Thursday, July 15, 2010

PO Closure and Reconciliation Workbench

Issue Source: Atlas Helpdesk, Workshops, BOM Units

Affected Parties: Country Offices, OFA, OLPS

Categorization: Efficiency – Office Organization/User Capacity, Availability - System Speed/Connectivity

1. Closure of Purchase Orders

In many cases, we have found it difficult to ensure country offices regularly close purchase orders. This was clear during the BOM Regional Workshops, when review of obligation queries showed that obligations were still being recorded for POs as old as 2004. Over the past two years, a team from OIST and the Atlas helpdesk has assisted by closing a number of purchase orders that were fully matched. However, they could not closed purchase orders that had not been matched or had only been partially matched, as it would be necessary to consult with the buyer in order to determine whether POs should be closed.

Because open purchase orders often result in encumbrances being recorded against the GL, they have a financial impact on UNDP. If the purchase orders do not have the proper status, it can lead to misstated expenditure and delivery. Thus, it’s very important for offices to review in detail all open purchase orders to determine which ones remain as obligations. Those that are no longer open obligations should be closed so that any remaining funds can be credited.

The current closing instructions emphasize the importance of reviewing purchase orders for closure, and in using the correct dates in closing purchase orders in the workbench. Not only does regularly closing purchase orders ensure more accurate expenditure is recorded in the CDR and other official reports, but it helps ensure that more reports, regardless of source, are in sync.

Part of the difficulty with ensuring country offices regularly review and close purchase orders as needed lies with the shared responsibility of the closure function. Buyers are the most knowledgeable of the situation with the vendor and are typically the ones that are most aware of which purchase orders remaining outstanding, with further goods or services to be delivered by the vendor and/or further amounts to be paid. They are also typically the only ones to have direct access to the workbench function since finance users are not provided with most Purchasing functions in Atlas.

Material was presented at the 2006 BOM Regional Workshops to stress the importance of regular PO closure. Further, specific procedures were provided in using the workbench so that proper dates are recorded on transaction closure. While the intent was for participants to take back this material for colleagues in their offices, we will distribute additional material shortly over the networks for the benefit of the wider office.

Further, during the 2006 close, Office of Finance may decide to centrally close some older POs that have not yet been closed by country offices (i.e. 2004 POs).

2. Workbench Performance

The Reconciliation Workbench often takes a substantial amount of time to closed purchase orders. Sometimes, the time exceeds the maximum limitations, resulting in a timeout. Usually the workaround for this problem is to narrow the workbench criteria to retrieve a smaller sample. We have communicated to users in the past that they need to use smaller sets of POs in the workbench if they encounter these problems.

Due to the nature of the Reconciliation Workbench, improving the performance may involve re-writing portions on the code, instead of simple indexing. Some re-write was done over one year ago, but more review and investigation is probably necessary to correct the worsening situation.

The Reconciliation Workbench is an important part of the PO lifecycle, and has direct impacts on funds in Commitment Control and Encumbrance Accounting. If performance becomes too slow for country offices to adequately close POs, this may lead to incorrect calculation of obligations and problems with budget errors.

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