The preparation of annual financial statements and the word ‘simplicity’ are not often heard in the same sentence. However, thanks to the automation and compliance aspects which CQS’ CaseWare Working Papers brings to the financial department at the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality, it can – and does – make this bold claim.

Located in the Eastern Cape, the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality (NMBMM) is home to over a million people living in nearly 300 000 households. Within its 570 square kilometre area, the Municipality covers the city of Port Elizabeth, the towns of Uitenhage and Despatch and the surrounding agricultural areas.

According to Khaya Vaaltein, accountant at NMBMM, it had previously relied on spreadsheets in the preparation of annual financial statements. And while accountants have an avowed fondness for spreadsheets, he says the limitations were clear. “A municipality is a complex organisation with similarly complex financials. Assimilating a vast amount of information in spreadsheets is not only time consuming, but error-prone, frustrating and very inefficient,” he observes.

Since all public sector organisations must comply with the Public Finance Management Act, Generally Recognised Accounting Practice (GRAP) and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), Vaaltein says a mass of spreadsheet data also left NMBMM at risk of falling foul of the Auditor General. Vaaltein notes that when it comes to the annual financial statements, certainty rather than hope is required where the figures are concerned.

When it looked to CQS for a better solution, Vaaltein says the municipality had some confidence in the knowledge that the CaseWare Working Papers solution is available in a Public Sector edition – and that over 90 municipalties are using it successfully in their environments.

Specifically, Ross Hampton, CaseWare general manager at CQS, explains that the integrated solution for municipalities takes care of all reporting requirements in a single solution. “That means automation of the production of a full set of GRAP Financial Statements, National Treasury Returns and Budget Formats, and Management Reporting for municipalities. It also ensures complete, up-to-date compliance and disclosure requirements for GRAP,” he says.

Hampton explains that CaseWare is designed to deliver benefits around three key indicators. “These are efficiency, compliance and control.”

In terms of efficiency, he says the solution has a proven track record of reducing the time it takes to prepare financial statements. This allows for faster turnaround time year on year and reduced checking time.

Compliance is assured through a network of expert content partners, which consistently provide the most up-to-date disclosure for GRAP, National and Provincial Treasury. This minimises risk for the munipality and ensures statutory compliance.

Meanwhile, built-in validation immediately brings any discrepancies to the attention of the accounting staff. Along with automated lead schedules, this  increases accuracy and produces the highest quality financial statements.

Continuing, Vaaltein explains that in practice, CaseWare provides an academic and straightforward approach to the preparation of the annual financial statements. “Once trained up, the solution is user-friendly. It saves so much time that it’s hard to imagine how we managed to prepare the financials in the past. The level of efficiency is matched by the professional look of our statutory documents,” he says.

Using software smartly within the municipality substantially helps the organisation to focus on applying limited resources to the best benefit of the citizens to which it provides services. With sound accounting practices in place, supported by CQS software which ensures compliance with regulations and accuracy of financials, Vaaltein says he can only recommend the CaseWare solution. “Should this be used by all municipalities? I would definitely recommend it. The gains in efficiency, the saving in time and frustration and the ability to prepare professional statements quickly is made simply thanks to CQS CaseWare,” he concludes.

“A municipality is a complex organisation with similarly complex financials. Assimilating a vast amount of information in spreadsheets is not only time consuming, but error-prone, frustrating and very inefficient,”

Khaya Vaaltein