6. Key Operational considerations
In sub-grant relationships, a key financial management aim is to ensure that partners achieve adequate compliance with donor requirements. This presents a different set of issues to directly implemented projects. Different skills and attitudes are also needed to negotiate with and support partners. Some of the key issues include:
- Be flexible. Many of CARE’s financial practices are self-imposed. If there is room to relax requirements and be flexible within donor and audit rules, it is worth discussing this internally in the course of contract negotiations.
- Include a finance staff in the field team. This can help to ensure that programme and finance issues are handled in a ‘joined-up’ way, and ensure smoother processing of reports, better monitoring and hands-on technical assistance.
- Provide training and TA to partner finance managers. Where possible, make plans to train and assist partners based on capacity assessments. Certainly consider training on reporting, where formats are determined together.
- Finance staff should help with monitoring. This should not just be limited to formal activities, but can include keeping in contact with counterparts by making field visits and phone conversations to check progress and offer assistance.
- Avoid superior attitudes. It is normal for local agencies to have less-developed financial systems, and inappropriate to expect them to replicate CARE’s bulky systems. Rather than forcing new procedures on partners, focus instead on helping them to achieve adequate financial accountability using their own.
- Use (and budget for) external auditors where possible, or at least ensure that audits are conducted by financial staff not involved in managing partners.
See also Chapter 17 Finance.
Partner procurement, logistics and administration systems are often less developed than CARE’s. Their staff might also have limited capacity to scale-up or manage more complex procedures. This can raise concerns about compliance. Tips include:
- Partner operational systems and staff should be covered by assessments. This should be done by someone who understands procurement and logistics.
- Emergencies make procurement, warehousing and transport more difficult. Consider if it might be better for CARE to cover some of these functions.
- Compliance does not mean that partners must mimic CARE systems. Aim for adequate accountability, not for replication of what CARE does.
- Country Office procurement and logistics rules are often stricter than those of its donors; examples can include thresholds for bids and local shopping rules. Consider using this additional flexibility while still ensuring adequate controls.
- Give basic guidelines for procurement and logistics to partners. Include them in annexes to contracts (including, for example, rules on source origin and nationality).
- Provide sample formats for any logistics tasks that partners will undertake.
- Offer on-site training on warehousing/distribution where appropriate. Also consider seconding staff or having partner staff shadow CARE operations.
- Explain and, if necessary, help partners to put in place a simple system for asset management, and make sure rules on this are stated in the contract.
It is important to have a clear understanding of media protocols, sign-off procedures and visibility requirements during the partnership. A partnership may provide some confusion and frustration on this at times. Both partners want to be recognised for their work. But a partnership also provides an opportunity to complement each other’s media efforts. The following actions are recommended:
- Agree on how visibility of the partner and CARE (names, logos, etc.) will be handled in printed materials, accessories, field activity branding, etc.
- Agree with the partner how media communications will be handled.
- Keep partners informed on communications strategy and activities.
- Train partners on how to deal with the media.
- Ask partners to share communication material (photos, videos) from the field
- Mention partners in media communications (if they agree to be mentioned and it is safe to do so).
- Include partners in information provided to beneficiaries or other stakeholders.
- Assist partners to develop profiles or communications materials as needed.
- Consider how partners might be involved. Can they assist with local press? How can CARE help them to get local/national media attention?
- Think about using partner spokespeople, but brief and train them if you do.
See also Chapter 13 Media.
Increasingly this is becoming an important topic for CARE, as we are working in partnerships in countries like Syria and Somalia. To what extent does the “duty of care” also apply for our partners? Are we just transferring risks to our partners? Or do our local partners face reduced risks in comparison to us? CARE does have a responsibility to advice partners and support them with their security management. Some measures that CARE could take:
- Exchange information and analyses
- Jointly conduct risk analyses
- Discuss risk tolerance levels
- Develop contingency plans together
- Provide training and on the job coaching in security management
- Provide support in managing critical incidents
See also Chapter 14 Safety and security.