The Office for National Statistics has benefited from developing a detailed closure timetable - Office for National Statistics

1 Jul 2010 - 12:00am

To improve its financial and management reporting, in 2006 the ONS decided to upgrade its finance function and created new posts of financial controller and financial accountant.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is the executive office ofthe UK Statistics Authority, a non-ministerial department. The UK Statistics Authority reports directly to Parliament. The ONS is the UK Government's single largest statistical producer. It is based at three sites in England and Wales.

It employs 2,200 staff and had a budget of £237 million in 2008-09.

Summary of the initiative

To improve its financial and management reporting, in 2006 the ONS decided to upgrade its finance function and created new posts of financial controller and financial accountant. At the same time, new accounting software (Oracle) was installed to automate as much ofthe process as possible. The new modules included general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable and e-procurement modules.

The ONS took the view that, by investing resources up front, they could develop a fit-for-purpose reporting timetable, which would make the best use of Oracle's functionality.

Benefits obtained and success factors

The ONS produces detailed closure timetables for each month end. The timetables cover the procedures for accounts payable and receivable, management accounts production and financial management reporting. The timetables also allow financial and management accounts, including a balance sheet, notes, cashflow statement etc, to be produced by day seven following the month end. These accounts are prepared on an accruals basis with internal recharges also posted each month.

Management Board Report Packs are available on day eight. Each month, directors and budget holders receive detailed status reports including explanations for variances. Revised outturn figures are run by the end of the following month. These arrangements are reinforced by accounting reconciliations, which are strictly monitored and signed off each month. The ONS carries out a further higher level review each quarter.

In this way, close attention is paid to financial control and budget monitoring. Issues and problems can be identified and resolved early. A similar schedule is prepared for the end of year processes. A set of accounts is ready by the first week of May.

The audit process has benefited from the strength ofthese procedures. The ONS auditors are able to examine, with confidence, the nine month accounts. Combined with the speedy preparation ofthe draft accounts, this enables the audit to be completed by the end of May.

From a human resources point of view, a high value is placed on staff training, especially in obtaining accountancy qualifications. This together with the success of the reporting process has led to a highly developed professional culture within the finance department.

The outcome achieved 

By using the same financial and management reporting process for both the monthly and the year end routines, the ONS can produce its annual accounts within the same timeframe. This assists their auditors in completing their audit within two months of the year end.

Name: John Finch
Role: Finance and Atlas
Telephone: 01633 652747
Email: john.finch@ons.gsi.gov.uk

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