The focus this year is on transparency, with the 2015 handbook seeking to bring in new rules to ensure academies spend public money wisely and fairly
The annual Financial Handbook for Academies is rapidly becoming a rule book for the industry – and the 2015 edition contains several stand-out changes that need careful consideration.
Here are the three entries that you should spend time on:
Publishing the business and pecuniary interests of members, trustees and local governors on the trust’s website
Perhaps the headline entry, which may well leave governors with a conundrum.
Already trusts must capture relevant business and pecuniary interests of members, trustees and local governors, including directorships, partnerships and employments with businesses that provide goods or services to the trust.
Governors may not feel comfortable divulging such detailed information
Now, contentiously, the handbook includes a requirement for academies to publish details of relevant and pecuniary interests of members, trustees and local governors on the trust’s website, irrespective of whether or not there has been a transaction.
However, local governors, all volunteers, may not feel comfortable divulging such detailed information on such a public platform.
A range of new guidelines relating to transparency
Academies are publicly funded and there is an increasing focus – and an increasing public interest – on how their money is spent. This is reflected in the handbook that states an academy trust must publish on its website up-to-date details of its governance arrangements in a readily accessible form.
This must include:
• The structure and remit of the members, board of trustees, its committees and local governing bodies, and the full names of the chair of each (where applicable)
• For each member who has served at any point over the past 12 months, their full names, date of appointment, date they stepped down (where applicable), and relevant business and pecuniary interests, including governance roles in other educational institutions
• For each trustee and local governor who has served at any point over the past 12 months, their full names, date of appointment, term of office, date they stepped down (where applicable), who appointed them (in accordance with the trust’s articles), and relevant business and pecuniary interests including governance roles in other educational institutions
• For each trustee, their attendance records at board and committee meetings over the last academic year
• For each local governor, their attendance records at local governing body meetings over the last academic year
An academy trust’s register of interests must also identify close family relationships between members or trustees, and between members or trustees and the trust’s employees. A relative is defined as: a close member of the family, or member of the same household, who may be expected to influence, or be influenced by, the person. This includes, but is not limited to, a child, parent, spouse or civil partner.
Relaxation in requirements related to budget monitoring
Last year’s handbook required a trust’s internal control framework to include preparation of monthly management accounts (including income and expenditure reports on an accruals basis, cash flow forecasts and balance sheets as appropriate).
The 2015 handbook requires only “preparation of monthly budget monitoring reports”. This gives trusts much more autonomy in what information they maintain and, particularly for smaller trusts, is potentially more appropriate to their needs.