Accountant - Assessing Private School Budgets
MEHE and the OPM TA team expect the following components as part of a technical and financial (two) submissions:
- Overview of approach
- Outline of the applicant organisation’s suitability to do so
- CVs of the proposed staff to work on the programme
- Assurances of the availability of these staff in late June/early July 2020
- Financial proposal in terms of budgeted costs of the team to deliver this work
The evaluation of proposals will be based on the following evaluation approach:
Score out of 100
Quality of the approach to the task
Experience of the organisation relative to this task
Quality of CVs proposed for the team
Ability to mobilise quickly and team availability
Score out of 100
(see formula below)
The financial proposal will be weighted using the following formula:
[lowest budget figure/ submission budget figure] x 100
OPM TA Team Short term technical assistance ToR
Director of Private Education
OPM Team Leader
Contribution to Output:
Approved by the DG:
Scope and description of the Task
The responsibility for educating all students in Lebanon resides with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) in conjunction with the Centre for Education Research and Development. This includes all students educated within the public sector as well as the approximately 70% of students are educated in the private sector.
DFID Lebanon’s contribution to the education sector includes support to Support to RACE II as well as the provision of a technical assistance team to MEHE and a separate team to CERD. In March 2018, a three-year technical assistance project was awarded to Oxford Policy Management, which expanded an existing TA facility to serve MEHE priority areas to achieve the objectives of RACE II. The TA team supports the GoL to deliver the immediate objectives of the S2R2 programme while building the capacity, systems and processes which underpin a medium-term sector development strategy.
Level of effort
- Objectives and deliverables
The economic crisis in Lebanon has had a severe impact on both the public and private schools of the Lebanese education sector. With 70% of students educated in fee-paying institutions, a large number of Lebanese families face the decision about whether to continue in their existing schools or to shift to more cost-effective alternatives. The large number of these transfers threatens to have long-term impact on the shape and scale of national education provision.
One of the major consequences of the economic crisis will be a significant flux of students from one school to another – this may be from higher cost to lower costs private schools, from private schools to public schools or even from public to public schools following internal migration within Lebanon.
The coronavirus crisis has paced further strain on Lebanon’s schools with all schools being closed since early March 2020. During the remaining months of the academic year, private schools have generally offered remote learning opportunities to continue student education and ensure minimal learning loss. Due the variation in school’s readiness to make the transition to distance learning, the volume/quality of remote learning offered and accessed has varied widely. Some private school parents have been happy with the necessity for and quality of remote learning and have accepted to pay full fees. However other parents, often those least able to access distance learning and/or those most affected by the economic downturn, have complained that both the quality of education delivery and cost to the school have been lower. These latter group of parents have argued that the actual school fees levied for this period should reflect that.
The Minister of Education’s announcement on 3 May 2020 announced an agreement between parents, schools and educators to review the balancing payment of tuition fees in the Academic Year 2019/20. This should be based on a reasonable comparison of costs reported as compared to those forecast at the start of the year, across all expenditure categories.
Parental non-payment of fees has taken two forms:
1) parents withholding fees to private schools and requesting a discount before paying; and
2) parents requesting some form of rebate for fees already paid upfront.
Parents with outstanding fee balances are unable to withdraw their children and receive clearance to enrol their children in other schools. While parents who have already paid upfront would like either reimbursement for overpaid fees or for those fees to be credited to the next Academic Year.
In both cases, there needs to be some form of independent assessment of the reported cost of providing education at school level in the Academic Year 2019/20. A swift resolution to these school-by-school complaints will offer parents clarity on their longer-term financial position while giving MEHE greater clarity on the precise numbers of children whose transfer it will need to process and accommodate.
Though a large number of private schools have already come to an agreement with parents and the community, there is a residual group of about 100 private schools whose cases require further investigation and arbitration. These Terms of Reference address specifically those issues: retrospective forecast versus reported cost of the school year and, in the case of savings, how much should be passed on to the parents affected.
HUMAN RESOURCES REQUIRED AND RATIONALE:
This Terms of Reference proposed the employment of a small team of Certified Public Accountant to look into the approximately 100 remaining school cases and make a recommendation to the Minister for decision. This recommendations will be based upon a thorough analysis of school budgets and will follow a robust methodology agreed with the Director of Private Education in the initial consultation phase.
WORKING RELATIONSHIP AND STATION:
The consultant team will work with the Director of Private Education and deliverables will be overseen by the OPM TA Team Leader.
The specific tasks under this role include:
Agree methodology with MEHE
- Consultation with the Director General and the Director of Private Education in MEHE
- Moving toward a deep understanding of the current situation, including but not limited to:
- Dates of closure of the school (if different to government dictated dates)
- Teacher salaries – whether to pay teacher base salaries or salaries and allowances (eg transportation and bonus) during periods of closure
- Realistic costs of school premises and maintenance during closure
- Other valid costs to pass on to parents through tuition fees
- Familiarisation with primary and secondary school budget structures
- Understanding of the acceptable parameters for fixed and variable school budget lines, eg school phone land line payment should be within the range of X to Y LBP
eg school learning materials costs should be in the range of Y to Z LBP per student
- Agree a suitable methodology with the DG and the Director of Private Education. This methodology should be freely shared with the Directorate of Private Education.
Interrogation of school budgets
- This will include a thorough review of approximately 100 school budgets for the academic year 2019/20.
- Comparison of forecast versus reported budget expenditure
- This will cover the salary, expenses, and others costs within the school budget
- Conduct thorough comparative financial analysis within each school and between schools within the same region to identify financial and budget gaps and funding shortfalls.
- Comparison of budgets year-on-year (2018/2019 vs 2019/2020) to sense check particular budget lines next to the most relevant precedent
- The consultant will request supplementary information from the individual schools, where necessary, in order to reach an informed position
- Individual budget lines will be assessed and compared to estimated parameters per school, per teacher or per pupil.
- Budget lines which are not valid or are deemed to be over-reported will be requested to be removed or scaled back
Specialised opinion and final report
- Drafting of a final report, including the schools contacted, the types of information provided by school, and the methodology used to come to these final decisions
- Full explanation of the complexity of the problem, including the numerous factors involved in driving up costs (inflation, foreign exchange costs etc) and those which allow savings to be made (reduced staff numbers, reduced staff costs due to unpaid allowances etc)
- Identification of any recommended cost saving which should be passed on to parents in each of the approximately 100 schools
- Collation of these individual school recommendations in a final report presented to the Minister. This report will be an independent assessment of each school’s budget and will be delivered in the name of chosen consultant/firm
- Where necessary, high-level arbitration and explanation of the final decision to school leaders
- Where necessary, attend tribunal to outline chosen methodology and explain recommendation
- Summative assessment of the major risk factors from these schools in terms of major misalignment between parental and schools tuition fee expectations on the next academic year.
DELIVERABLES AND TIME FRAME:
No of days
Consultation and familiarisation with school budget structure
Assessment of acceptable categories of budget lined and the parameters for each, in terms of school sizes, regions and coastal/mountain settings.
Agree suitable methodology for the school budget assessments
Thorough budget and financial analysis of each of the selected schools.
Requests for further information and budget justifications (where applicable)
Recalculation of 2019/2020 expected budget for each school and generation of single school reports
Draft presentation of general findings and decision on course of action with Director of Private Education
Draft report writing including methodology, collection, and analysis of data to make recommendations
Present recommendations to the DG and the Director of Private Education to fine tune findings
Issue final recommendations for approximately 100 schools to the Minister
The expectation is that this will require a team of 3 consultants for those ten days. This will therefore be 30 person days in total.
- PROFILE AND SKILLS
The expectation is that this TOR will be fulfilled by a small team.
- Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) firm.
- More than 10 years’ experience as CPAs in accounting and auditing, preferably with significant experience in the Lebanese public sector.
- Previous experiences within the financing and auditing of the education sector/schooling is expected.
- Working understanding of the complexities Ability to rapidly assess and interpret the appropriateness of school budget lines
- Expertise in proposing a robust methodology to assess private school budgets
- Experience to collect and analyse multiple datasets in parallel and run appropriate validation protocols
- Logical report writing and ability to summarise situation and recommendations to the Minister
- Ability to present evidence in a logical, visual and accessible format
- Comfort working under extreme time pressures to deliver
- Excellent communication and inter-personal skills
- Fluency in Arabic. English and French are also be advantageous.