Effective financial reporting can have a far-reaching impact on the health of Kenyan communities, as Gilbert Vaillant finds out.
In the past year Gilbert Vaillant has played a part in ensuring that Kenyans living with HIV receive treatment and support. He's been involved in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV and protecting children who've lost their parents to AIDS.
But Gilbert's not a health professional. He's an accountant.
Gilbert is working with Kenya Red Cross through the Australian Volunteers for International Development program, an AusAID initiative.
Last year, Kenya Red Cross became the principal recipient of a multi-million dollar grant from the Global Fund for HIV, Malaria and Tuberculosis. It has been required to distribute a series of smaller grants to 50 local organisations that offer HIV and TB treatment, care and advocacy programs.
Many of these organisations had never received or managed international donor funds before. Any delays in reporting affect the disbursement of funds across the entire program, reducing what's available to support critical, life-saving work.
That's why Gilbert's skills have proved to be so invaluable. Since July last year, Gilbert has been travelling to community organisations across Kenya to help create user-friendly financial reporting tools, and helping people learn the basics of budgeting, financial analysis and the importance of timely reporting. Already Gilbert and his colleagues are seeing the impact of this work.
"Every month the reports from grant recipients are greatly improved from the month before. They have taken on board everything they have learned," Gilbert says.
"All the community organisations that the Global Fund Unit supports are working to address the root causes of poverty … The ability to acquit and retain their funding is clearly fundamental to the continuation of these services."
Gilbert and his Kenya Red Cross colleagues have also been able to identify several bottlenecks in reporting processes and remove them, which means that funds can be dispersed in enough time to support life-saving project activities.
Most importantly, Gilbert is helping to prepare local staff at Kenya Red Cross and other grant recipients to become more effective development practitioners, with the confidence to manage major health and development projects.
"As individuals learn new things they share them, widening this important skill pool in Kenya and strengthening the vital organisations within which they are located," he says.
Photo: Gilbert Vaillant and colleagues at Kenya Red Cross. (Australian Red Cross/Glen Smith)