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Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Question About Grassroots Organizations' Accounts

It is with regrets that I had paid so little attention to accounting matters during my days of involving in Grassroots Organizations. Primarily I hate numbers. I prefer people, residents than mind boggling numbers.
But still I was able to put a stop to a project that could not give me a reasonable assurance of the project's self-sustainability, despite a majority support from the committee. Without elaborating, I have incurred a lot of wrath and even hate. The projects has a price tag beyond 300K and architect's sketches were produce for discussion.
Now that parliament is discussing about PA and GRO accounting procedures, it brought back some memories.
In those committees that I have sat in, there is a post of Treasurer, and Asst Treasurer, and that of an Auditor. I must say the Auditor was always questioning the Treasurer, and that too fed to my laziness about paying attention to the boring accounts reporting at every meeting.
Let me just put it this way, there is no absolute altruism in GRO involvement. There is bound to be personal interest somehow, where some are in hoping to form or be in "old boys club" while others thinks this kind of networking is cheaper than country clubs.
For me, I loved to play and have been playing games all my life. Chide me for treating community service as a game if you may, but you'll be a fool to think that a game cannot be serious, passionate, and even sacrificial. If I change the word from game to sports, it may sound more palatable to you.
Though we all have our unique interest in participating in Grassroots activities, not one can gain or profit directly from these organizations unless you blatantly cheats without others knowing. Every member is a check, and have their own individual reputation and dignity to protect. The system has not gap for pilfering.
Moving with times, I believe it is time to change. I do not believe there is a question of integrity, but the problem or issue lies with culture. The corporate culture of Grassroots Organizations needs to keep abreast with time and expectation.
Take PA accounting vs GRO accounting for example. My understanding may be vague, or even inaccurate. But it looks to me like this.....
Peoples' Association's consolidated account is one of the many handbags (no intention to be sexist) that links with the government vault. Money going into and coming out of these handbags are restricted by rules and subject to public accountability.
But within that handbag are compartments, even different wallets to manage internal use of money. A friend particularly during Lunar New Year uses different wallets inside her handbag to ensure that she will give the right amount of "hong bao" to differentiate the closeness of relations. Her adult son once gave a $2000/- "hong bao" which was intended for a client's kid to someone else.
GROs are special class of identities where, with the assistance from PA runs on grants and contributions from running activities and events. Most of the time revenues generated from community activities and events are insufficient and has to be compensated with grants to cover the expenses.
While having even to subject internal movements of "own-money" to external audit and scrutiny will increase spending by a lot, I think the money is going to be well spent even just to allay suspicion.
This will most probably increase workloads of accounting firms which may already be facing manpower crunch, but when there is no way out, then we probably has to admit more foreigners to help do the job so that transparency and accountability can be held high.

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