THE ROLE OF UNIVERSITIES IN THE INITIATION AND SUPPORT OF COMMUNITIES OF GOOD PRACTICES IN THE FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT AND AUDIT OF THE PROJECTS FINANCED BY THE EUROPEAN SOCIAL FUND Associate professor Irimieemilpopa Associate professor ovidiuconstantinbunget Assistant professor alinconstantindumintrescu Phd candidate georgetaancuta span
STRUCTURE • INTRODUCTION • COMMUNITY OF PRACTICES • “MODEL OF HARMONIZATION OF THE PRACTICES IN FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT OF THE PROJECTS FINANCED BY THE EUROPEAN STRUCTURAL FUNDS” • STAGES OF THE PROJECT • ACTIVITY OF THE COMMUNITY OF PRACTICES • RESULTS OF THE PROJECT • CONCLUSIONS
INTRODUCTION • The purpose of this paper is to present an European project based on a learning concept known as the community of practices • Our project, entitled "Model of harmonization of the practices in the financial management of the projects financed by the European Structural Funds (ESF)" meets the interests of a partnership of five major universities in Romania and the national professional body of statutory auditors, namely the Chamber of Financial Auditors in Romania (CAFR) • The implementation team of the project aims to create a community of practices in the financial management field, including specialists as: auditors, accountants and financial officers of the ongoing projects • Our project is a proof of the importance of communities of practices in the social, professional and educational development based on the social importance of the universities
COMMUNITY OF PRACTICE • Community of practices is a modern tool for the social learning, bringing together people and institutions with common interests in the professional areas of their activity • The social theorist of this new concept, Etienne Wenger, defined the community of practice as a group of people who share a passion for the work they perform and who learn to do it better as they regularly interact • The members of a community of practices bring together their experience, ideas, expertise and knowledge to promote innovative and qualitative solutions • Based on these issues, several professors from Babeş-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca (Romania) felt that the problems the most beneficiaries of the European funds face with could be solved by creating a community of practices to meet the interests of the specialists in the field.
“MODEL OF HARMONIZATION OF THE PRACTICES IN FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT OF THE PROJECTS FINANCED BY THE EUROPEAN STRUCTURAL FUNDS” • “Model of harmonization of the practices in financial management of the projects financed by the ESF” is a partnership between five major academic centers namely: Babes-Bolyai University from Cluj-Napoca (UBB), West University of Timişoara (UVT), "1 Decembrie" University from Alba-Iulia (UAB), University of Craiova (UC), „ConstantinBrâncoveanu” University from Piteşti (UCB) and the Chamber of Financial Auditors in Romania (CAFR) • The role of these academic education institutions is to create a relationship between all the beneficiaries of projects financed by the ESF who wish to share their approach, problems and solutions identified during their activity • Although the professional relationship between the members of the community of practice is conducted by five education institutions, the proposed learning method of our project is not a conventional one. This form of learning is based on creating a social relation, between people with common interests, in order to improve their professional knowledge.
STAGES OF THE PROJECT • 1) the implementation team of the project identified all the projects financed by the ESF performed in the five development regions of the partnership • 2) it was created a database with the information regarding the financial officers, auditors and accountants involved in the European projects identified in the first step, and they were informed about the project’s opportunity. This phase of our project was a real success, since the number of people interested in being part of our community of practices exceeded the number estimated by the implementation team • 3) after the creation and completion of the project target group, the project team started to organize meetings and seminars in each of the five development regions • 4) the last phase of the project, which is currently underway, is dedicated to the dissemination of the results.
ACTIVITY OF THE COMMUNITY OF PRACTICES • In order to develop the community of practices, the implementation team of the project along with practitioners from different entities conducted a series of meetings and seminars on topics like: legislation, public acquisitions, audit and accounting specific to the projects financed by the European Structural Funds • a. Public acquisition: within the course of public acquisitions were discussed legislative aspects, mistakes that can be made and consequences of these errors. All these elements were discussed by the members of community who were present at the meetings and by the lecturers-practitioners specialized in the field of the ESF projects; • b. Accounting: there were discussed problems regarding the accounting and financial problems of the ESF projects. Moreover, the members of the community and the experts debated legislative issues governing this part of the project and various ambiguities of the beneficiaries; • c. Audit: the implementation and management responsibility of the European projects belong not only to the beneficiaries, but also to the auditors who certify the eligibility of the incurred expenses. To improve the quality of this activity the project team decided to implement a comprehensive approach of the national and European legislation on the audit of the projects financed by the ESF • The role of the universities was to create an informal learning environment necessary for a strong professional and social relationship of the people with common professional interests.
RESULTS OF THE PROJECT • A major benefit of this project was to organize meetings and seminars at the five universities that are part in the project partnership. These meetings were led by practitioners who have knowledge and professional experience in the ESF field. During these courses the members of the community of practices could discuss on the problems they faced in the projects’ implementation activities • In addition to the regular meetings that were held in the six partners in the project, the community of practice exercises an ongoing activity via a special website designed to support the professional activity of the members at national level. The site of the community of practice (www.practicifse.ro) offers access to information legislation; it facilitates the discussions between members of the community of practice (online forum) and develops the experience exchange • Another indicator of the efficiency of the community of practice is represented by the publications of specialized literature. Each member of the community of practice can contribute to the editing of the “Guide of best practice”. Therefore, all the experienced result of the members can be shared via the website provided by our project.
CONCLUSIONS • Our project was an informal educational cycle, which contributed to the professional development of the practitioners and achieved a strong community of the financial officers, auditors and accountants in the ESF projects • In addition to the qualitative results of the project, we can talk about the importance of the community practices which is formed of more than a thousand members which continue to work through their own site, sharing their experiences and practices • The publication of a “Guide of best practices“ in the projects financed by the European Structural Funds is a useful element of practices not only for the members of the community but also for all the persons interested in developing their knowledge in this field • The project "Model of harmonization of the practices in financial management of the projects financed by the ESF” proves that the university education system may have unexpected success not only through its traditional forms of education, but also through an unconventional or formalized method, like the one of our community of good practices.