Internal Controls audits and Contract Management

February 3, 2011

Infraco, the South African government-owned Broadband and long distance telecommunications provider, has been cited in a recent Deloitte audit report for a failure in internal control processes in the company’s procurement and contract management environments.

“Although there are set policies, procedures, guidelines and processes to effectively effect the contract management process, we noted in many instances that these are not complied with, unintentionally or otherwise”, stated the Deloitte report.

An increasing number of companies all over the world are failing internal controls assessments conducted by independent auditors as auditors become increasingly concerned over the lack of visibility and control that many companies have over existing contracted commitments and overall contract management procedures.

The majority of companies put most of their effort in to the negotiation of contract terms and conditions, but do not dedicate the same level of attention and oversight post contract award.   This is largely because legal and business executives still do not consider contracts to be mission critical or strategic to their businesses.  For many, a contract is viewed as an insurance policy for when things go wrong.  Clearly auditors and industry observers, like the IACCM, see this as an outdated view and one that will only lead to increased scrutiny by auditors and regulators.

Contracts are strategic documents that outline how two parties are to collaborate with each other and the terms and conditions that govern that collaborative relationship.  For those companies that are able to manage and control their contracting processes efficiently, greater competitive advantage can be achieved through cost savings in the pre-award contracting process and better exploitation of contract terms, conditions and obligations in the post award process.

Dolphin Software would argue that the most effective way to bring about total control of the contract management process and ensure that contract obligations are properly complied with is to follow clearly defined contract management procedures, to appoint a senior executive to oversee contract management from a strategic position and to automate inefficient manual processes and control contract milestones and commitments more effectively with technology.

CFOs will rapidly understand the strategic importance of effecive contract management if their auditors refuse to sign off their accounts.

**24 February 2011 – update**

Broadband Infraco CEO and Non-Executive Director resign

Dave Smith, CEO of Broadband Infraco, the South African state owned entity tasked with bringing down the cost of broadband, and Non-Executive Director Tumi Magasa have resigned with immediate effect as a result of their recent contract management woes.

In October last year audit firm Deloitte was commissioned to conduct an urgent internal audit “to review the controls in relation to the contract management function, evaluate the adequacy and effectiveness of key operational and financial controls, and test compliance with the applicable legislation, policies and procedures”.

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Can legal do a better job at supporting sales contract management?

January 26, 2011

The International Association of Contract and Commercial Managers (IACCM) are currently polling legal and contracting professionals to record their thoughts and opinions on how contract management is handled in the companies that they work for.  One of the early conclusions of the survey (which can be accessed here:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/StateofSalesContractManagement), is that many sales and commercially focused staff still view Legal as being too risk averse and a cause of inertia in the commercial or sales process.

Perhaps, Legal would argue, that if they are not going to be risk averse and cautious, who else in the organization is going to be?  On the other hand, with quarterly sales targets to meet, it is faster (but thorough) contracting that is required to facilitate risk managed, but commercially optimized deals.

Contract Management software solutions, like Dolphin Contract Manager do have a key role to play here.  The contracting process for many companies can be manual and inefficient.  Technology based solutions that support the contracting process can reduce contract cycle times and allow key stakeholders, like Legal, to add value in the right places and at the right time, instead of having to become involved in all transactions that tie up limited legal resources.

Self-service contract authoring, where non-legal users, like sales teams, are able to create tailored contracts and agreements by completing intelligent questionnaires is a major development in corporate contract management systems.  Previously technology that was used by law firms to automate the creation of standardized contracts, is now available to free up legal resources so that they can focus on the exceptions and non-standard contracts.

Legal clause libraries that allow legal language to be formatted in to reusable objects and then used to speed up new contract drafting or to be inserted in third-party contracts during contract negotiations, also play a significant part in empowering key business stakeholders in the contracting process, while legal maintain an oversight role.

Providing a central electronic repository for contract documents with version control and security profiling would seem obvious, but it is surprising to see how many companies exercise little or no control over where contract documents are stored.  Without strict control mechanisms in place, an organization will soon lose control over contracts and commitments contained within them.

Post-award contract milestone and obligations management is typically lax in many organizations, and it has been suggested that perhaps legal advisors take an overly conservative and risk averse stance when the focus of the contract is on its worth as an insurance document in preparation for when there are breeches, rather than as an outline document detailing the commercial relationship between the two parties.   After all, over 60% of commercial litigation matters now relate to contract disputes.

If legal resources can be freed up to focus on non-standard and exceptions and if there is an efficient and effective way to proactively manage contracted milestones and obligations, then perhaps we will be able to see the legal team being able to spend more time overseeing the contracting process and adding value where it is most needed.

Dolphin Software has recently published a new white paper entitled Why contract management should be a strategic imperative for your business, which can be downloaded here: http://www.dolphin-software.com/lp_cm_whitepaper.htm


Post-award contract management becoming more adversarial

January 23, 2011

In a recent blog post by Tim Cummins of the IACCM, he observes that members of the international body of Contract and Commercial Managers that the IACCM represents, have noted that contract negotiations are becoming more adversarial and relationships between customer and supplier, increasingly one-sided.

This is despite efforts in recent years by the IACCM and others to promote win-win based collaborative commercial relationships.  It would seem that when economic times get tough, buyers of goods and services will revert back to old practices of pushing for the lowest cost for the highest quality.  Contracts that were negotiated before the recession, with long term goals in mind, are now being amended and changed to incorporate changes in payment terms, early terminatation clauses and other buyer-centric conditions.

Recent research by US law firm Fulbright & Jarowski would appear to back this observation up, as new research published by the firm, now indicates that over 60% of corporate litigtation is related to contract disputes.

Technology cannot change human behaviour, but contract management software solutions can have an important part to play in the development of long term win-win relationships between customers and vendors.  Contract Management systems provide key business stakeholders on both sides of the commercial relationship with the right data and information to make sure that contracted commitments and obligations are adhered to; and if they are not, how to go manage amendments to contracted terms in the least disruptive way.

Visit www.dolphin-software.com to read more about how best-in-class contract management software can improve the management and productivity of relationships with your key customers and suppliers.

Download a free whitepaper on why Contract Management should be a strategic imperative for your business here: http://dolphin-software.com/lp_cm_whitepaper.htm


Contract Management becomes top priority for the White House

December 13, 2010

Daniel Gordon, procurement policy administrator at the Office of Management and Budget

Dan Gordon, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, has announced a range of initiatives to improve contract management practices between suppliers to the US Government and the way that Government Agencies administer and manage contract performance and obligations.

“Contract Management is front and center in our focus”, Gordon declared at a recent meeting on procurement reform.  Gordon and the Obama administration intend to root out negligent behavior in government acquisition by having agencies better manage the contracts they award.

“A company will no longer get a contract and then never again hear from the agency about the work”, Gordon said.  “Further the government won’t turn a blind eye toward schemes or well-known shady business partnerships”.

There are many examples of poor contract management practices in Government and organizations like the Project on Government Oversight (www.pogo.org) have made a significant impact in raising awareness of the need to not just negotiate contracts with third party suppliers, but also to track performance and monitor compliance to contracted obligations once the contract has been signed.

As contracting becomes more complex and more litigious (a recent study by Fulbright and Jaworski showed that the majority of corporate litigation matters now arise from contract-related disputes), it is crucial to keep track of what has been committed to in a contract.

The old world of throwing more resources at the problem of  contract oversight will not work anymore.  Qualified contract management resources are hard to find and manual tracking of contract milestones and obligations was too error-prone anyway.  What is required is a balance of technology solutions that support the contracting process and human oversight to enforce contracted terms and conditions.

Choosing the right technology solution is critical. Many Finance or ERP based contract database solutions fail to realise that government contracting demands automation and control at every stage of the contracting process from the creation of the contract, through to the tracking of obligations and the tracking of vendor performance. 

Some contract management software solutions, like Dolphin Contract Manager, automatically integrate with the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR/DFAR) list and allow government procurement managers to efficiently create contracts and ensure that commitments and obligations are effectively managed once the contract has been executed.

We believe that true transparency in government contracting can only be really achieved when you have total control over your contracts and obligations.  It is time for government agencies to embrace technology solutions to help them to achieve this.



UK coalition government looks to improve contract oversight in public sector

November 20, 2010

One of the first actions of the new coalition government in the UK led by David Cameron in May 2010, was to enact new legislation to compel central and local government organisations to disclose details of all expenditure and contracts worth in excess of GBP 500 (USD 800).

In an environment where contract commitment management has been lax and almost non-existant (the National Audit office claimed that the central government wasted GBP 300 million each year on IT and Telecom contracts alone in 2009), this will prove to be a major challenge for local and central government organisations.

There is much fear at the local government level that this new legislation, aimed at “Labour’s secretive and wasteful contracts regime”, will add significant cost and workload at a time when budgets have are being cut as part of the Government’s austerity measures.

Proper contract oversight is always recommended, but never has there been a greater need in the Public Sector to get a handle on contracts and commitments.  A Freedom of Information search relating to contract search should take a matter of seconds to comply with, if an organisation has proper control over contracted milestones and commitments.  With more and more public services being outsourced (the BBC claims that Capita has gained outsourcing contracts worth in excess of GBP 3 billion in the public sector), it is becoming more and more difficult to adquately manage contract spend and obligations.

Now is the time for public sector organisations in the UK to evaluate the benefits of using technology solutions to manage and control contracts more effectively, so that adequate funds are put aside in the new financial year.  Contract Management software solutions play a key part in an organisation’s governance, audit and compliance regime.  In the public sector, there is a real need to extract more value out of contracts with external suppliers and service providers as budgets and tax revenues decline; as well as the requirement to avoid costly reputational damage when poor contract oversight is exposed through Freedom of Infromation requests or via the media.

Dolphin Contract Manager from Dolphin Software provides best-of-class contract management functionality across the entire contracting process to allow organisations to keep track of supplier performance, contract spend and control over contracted obligations much more effectively than can be achieved through manaual means or managing contracts by spreadsheet.

Download BearingPoint Consulting’s authoritative 2010 Contract Management study from www.dolphin-software.com to assess how contract management software can benefit your organisation.


Sir Philip Green highlights UK government procurement and contract management inefficiencies

October 14, 2010

Sir Philip Green, the billionaire boss of UK retail group Arcadia and Top Shop, has this week announced the results of his study in to UK government procurement.  The conclusions, he says are shocking.   His main conclusion is that the UK government is failing to take advantage of its position as a strong buyer with a top notch credit rating.

Sir Philip said that no business could survive the level of money that was wasted from the GBP 191 billion (USD 305 billion) of spending he reviewed.

The report suggests that billions could be saved by doing simple things like managing supplier contracts and spending more diligently.  “The process is shocking; there is no reporting, there is no accountability”, says Sir Philip.

So is this an issue of better contract management or an issue of management and the fostering of a culture oversight?

In reality, a successful outcome will involve a bit of both.  Contract Management software solutions, like Dolphin Contract Manager, can help to provide greater control over contracted commitments and spending by allowing business managers and procurement professionals to keep track of terms and conditions that were negotiated and agreed in the contract and then capturing performance related data (like obligations tracking, KPI management as well as invoicing and deliverables tracking) against expected behaviour.