School finance administration in New Zealand at a new level

Find out how The School Office New Zealand transforms expense control in schools to deliver seamless paperless processes.

The School Office (TSO) works alongside secondary, intermediate, and primary schools and offers financial advice and accounting services such as monthly financial processing and reporting. TSO prepares annual financial statements for clients to meet statutory reporting requirements and provides financial literacy training to school Boards and management.

First, please describe how schools in New Zealand are run in terms of finance management.

Depending on the size of the school, spending may be spread across numerous budgets. Schools in New Zealand organise their departments by discipline, for example, Science Department, Music Department, English Department and so on. Each one has a separate budget, of which the department head is responsible. When staff need to make a purchase, they first request approval from the budget holder, procure the item, then have the budget holder approve the invoice for payment. This is a manual process if ApprovalMax is not used.

What is the general approach to spend control – are teachers and school staff somehow limited in what they can purchase?

School spending is governed by an overall approved budget. The budgets for the individual departments are set to achieve the educational goals for the students. Actual expenditure must be within the budget limits unless specifically authorised.

How is accounting and reporting done? Is it a manual process?

Yes, it is a manual process and paper based. TSO aims to eliminate this and automate the finance function as much as possible. That is why we use an app stack tailored to the needs of schools.

What apps are in your app stack? Is it a “one size fits all” offer?

Our app stack includes Xero, Hubdoc, Trax (a school-specific reporting app) and ApprovalMax. The apps used by each school depends on its own requirements. Our basic recommendation to any size school is Hubdoc, Xero and ApprovalMax, due to the paperless and ease of use. An additional advantage is all documentation relating to the financial transactions and approval is saved in Xero. 

What is the goal of introducing this app stack?

To save as much time as possible. We are striving for a seamless and paperless process. Before we introduced Hubdoc, schools entered data into Xero manually and kept the hard copies of the documentation. The approval process before ApprovalMax was completely manual also. The difference now is greater transparency and efficiency which cannot be achieved with hard copies – lost on someone’s desk or lying in some shelf after approval.

The schools audit process is improved by using Xero, Hubdoc and ApprovalMax as all invoices and audit trails are attached in Xero. The auditor logs into each school’s Xero to find all the relevant information.

Looks like you have done a great job! What have you planned as the next steps?

We are actively promoting ApprovalMax (both Purchase Orders and Invoice approval) to our clients and are presenting the benefits of ApprovalMax at our regional training workshops. 

We are sure ApprovalMax will be implemented in more schools over time especially after we have seen the benefits of using ApprovalMax during the Covid crisis.