Thursday, July 15, 2010

Agency Reporting (Service Clearing Account)

Issue Source: OFA, Agencies, Atlas Helpdesk

Affected Parties: Headquarters, Country Offices, Agencies

Categorization: Reporting – Report Accuracy, Efficiency – Office Organization/User Capacity

The agency report, also called the Service Clearing Account report, is used to report to UN agencies outside of Atlas payments made on their behalf as well as other charges such as billing. The report is issued by headquarters to the agencies, but is often used at the country office level for review and to assist in responding to agency questions.

The Service Clearing Account report was completely redesigned in early 2006. The new report has been used for all 2006 agency reporting. The earlier version of the report had numerous problems, the most substantial being that the same agency charges were often present in the report in multiple months. While these duplicates could be identified because of their attributes, this made reconciliation difficult, and led to a number of concerns with the agencies over whether they were being billed for the same agency activity multiple times. The root cause of this problem was an agency report submission cycle (monthly) that did not match with the Atlas closing cycle (at the time, yearly). To resolve the problem, the report was modified so that activity would be included in the report based on the date it was posted to the ledger. This and the other changes to the report have significantly reduced the number of agency issues that were system in nature. Other changes included better formatting of the report, consistent information across Excel (data file) and PDF versions, specific fields for agency reference and ULO capture, and additional information from transaction sources included in the report.

However, there are still a substantial amount of agency related charges in question, especially from prior years. Office of Finance has been assisting the user community to follow up with the agencies on these questions.

Despite the improvements, there still remain a few issues with the agency report. Currently, the agency reference and ULO fields are not captured directly in either GL journal entries or AR deposits (directly journals). For GL journal entries, users have been requested to use the description fields on the journal to enter this information. While this has been sufficient, there are still complaints that this is not as straightforward or as easy to read as the current voucher and billing activity, where three agency fields are captured separately and presented in their own separate columns on the report. For AR direct journals, there is only one small description field of thirty characters that can be used. This is often too small, and thus agency information is not adequately captured. Country offices often work around this problem by using a suspense account for the deposit, and reversing to the appropriate agency using either a GL journal entry or AP journal voucher. However, this is cumbersome.

A customization to add the agency fields to the AR direct journal and include these fields in the SCA report is in the investigation stage and may be implemented if feasible and cost-effective. This should improve the situation with AR deposits and agencies, which are primarily used for refunds.

At this time there is no plan to change the GL journal to include the three separate fields due to the complexity and cost of customizing the journal. Generally, the existing description fields are at least long enough to capture all of the information. If this becomes a bigger problem in the future, the decision not to customize may be revisited provided funds are available.

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