Going behind-the-scenes

Financial management might not be glamorous, but is the key to WaterHarvest’s impact

This week’s blog highlights the importance of financial management and the role of Dinesh Sharma, the finance manager in our India office. Whilst Dinesh’s work is often in the background, it is fundamental to ensuring the impact of our donors’ money is maximised. At WaterHarvest, we continually evaluate our systems and processes to ensure strong financial management, whilst also trying to make reporting simple for our partners.

On the ground in India

Dinesh Sharma has been finance manager of WaterHarvest India for 12 years. His responsibilities include maintaining the India office accounts and various legal compliances, monitoring projects’ finances and ensuring that resources planned for all WaterHarvest partners are in-line with the approved budget and agreement with the partner’s organizations. Dinesh is in-touch with the financial director of each of our implementing partner organisations on a regular basis. We focus on building strong relationships with them so that together we can deliver programmes in the most effective way. Based in Udaipur and a Rajasthani by birth, Dinesh’s work also includes overcoming linguistic and cultural hurdles – not to mention the time zone differences around the world.

In the Winchester office

The UK office also plays an important role in financial management. Dawn Flach, our UK Operations Manager and an employee of WaterHarvest for 15 years, oversees the budgets and payments to the India office and to the implementing partners. In addition, the UK-based Programme Committee meets every quarter to assess new project proposals and review the quarterly reports of current projects. The seven-strong UK committee includes a university lecturer of International Development, a geography teacher, a doctor of metallurgy and a medical doctor. Om, Somendra and Dinesh all join these meetings via video conference from India.  Close attention is paid to budgets and delivery targets, with challenges and successes all being discussed.

Working with implementing partners throughout

The best results are achieved when work is done collaboratively. Some of our implementing partners are larger and more experienced; others are smaller and need more guidance on how to strengthen their financial management and internal controls. WaterHarvest holds regular group meetings with all our partners, discussing what we expect of them in terms of financial reporting. We also ask for feedback on our reports and systems. Spreadsheets and forms take time to complete, which could be spent in the field, and we therefore listen closely to the feedback of beneficiaries and try to work with our partners to reduce the burden on them, whilst also ensuring we get the information we need to monitor the project.

Flexibility in project budgets

Whilst financial control is important, so is being flexible with project budgets. We recognise that things happen outside of anyone’s control and funds within a project sometimes need to be reallocated. This often needs to happen relatively quickly. For example, a partner recently found that government funding became available for a roof rainwater harvesting structure for a school, so wanted to reallocate the funds to restore a village pond. We have also had instances of a panther in a village, which prevented work being carried out – the project therefore required a time extension. In these instances, we can often get authorisation for funds to be reallocated within 24 hours. Short lines of communication and decision-making are key here.

See what Tim Good of the Matthew Good Foundation had to say

Don’t just take our word for it! One of our supporters, Tim Good (from the Matthew Good Foundation) recently went out to India to see our projects and take a closer look at the work WaterHarvest does, its impact and its governance. As part of this, he went into our Udaipur office and met with Dinesh. They spent time looking at the financial records, noting the financial processes in place and, after some probing questions, Tim came back impressed. Take a look at what he had to say in this short film:

This week’s blog was written by Dinesh Sharma and Nicola Floyd.

About Dinesh: Dinesh is the Finance Manager of WaterHarvest India. He has been associated with WaterHarvest since 2007 and is currently involved in India office accounts, legal compliances and partners’ projects financial planning and monitoring. Dinesh’s former experience includes Accounts, Audit and taxation works in the development and corporate sector. He holds a master’s degree in Commerce and has participated in various training programs on financial management and legal compliances for non-profit organizations.

About Nicola: Nicola is WaterHarvest’s CEO. She is lives in Wiltshire in the UK. Prior to working in the development sector, she worked in investment banking in Hong Kong, New York, Bangkok and London.

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