For 20 years, not-for-profit organisation Symbiosis International has been helping impoverished Bangladeshi women to raise themselves out of poverty. Faced with increased competition for funding back home, the Symbiosis board recently decided it needed to improve its financial reporting and achieve a consolidated view of its performance.

MGI was appointed to conduct the 2015 audit and to help bring accounting and reporting up to standard.

Employing 180 Bangladeshi staff, Symbiosis International empowers the poor by teaching literacy, supporting group savings collectives and delivering a host of support programs. They play an important role in the lives of many Bangladeshi women.

Accountant with Symbiosis International Travis McAuliffe talks to MGI Audit Manager Stephen Greene

Accountant with Symbiosis International Travis McAuliffe talks to MGI Audit Manager Stephen Greene

Bringing the accounts into line

Travis McAuliffe joined Symbiosis International in July 2015 to help bring the organisation up to speed with accounting and reporting standards.

With the full support of the Symbiosis International Board, Travis appointed MGI to audit the 2014 and 2015 years and to identify what needed to change to ensure they met Australian accounting standards.

“This was an immense undertaking,” Travis said.

“MGI had to audit two consecutive years because comparative figures from previous years were not calculated or presented on the same basis.

“However, MGI was very supportive of what we were trying to achieve.

“They acknowledged the noble intent of our organisation and helped us to take key steps to bring our financial reporting up to the standard expected of a charity our size.”

The greater challenge, however, was consolidating Australian and Bangladesh accounts. Because the Bangladesh operations are controlled by the Australian entity, its accounts needed to reflect the operations of the Bangladesh division, but this had not previously been done.

“While Symbiosis had engaged a Bangladesh firm to audit the local accounts for the Bangladesh government, this was carried out on project by project bases,” Travis said.

“Thus there were 25 projects needing to be consolidated, a difference between Australian and Bangladesh accounting standards needing to be bridged, and language and cultural differences that came into play.

“At the end of the day, having MGI as our partner made this task seem much more attainable.

“Stephen and the MGI team were flexible in their timeline, which was a lifesaver because at times there were communication and language difficulties with the Bangladesh auditors.

“Throughout all of the changes we had to make, MGI was very understanding and supportive.

“Graeme and Stephen were always willing to come and meet with the directors to go through any qualifications that had to be made.

“When they presented in these meetings, they always talked about what ‘we’ had to do and what ‘we’ needed to change.

“It was very clear they associated themselves as part of the organisation and our solutions.”

Outcome

After six months of working with MGI, Symbiosis now has a consolidated view of its organisation.

The charity is now in a much better position to make the right decisions to take the organisation forward, with a proper auditor’s report to present to prospective Australian institutional donors.

“This has helped improve our credibility for institutional donors, which is incredibly important these days, given the high competition for charitable donations.”

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