The Reef's spending and financial transparency policy

1. Background

At the plenary of 2022-11-15, we approved a budget for The Reef for the period going from now to (roughly) April 2023. We also re-affirmed team autonomy: decisions to make small extra purchases do not need to go through more approvals. At the same time, there were some questions about whether this is too relaxed, and could get us in financial trouble.We proposed to create a simple policy to bring clarity to the issue.

2. How it works: making financial commitments for The Reef ASBL, and spending money in the bank account

As with any ASBL, The Reef is represented by its board (conseil d’administration). At the time of writing, the board is presided by @Lee and composed by herself, @manuelpueyo and @alberto. The board is the only entity which can make legally valid commitments (for example, sign a contract) on behalf of The Reef.

To spend its money, The Reef makes payments from its bank account. @alberto is the main user of the bank account (in the sense of having the credentials necessary to accessing the online banking). @Lee is also a user of the bank account, but more as a backup (in case we would need to make payments while Alberto is travelling, etc.).

3. Team spending: a scenario

The situation makes it almost impossible that a team could, by overspending, get the ASBL in trouble.

  • Spending autonomy only concerns small deviations from the budget. Let’s agree that “small” means < 100 EUR.
  • For any payment, Teams must ask a bank account user. Bank account users must refuse to make large or weird payments; if they see something that needs to be explained, they request an explanation, and if that is not satisfactory they should ask the team that wants to make the expense to bring a proposal to a plenary meeting.
  • If anyone other than a board member makes a commitment in the name of the ASBL (for example, signs a contract with a financial obligation), the ASBL has the right and the duty to ignore it, since only board members hold legal power of representation.

4. Financial transparency

Team Finance has been keeping records of The Reef’s spending, and will continue to do so. All records are accessible on our NextCloud workspace. In this section we review them.

4.1 The Invoices folder

The Invoices folder is found at The Reef shared folder => Team Finance => Early Days Tabkeeping => Invoices. It contains the invoices and other proofs of purchase (for example, receipts, supermarket tickets etc.) for all Reef expenditures.

Reeflings that advance money on behalf of The Reef (for example, buying food for a public event) upload their receipts into this folder, and we pay them back. Reeflings that have received an invoice for a product of service we need (for example: an invoice from a venue that we rent for a meeting) also upload it here, and we pay directly the supplier (in this example, the venue).

4.2. The Disbursements spreadsheet

The Disbursements spreadsheet is at The Reef shared folder => Team Finance => Early Days Tabkeeping. It contains several tabs:

  • Info contains an explanation of what the sheet is and where to put information.
  • Invoices keeps track of expenditures, one line per expenditure. A column contains the link to the relevant proof of purchases in the Invoices folder. Other colums keep track of who has fronted the money and, starting 2022-11-15, which team is responsible for the expenditure.
  • Expenses fronted by members contains the lines of the Invoices tab where a Reefling has fronted the expenditure with their own money (some expenditure are reported as being fronted by The Reef with its own bank account: these do not go into the Expenses fronted by members tab). When we pay the Reefling back, we add the date of refund to the expenditure’s column. From this tab we know how much we still need to refund, and to whom.
  • Teams has a column for the budget allocation decided by the plenary, and one for the amount already spent.

4.3 The Bank account folder

This folder contains bank statements. Every so often we download a list of transactions from Triodos’s online banking website. Filenames contains an indication of the period covered by each file. Refer to the file in the folder for an explanation of how filenames work. Anyone can check incoming and outgoing payments by looking at those files.


Thanks so much @alberto for writing this up!

@reef-governance: let’s keep this on our radar, so that we can integrate it in the revision of the Governance and Working Methods documents?