Government Connections - Fall 2015 - (Page 28)

FINANCES & BUDGETING CHECK BEFORE YOU WRITE THE CHECK BY SEVERINE BENNETT, CGMP, PMP EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ISPP We've all heard of it, if not seen it: The meeting planner who blindly signs off on an invoice with hardly a glance at the figures, let alone actually making sure they are correct. We want to believe they're correct. We don't want to take the time to check them and make certain they adhere to the contract terms, and we hate battling for corrections or engaging in "he-saidshe-said" arguments, and we want to believe that those generating the invoices are doing their job carefully and would catch any errors before sending them to us. But humans make mistakes. And, like it or not, checking the accuracy of invoices is part of a meeting planner's job - an important one. At one point in my career, I took over a position with a meeting that had already been planned and was being executed by a contracted meeting planning company. I had copies of the contracts, banquet event orders, etc., but other than observing at the meeting and then doing some portion of the post-meeting wrap-up, I was in the wings, allowing the contracted company to finish out their term. This happens frequently enough in the government world, where contracts with Company A are not renewed and go to Company B, so at times you can find yourself in an awkward position with the outgoing contractor in terms of work transition and hard feelings. This may result in the outgoing contractor 28 having little motivation to check invoices for accuracy. In the above mentioned case, I double-checked the invoices and receipts submitted by the outgoing company after the meeting. They had blindly paid the bills they were sent and invoiced the client those amounts. As it turns out, across all areas of charges (attrition, audiovisual, food and beverage, etc.), I found over $14,000 in billing errors. It took work to find them: The attrition owed for guestrooms had been miscalculated by using a rate other than the one contracted, audio-visual equipment was billed for a session for which I knew none had been used, the full number of beverages ordered had been billed when they were to be charged on consumption, and the like. I had to compare the contract details, the notes I had made during the event on what audio-visual equipment was used and when, and how many beverages were left after breaks. The client was not about to pay for billing errors even though the outgoing company had paid and billed for the incorrect amounts. The company tried to argue that since they'd paid those amounts, the client owed them those amounts. The client paid the outgoing company the corrected amounts, and they then found themselves in the unenviable position of either losing money, or having to go back to the vendors and request GOVERNMENT CONNECTIONS | FALL/WINTER 2015 partial refunds due to billing errors. Which option they chose I don't know, but this does potentially indicate a reason the conferences they planned for the client were losing money, and why they were not asked to continue in that capacity. How simple would it have been for them to do exactly what I had done - check people's math, check compliance with contract terms, check for errors billing for items not ordered or that were on consumption - BEFORE they blindly paid the bills? As a professional meeting planning company, that's part of why they were hired. This is a practice that applies across all types of events: government, corporate, association, private, etc. And with more approvals, regulations and scrutiny in place these days for government meetings in particular, government meeting professionals need to be diligent in this area. Unfortunately, blindly signing off on invoices is not that uncommon. I've seen it happen before, prior to this example. Our jobs don't end when the last attendee leaves on the final day. We're all human and make mistakes. Don't assume accuracy. Take a bit of time and review those invoices before you sign! You'll earn a reputation of being financially conscientious, will be able to justify every expenditure, and your events will pass any audits with flying colors.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Government Connections - Fall 2015

President’s Letter
Editor’s Letter
Going Places
It’s Legal. You’re Honest. But Are You Ethical?
Just Because It’s Legal Doesn’t Make It Right
The Ins and Outs of Setting Per Diem
Three Chapters Celebrate 30 Years in 2015
2015 SGMP National Education Conference & Expo
Supplier Strategy
Finances & Budgeting
Meet a Member
CGMP Corner
National Updates
SGMP Nation
Advertisers’ Index

Government Connections - Fall 2015