The Accountability Cycle - Program Accountability

Description:
Program Directors are accountable for the responsible management of their program within the budget as allocated. They are accountable to the Band Council for delivering programs in accordance with policy duly approved by Council or set out within a funding arrangement. They are also accountable to clients for the quality of service provided.

Purpose:
While Band Council is responsible for overall Band governance, Program Directors are responsible for the operational decisions that are made in the management, administration, and delivery of their programs and services.

Program accountability is made possible in several ways. First, program staff produce regular (monthly) financial reports in cooperation with the Financial Controller. These reports are summarized to give Council an ongoing overview of the fiscal health of each program and the Band as a whole (see Expenditure and Variance Reports).

The Mid-Year Report is the first formal chance Directors have to speak directly with Council since program budgets were approved. With assistance from the Band Manager and Financial Controller, Program Directors share the results of the first half of the fiscal year to Council, and present their cases for the second phase of appropriations (if applicable).

Another way in which Program Directors are held accountable is through annual performance reviews undertaken by Band Council. Many First Nations now utilize Program Manager Contracts (Program Managers commit to meeting specific objectives in a given time frame and within a specific budget). Annual performance reviews give Chief and Council an opportunity to ensure program accountability and ask questions related to program operations. This information exchange between management and government is one important way to maintain transparency and ensure disclosure.

As you can see, Program Accountability links to several other elements in the fiscal planning cycle. From the monies appropriated to the programs, Directors must move in directions that are in line with the Council's priorities. By working with the Financial Controller, Directors will have moved through the Budgetary Cycle to keep a handle on the financial situation of their programs. Finally, as we move through the Accountability Cycle, the reports, and actions undertaken throughout the year give input into the other accountability elements (e.g., Annual Report).

Process:
The Budgetary Cycle outlines how to develop monthly, mid-year, and year-end reports. Therefore, the process we will focus on in this section is the annual program review that takes place after the end of the fiscal year. The recommended approach follows.

  1. With assistance from the Financial Controller, Directors prepare year-end reports for Chief and Council by the middle of May (i.e., the 1st quarter of the following fiscal year).
  2. Chief and Council are given the opportunity to review the information in detail for each program and in summary format.
  3. Council schedules the annual review and Program Directors' presentations. Band Council may want to schedule these reports over several regular Band Council meetings or hold a special one-or two-day session particularly for this purpose.
  4. Program Directors, often with their key program staff involved, present a year-end analysis of program activities and financial status: (see sample Program Presentations Summary)

Sample Agenda

  1. Introduction and brief overview by Band Manager.

  2. Presentation by Program Director

    • General Program Information (description, mandate, clients served, funding sources, types of agreements).
    • Program Resources (staff, budget, equipment, buildings, other).
    • Operating Framework (legal issues, terms of funding, relevant Band policies, measures of success).

  3. Achievement of Mandate and Program Objectives.

  4. Outstanding Issues.

  5. Overview of program financial picture.

  6. Question and answer period from Chief and Council.

  7. Recommendations for future actions.

Timing:
Expenditure and Variance reports provide Council with a broad overview of program activities on a monthly and/or quarterly basis. The Mid-Year Review takes place near the end of the 2nd quarter (September). Year-End Program reviews can be undertaken starting in late May to cover activities of the past fiscal year. Most First Nations try to wrap these up by the end of June.