discouraging reimbursements despite the process being relatively simple. As mentioned by Center for Social Concern and Action (COSCA) Finance Officer Micah Del Carmen, the process flow for cash reimbursement usually takes eight to ten working days within the term that the activity has been implemented. For COSCA, it is the coordinator in-charge of the COSCA Lasallian Outreach & Volunteer Effort (LOVE) and the De La Salle Red Cross (DLS-RCY) who manages the proceedings.
Del Carmen elaborates that in order to ensure accurate reimbursement, COSCA follows a fixed outline. Once the reimbursement form has been filled up and official receipts are submitted, the coordinator in-charge reviews and files a letter which contains the breakdown of expenses. The Payment Requisition Slip (PRS) and budget certification, then, must be acquired from the finance officer. The approved PRS is passed to the accounting office which usually takes five processing days before the coordinator can go to the bank for encashment.
In most organizations, the finance officer is the person primarily responsible for monitoring the reimbursement status. Yiu affirms that the whole operation usually takes at least one month depending on the workload of the accounting office as well as the amount of money.
Even with the seemingly straightforward approach to cash reimbursement, the administration has solely decided to ban any reimbursement processes starting this academic year, specifically at the start of the second term. This may have been done in order to prevent any overspending and possible manipulation of reimbursements according to Vasquez.
Addressing previous issues
There have also been several cases when project heads and members had to take out money from their own pockets. Last year, a former DLSU Rotaract member financed a project on his own and was never reimbursed as the finance committee told him that his receipts were wrong only two months after the event.
Vasquez proposes that one way to avoid any predicament concerning financial processes is to keep track of receipts for both sides —the finance committee and the person who paid the money as reimbursement. She also mentions that the accounting office only acknowledges four legitimate receipts: official receipt, collection receipt, sales and voice receipt, and cash and voice receipt. “Following the rule, usually, if a document is pended, we return it immediately after we audit it. It would be put [in their respective] folders,” she says.
She also sees two possible explanations for why it took several weeks before the issue was taken care of—an error on the part of CSO or the organization itself. “Kasi if the person wants reimbursement for that, the org could give it to him naman, even if [it is given] late,” she explains in a mixture of English and Filipino. “But the problem is yung pag-kukuha lang ng receipt ulit, because establishments really don’t give, kasi bilang lang yun di ba?” she added. As for the fault of the organization, Vasquez thinks that they may have failed to include it in the envelopes or they weren’t able to address it immediately.
Prohibition of reimbursement and necessary adjustments
As stated in the manual, there are five legal processes that organizations and groups can execute in obtaining money as fund: cash advance, direct payment, liquidation, reimbursement, and book transfer. However, the administration has decided to forbid members of the organization from using their personal money for expenses incurred for a specific activity starting this school year.
For CSO, the members were forced to resort to other means ever since reimbursement was outlawed. “We have no choice but to always process direct payment for it and if hindi nakapag-cash advance, they (the organizations) would really do book transfer,” Vasquez enumerated. “Kung ano meron sa loob, they would utilize it. Kung hindi talaga kaya, they have to get suppliers sa labas,” she added. (They would utilize whatever is left inside. If it’s still not sufficient enough, they have to get suppliers outside.)
Yiu explains that this is also the case for MES as the organization had to conduct a different financing procedure which is book transfer, also an alternative for petty cash fund. “If the petty cash fund is not enough, the organization uses supplies that can be found within school so that book transfer can be used since the school no longer permits reimbursements,” she shares. As for ChEn, the finance committee are forced to make use of PCR and divide the expenses into portions.
Suggested preventive measures
In order to avoid serious cases concerning financial processes, particularly reimbursements, there are certain rules and requirements that must be observed by members and project heads.
Engineering College Government (ECG) Finance Vice President Patrick Apacible emphasizes the importance of securing proper receipts. “We always remind project heads that if there are any expenses, it is necessary to provide official receipts with required details,” he shares. Apacible also points out how the preparation phase of an activity is crucial in dodging major complications. “It depends on the planning of a project so everything can be prepared earlier, and importantly, all expenses must be budgeted and estimated to only what they really need,” he stresses.
For Yiu, communication is equally significant in preventing problematic matters. “It would be best to inform all members of the organization which receipts are valid and accepted by the accounting office,” she imposes.
Aside from receipts, constant supervision on documents was also another suggestion given by Vasquez. “For the document tracking, you must have at least one person who rigorously checks the documents,” she underlines. “Keep bumping in order to not lose track because all finance [committees] of organizations have a tracker so they can know who’s at fault. Yun yung kulang,” she continues.
In spite of the prohibition of reimbursements, Vasquez thinks that the administration should still regard certain cases as exemptions. “As I see it now, everything is kind of fixed because we follow procurement, so most transactions are [done through] direct payment. It’s safer than reimbursement, but if there’s one thing I would really suggest, give exemptions sana, kasi there would come a time that you have no choice but to reimburse,” she continues, “I see it happening anytime soon because palaki nang palaki ang mga events ngayon.”