Helvetas - Blockchain decentralized accounting

News • 16/09/2014 •
In this article

HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation is one of the most experienced and largest development organisations in Switzerland. As a politically and denominationally neutral association, HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation is supported by around 100,000 members and sponsors, as well as 12 regional groups of volunteers.

Helvetas team comprises around 1200 local and 60 international employees (mainly Swiss) engaged in 32 partner countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. A total of 140 men and women work at the Berne and Zurich offices as well as at the Lausanne and Balerna branch offices. They co-ordinate development projects, offer advisory services to governmental and non-governmental organisations, and raise awareness about issues faced by people in developing countries and possible solutions.

Helvetas is using Banana Accounting since 2003, starting with Banana Accounting version 4, then 5, 6 and now they have moved to Banana Accounting 7 as of January 2014. They use Banana in over 32 countries and have approximately 200 Banana Plus licenses.

With Banana Accounting they have been able to decentralize the book keeping task at the country level. Each project is responsible for their assigned budget and financial management, including day to day book keeping.

Project units send their Banana Accounting file to their country headquarter, who in turn consolidates them after due verification and forward it to the Head office in Switzerland. The data of all countries are then summarized and imported in their central Abacus accounting system.

Helvetas has implemented Banana Accounting by structuring uniform charts of accounts applied in country units that are aligned to the Central accounting structure in the Head Office.  A few examples are:

  1. The group codes in the chart of accounts correspond to the account codes of their central accounting system. So each project and country is free to add accounts and adapt the chart of accounts to their particular needs, while at the same time maintaining compatibility with the central accounting system.
  2. Local accounting is done in local currency. Accounting tasks are simplified with Banana. The multi-currency function in Banana offers them the possibility of recording transactions in other currencies as well.  
  3. Helvetas receives funds from different donors/organizations that require them to comply with their accounting rules and budget regulations. The project accountants specify the Cost Center that corresponds exactly to their donors’ structure. At any time the project manager can provide the donors with the updated financial situation and budget application in the requested format and structure. Therefore reporting and monitoring at project level is made much easier with the integrated Budget monitoring function in Banana.
  4. Project and country accounting also make extensive use of other cost centers (CC1, CC2 and CC3). This feature in Banana provides them with possibilities to design their own control and monitoring reports unique to their needs.
  5. Before sending the accounting to the country headquarter and to the central headquarter, accounting data is locked with the blockchain technology and the certification report is signed by the accountant in chargeis and sent to the next level.

By using Banana Accounting, Helvetas has been able to derive different advantages:

  • Decentralized accounting in the project field units.
    • Project and country manager take care of and have full responsibility for the finance management.
    • Project managers have up to date information on their finances.
    • Accounting is made easy and accurate.
    • The multi-language feature integrated in the software makes it easy to learn and work with it.
    • The accounting function has become more economical thanks to the involvement of local personal at the country level.
    • Auditing is done at the local level, with direct access to all the accounting data.
  • Having a centralized solution without the need of a costly IT structure
    • Accounting is maintained in a place where there might be no reliable internet connection
    • Banana is easy to install, it works in different languages and on any computer.
    • Banana is easy to learn and work with. It is similar to Excel; once people receive the predefined chart of accounts, they can start recording without any further technical help.
    • Accounting data files can easily be exchanged as email attachments.
    • Each country can easily consolidate their financial data.
      • Prior to consolidation, the project data are checked.
      • If there is a mistake or error, accounting data can be corrected.
      • Each country can adapt the chart of accounts to their specific needs.
    • Central headquarter receives full accounting data.
      • The Banana Accounting file, with all project- and country office transactions, is sent by email.
      • With the Banana software, they can open the file and see up to the last level of transactions without the need of having a large IT infrastructure and huge database.
      • The accounting data are exported to XML and a series of specifically written Excel Macro enabled tools check and summarize the data.
      • By means of the accounting structured in group codes and cost centers, data can automatically be summarized and integrated in their centralized system.
    • Budget management
      • The budget is defined at the headquarters, matching its structure with donors specification, and with the help of a macro enabled tool, the budget structure is exported to the Banana Accounting structure.  
      • Budget and project control is done at the local level.
      • Each transaction has its specific budget code, thus reporting, consolidation and centralized control is made easier.
  • Cost effective solution
    • Banana Accounting is very affordable, the license cost is low and there is no recurring annual fee.
    • The Banana software runs on any computer with minimal system requirements and does not need any particular hardware or expensive IT investments.

Based on the extensive experience and feedback from Helvetas, we have been able to improve Banana Accounting.

Many other development organizations have followed Helvetas leadership and are profiting from the advantages of Banana for decentralizing their accounting.

In our exchanges with Helvetas, we experienced them as very cost conscious and cost effective.  

Do you wish to support Helvetas’ operations? Please send your donations to their Postfinance account:

IBAN CH76 0900 0000 8000 3130 4, Account holder: HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation, Weinbergstrasse 22a, 8021 Zürich, BIC: POFICHBEXXX.