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Module 8: Project Closeout

2.10 Financial data management

Project closeout focuses heavily on the financial compliance obligations of the project. It is absolutely essential to complete all items on the financial checklist prior to the end date of the project. Once the end date is reached no further expenditure can be made against the project.

Table 2.3: Example of financial closeout checklist

Question What needs to be done
Are there any discrepancies between revenue and expenditure? If revenue and expenditure do not match up, or if there is a variance compared to the project agreement or if the project is financially over- or under-committed, you should seek advice from your research office or financial officer.
Are there any outstanding purchase orders. Outstanding purchase orders need to be costed to another project or finalised prior to the funding end date.
Are there any outstanding accounts payable invoices (invoices on hold and invoices requiring approval)? Invoices on hold need to be released prior to the funding end date.
Are there any outstanding internal transactions? Outstanding internal transactions need to be costed to another project or finalised prior to the funding end date.
Are there any outstanding accounts receivable invoices? If there are any outstanding invoices for which the payment has not been received these invoices need to be followed up immediately. If these invoices are not paid in time before the project ends they maybe regarded as “bad debts” and be charged to the department’s operating account.
Are there any outstanding staff commitments? Any outstanding staff commitments need to be paid and need to be either transferred to another project or finalised before the funding end date. Any staff commitments extending past the funding end date are going to be transferred to the departments operating account.
Are there any outstanding stipend commitments? If there are currently any scholarships paid by the project they either need to be transferred to another project or finalised before the project end date. Any commitments past the funding end dates are going to be charged to the Department’s operating account. If the scholarship stipend needs to be changed the appropriate office in the university needs to be engaged to help with that.
Are there any outstanding fixed assets? It is advisable to discuss with the university finance office the rules pertaining to fixed capitalised assets. It is important to be able to account for assets and identify their location at any given time.
Are there any outstanding deliverables? If there are any outstanding deliverables against milestones the possibility exists that funds will need to be returned.

Some funding agencies and sponsors require audited financial reports and therefore the time to do an external review has to be factored into the closeout process. Generally the finance or research office of the university is able to advise chief investigators about the necessary steps at project closeout if an audited financial report is required.

Financial issues arise if the chief investigator had not asked for permission to carry over funds when there has been a late start to the project. If permission has not been asked to alter the end date and carry over funds, the project will be treated according to its original funding agreement with the end result that deliverables are not met at the time the project and the funding ends.

It is vital that all requests to the funding agencies for changes to the schedule, scope or budget be made in writing and not only over the phone. Even if the initial conversation and a verbal agreement were by phone this has to be followed up with a written statement by email or in hard copy so that a variance to the agreement can be made. Requests for variances to the project agreement should not be made for trivial reasons.

You may wish to consult Module 5: Financial, Resource and Risk Management for more information.

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