Providing financial management services throughout Namibia

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by Maria Pimenta, NNF Finance Manager

As well as developing, initiating, supporting and implementing conservation and sustainable development projects across Namibia, the Namibia Nature Foundation also administers and manages funds and grants for partners, donors, communities, the private sector and the Namibian Government.

One of the key objectives when establishing the NNF 25 years ago was for it to act as an independent financial conduit and manager of conservation funds. Since then its finance team has always played a critical role in the NNF and its partners’ many and diverse projects and programmes.

The role of the NNF finance team has been targeted yet broad. It has involved not only the day-to-day administering of funds, but also assisted with strengthening natural-resource institutions across the country (local to national), and helping to build financial capacity in the fields of renewable natural resources- and sustainable development. All of these require a healthy finance team and strong finance leadership, which the NNF has endeavoured to provide both internally and externally.

Finance manual

The NNF developed a comprehensive and substantial Finance Manual many years ago as the financial policy basis for all NNF services. This manual forms the bedrock of the Foundation’s approach to financial management for those partners whose funds it manages. Its content, however, is not set in stone, but is amended and augmented to adapt to the ever-changing environment in which it works. Its scope includes everything from accounting structures, banking, financial reporting, procurement and investing, to managing fixed assets, insurance and cash.

The NNF has collaborated with most ministries in Namibia. Over the years it has worked with more than 30 local and international NGOs, and over 30 community-based organisations across the country. In addition, the NNF supports other community organisations through partner NGOs.

In facilitating financial management and support to the various partners, the NNF has a wide range of donors, including multi-lateral institutions, bi-lateral government donors, international NGOs and local business sector partners in Namibia. From each of these donors, be they international agencies such as USAID, EU, FAO, UNDP and GIZ, or local ones such as Nedbank Namibia and NamPower, varying degrees of financial management and reporting are required (some extremely complicated) in terms of processes and regulations.

However, the NNF is proud that in its 25-year history it has never had a qualified audit. The financial records and all project funds are audited every year by an independent auditing firm, currently Swart Grant Angula, and to date the quality of the finance team has encouraged partners old and new to continue working collaboratively with the NNF in managing and administering their finances.

LIFE programme

The NNF finance team is comprised of qualified and experienced staff, currently managed by Mrs Maria Shaetonhodi (previously Pimenta). One of the exceptional benefits of the NNF administering project finances for the 60+ active projects is the quick turnaround period on payments. In most cases payments are made by electronic transfer within 36 hours of receipt of payment requests, far quicker than the standard 30-day turnaround period in other institutions offering similar services.

Over and above financial administration and management, institutional support and capacity building in the area of finances have been a significant component of the NNF’s focus, particularly at community and conservancy level. As a prime example, through Namibia’s CBNRM USAID-funded LIFE programme – Living in a Finite Environment – the NNF has been a key implementer, and has played a major role in the CBNRM programme for 17 years. One of its objectives has been to grow empowerment, capacity and skills at local levels, particularly financial management capacity for conservancies.

To provide some perspective of the scale of the development of the CBNRM programme, incomes from the overall CBNRM programme grew from zero in 1994 to about N$42.48 million in 2009. Income to conservancies generates a need to manage these benefits and their distribution. Collaboratively, the NNF’s CBNRM unit and finance department developed tools and guidelines to train conservancy committees and staff with the necessary skills to manage conservancy finances, and played an active role in training delivery.

The NNF continues to provide significant financial support to the CBNRM sector, specifically the umbrella body NACSO (the Namibian Association of Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) Support Organisations), for whom it is the financial administrator and treasurer. Other key partners the NNF currently supports include the NANGOF (Namibia Non-Governmental Organisations’ Forum) Trust, which runs a large EU Civil Society Capacity Building Programme to strengthen and support effective and sustainable civil society participation and contributions towards national development.

Management of grants

Lastly, but definitely not least, one of the NNF’s most important functions lies in the management of grants, which has resulted in many people across Namibia assuming that the NNF is, in fact, a donor. However, over the past decade the financial management and administering of grants has been something upon which the NNF has built a strong reputation, working collaboratively with the UNDP Small Grants Programme, UNAIDS, Nedbank Namibia’s Go Green Fund, WWF-Namibia’s Conservancy Small Grants, FAO’s National Forestry Programme and others. The NNF’s strong financial management capacity, combined with its technical ability in conservation and sustainable development, has enabled it to manage grants worth millions of dollars successfully for projects and initiatives across the country.

So… when next you see the NNF logo, read a story about us in the media or pass one of our vehicles on the road, remember that the role we play for conservation and sustainable development extends far beyond that of ‘saving trees and wildlife’. The Foundation is also a key financial management institution and administrative partner with the public and private sectors, critically to those who need it most – communities in rural areas.

If you are interested in learning more about our capacity and what we can offer, feel free to visit us or give us a call, as our aspiration to work across various sectors with respect to financial management is boundless.

This article appeared in the 2012 edition of Conservation and the Environment in Namibia.

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