Arranging delegations of authority

There are a number of key delegations needed to enable financial administration to function smoothly. Details of these and links to the relevant teams responsible for arranging the delegations are in the sections below. In addition the delegation of authority register template (xlsx) includes those delegations that are simply recorded in the department.

 

  1. Authority to sign contracts
  2. Authority to commit expenditure
  3. Authorising income and cash receipts 
  4. Authority to approve journals
  5. Authority to grant system access
  6. Research authorities

1. Authority to sign contracts

Heads of units have authority to sign contracts in the course of the ordinary business of their unit (generally research and teaching) and which involve only the funds over which they have delegated control.

Please note that some contracts should only be signed by specific officers. For example, the Director of Research Services is responsible for signing all research and research-related contracts; the Director of Legal Services should be involved in any instruction of external lawyers.

 

Head of units may delegate authority to sign non-employment contracts in the course of ordinary business. The officer’s acceptance and any limits should be recorded, and the delegation only become operational once agreement is received.

There is a form available from Legal Services to record this delegation.

 

Written authority from Personnel Services must be obtained before heads of unit, heads of administration or others are granted the authority to issue contracts of employment.

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2. Authority to commit expenditure

Departments should implement an appropriate system of financial delegated authority that ensures funds received or spent are properly controlled, and their use monitored.

Departments have authority to commit up to £100k in expenditure. Please note that all delegations, including those made via paper signature sheets, should be limited to a maximum of £100k. Some signature forms may not have been updated and may still show amounts greater than £100k or an unlimited approval level; these should be updated.

Expenditure may be committed in a number of ways including via purchase orders, payment request forms, expense claims, and approval of credit card payments. In the case of expense claims and credit cards, approval is not granted until after the expenditure has taken place. However, expenditure is not considered legitimate until approved by someone with appropriate delegated authority.

A number of people may be involved in the decision to make a purchase (for example a principal investigator on a research project or a course director), and the purchase may flow through a number of different roles, including an authorised signatory, before it is finalised.

Table 1 - Methods of delegation of authority for non-pay expenditure
Type of approval Approval given via How to delegate authority
Purchase order approvals Approve purchase orders (POs) via Oracle Financials Online request form actioned by FSM team
Non-PO invoices, expense claims, and payment requests forms Hard copy signature, e.g. on expense form Email payments team  for hard copy signatory form
Petty cash Approver signs the Petty Cash Reimbursement form.

Authority delegated via the form used for Non-PO invoices etc.

Email payments team  for hard copy signatory form

Credit cards Approver signs print out of credit card template and it is either scanned and sent to Payments or emailed. Email payments team  for hard copy signatory form
Trust expenditure Various depending on expenditure type

Email trusts team  for hard copy signatory form

 
Table 2 - Methods of authorising delegations of authority for pay expenditure
Type of approval Approval given via How to delegate authority
Contractual changes Approval via Core-HR for contractual changes including starters, leavers, changes to hours, additional increments Excel form emailed to HR systems 
Overtime, variable hours Either via hard copy signed paper form or emailed submission Email payroll team  for hard copy signatory sheet
Casual payroll Casual spreadsheet submitted monthly by email Email payroll team  for hard copy signatory sheet
Relocation allowances Relocation form Heads of Administration
Payroll deductions e.g. travel loans Signed form Heads of Administration

 

3. Authorising income and cash receipts

Income may be generated and received in a number of different ways including regular and one-off sales as well as cash receipts.

A number of departments may make regular sales, and have processes in place to agree a price. Where departments are making one-off sales, the price should be agreed appropriately:

  • The head of administration, or other senior officer should approve the sales price of all goods and services where a standard list price does not exist, and a price has therefore been calculated.
  • The full economic cost of services or goods should always be reflected in the price. The head of unit or their delegate should agree any sale that does not recover the full economic cost.

Departments may receive income in cash. In this case, cash should be stored carefully, counted with two people present, and the banking sheet authorised in line with the cash and banking process.

4. Authority to approve journals

Journals and transfers may be needed to make corrections, post month-end adjustments, clear the pre-award account within projects, or allocate costs. When posting journals, it is important to consider any restrictions relating to the new location, and therefore journals and transfers require management even though a purchase will have been initially approved.

General ledger journals are approved via a hierarchy set up in Oracle Financials. Journals will be self-approved up to the user’s approval limit, and therefore departments should ensure that there is adequate monthly review undertaken to identify any incorrect postings.

There is no system-based approval workflow for project journals and transfers. Departments should implement manual processes to manage projects journals and transfers, mirroring their general ledger journal hierarchy. A different hierarchy can be established for project journals and transfers if required, but this should be clearly documented. 
 

5. Authority to grant system access

The University uses a number of key IT systems to support its activity, and a number of key controls are system based, and therefore depend on appropriate access arrangements. Managing and granting appropriate access is an important safeguard, and appropriate individuals within units are identified who are responsible for managing system access. 

Different central University teams are responsible for the different systems and have different names for the system access approvers (such as Authorised Signatory for Oracle or Data Guardian for Core-HR).

Systems access approvers should be senior members of the unit, usually the head of administration, who will take responsibility for considering access requests carefully. They are responsible for:

  • requesting systems access and regularly monitoring of system access within their units;
  • ensuring that roles and responsibilities are appropriate to the user’s job, and considering segregation of duties where relevant;
  • ensuring that financial limits are appropriate to the user’s job and the department’s budget where relevant; and
  • ensuring that staff leaving the University have their access terminated in a timely fashion.

Systems access approvers should note that users are required to follow appropriate information security, IT regulations and data protection arrangements. Any breach of these policies, such as disclosure of log-in details, is regarded as a serious disciplinary matter. If an authoriser is aware of any breach they should report it to the relevant systems support team.

Authorising user access
Type of approval System activity How to set up system access for approvers How to set up system access for users
Oracle Financials - Authorised signatory Undertake financial transaction processing; system-based approvals and financial controls Online form, processed by FSM team  Online form, processed by FSM team
Core HR - Data Guardian Undertake HR transactional processing; approval of contractual payroll changes Excel form emailed to HR systems  Excel form emailed to HR systems 
X5 Creation of grant application budgets; approval of grant submissions on behalf of the department, including approval of deficit   Online form for admin staff; excel form for PIs 
DARS - Authorised Access Requestor Management of alumni and donors Email Word form emailed to Authorised Access Requestor 
E-vision - Information Custodian Management of student information HoD emails Student Systems Support Centre   Information Custodian grants access within the system 

6. Research authorities

X5 forms the formal audit trail confirming that:

  • a department supports a grant application or contract; 
  • any ethics/conflict of interest issues have been identified by the Principal Investigator; and
  • the costings have been prepared in accordance with the University's Policy on the Costing and Pricing of Research.

All budgets included in external grant applications must be costed on a full economic cost (FEC) basis using X5.

FEC is defined as 'a price, which, if recovered across an organisation's full programme, would recover the total cost (direct, indirect and total overhead) including an adequate investment in the organisation's infrastructure'. Wherever possible, the FEC should be recovered. Where this is not possible, heads of units are responsible for considering the impact on the overall position of the unit.

Following approval by Research Services, some applications are submitted via electronic systems, such as applications to Research Councils, and require departmental submission. Departments will need to identify users with authority to submit these applications.

 
Type of approval Approval given via How to request
Approve budget and deficit on behalf of department for external funding applications X5 system approval Online request form
Departmental submission of JES form JES system approval Expected to be Head of Admin. Via excel form.
Approve budget and deficit on behalf of department for John Fell Fund applications John Fell system approval  
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 : Finance Division
      University of Oxford
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      Oxford, OX1 2ET

 : financial.assurance@admin.ox.ac.uk

 : 01865 (6) 16206

 Financial Assurance Team 

 
 
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