Magazine article Policy & Practice

Financial Accountability of Human Service Agencies

Magazine article Policy & Practice

Financial Accountability of Human Service Agencies

Article excerpt

"Government Is Criticized On Oversight of Head Start,"
March 18, 2005, The New York Times

"D.C.'s Anti-Poverty Agency Is Under Federal Scrutiny; Possible Fiscal
Irregularities Questioned,"
March 24, 2004, The Washington Post

"Ethics Charges Filed Against Top Officials Of Nassau Health Unit,"
April 24, 2003, The New York Times

Three different headlines, but they all tell the same story--supporting the functioning of human service organizations is a financial challenge. The work of these agencies, coupled with limited money, results in a pressing need for close attention to financial management. Frequent newspaper accounts of financial irregularities underscore the increasing call for accountability. The public wants to know, and feels it has the right to know just how and where public money is spent.

In order to guard against distortion of an agency's true financial health and to achieve credibility with clients, donors, lawmakers, and the public, every human service agency must be financially accountable. Financial accountability is as much a legal concern as it is a fiscal concern. How can we tell if a human service agency is being run in a financially accountable way? Here are 12 questions agency administrators should ask themselves:

1. Who is the one person responsible for managing the accountability structure of each of the agency's units?

2. Who is the one person responsible for ensuring that the structure clearly defines all areas of responsibility?

3. Is there one person who can delegate financial management tasks within each unit?

4. Are all of the tasks of each of the agency's units clearly defined and assigned to qualified people?

5. Does any worker have any conflicting duties?

6. In terms of being financially accountable, does everyone fully understand what is expected of them?

7. Do workers know whom to contact if certain accounting problems arise?

8. Does each person have sufficient training to complete his or her assigned tasks?

9. Does each person have the knowledge and experience to make sound financial judgments concerning each task he or she is assigned?

10. Whose job is it to ensure that there is a reasonable distribution of work in accordance with the available resources?

11. Who is responsible for keeping current records of various aspects of the agency's financial accountability? …

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