IEEE President Moura on the Importance of Financial Transparency

Timely, meaningful, and reliable disclosures are critical

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THE INSTITUTEIEEE is a distributed management association with many organizational units. Conduct that is transparent and accountable is critical to building trust among members, volunteers,
and professional staff. Wise conduct requires consistent understanding, particularly of financial determinations, at all levels to make decisions that benefit all of IEEE and its members.

IEEE is financially sound. But, as I stated in 2017 in my president-elect platform, my goal was to overcome the then persistent operational deficits. To run IEEE with a balanced budget, healthy reserves, and the ability to invest wisely in our future requires understanding, in sufficient detail, our revenue and cost structures. To do so, we need transparency with preparation and distribution of timely operational financial data at the level of detail needed to consistently manage our distributed organization.

For historical reasons, much of IEEE’s cost of doing business has been bundled together and allocated to its products and services indirectly—sometimes unevenly. We need to modernize this process so we can create more transparency in our financial structure. Better financial transparency is essential to run our businesses efficiently so we can determine exactly what it costs IEEE to deliver each product and service.

Transparent financial reporting should maximize the availability of fiscal information to decision makers at all levels of IEEE. I believe that financial transparency should objectively support the reporting of gross revenues to the units that generate them, and costs should be resolved at a sufficient level of detail to individual products and services and assigned to the unit that incurred them to pay for services the unit requested and agreed to.

Our volunteers and professional staff need the processes and tools that allow effective, efficient, and timely collection, reporting, and assignment of revenue and costs at an appropriate level of resolution. These processes and tools should enable the ability to trace and track revenue and costs in a bottom-up manner from organizational units that then roll up to IEEE corporate financial reporting. Our financial system should be able to record revenues and expenses at the transactional level, coded by projects and/or activities, and assisted by an information retrieval system that supports queries and analytics from different units.

During my tenure as an IEEE volunteer, I and others have helped promote financial transparency and have promoted developing a transparent financial system that explains where each dollar is spent, roots out waste, encourages efficiency, and reduces costs without affecting the quality of the products and services provided to our members.

AD HOC COMMITTEES

As a follow-up to the January IEEE Board retreat, I commissioned several ad hoc committees, chaired by dedicated volunteers and supported by members and professional staff, to address the underlying issues and challenges IEEE faces on its path to becoming a more transparent organization.

The financial transparency ad hoc committee’s charter is to develop a plan for detailed financial reporting at a sufficient level of resolution and to initiate its immediate execution, which includes specific actions, timelines, and funding. The committee will provide a blueprint for operating units to present their budget early in the year, every year, with the costs to be charged for each service provided to another unit. The goal is for costs to be charged directly rather than being indirectly allocated. This will allow operating units to decide which services they need and are willing to purchase. It is vital that Board members, as well as all IEEE sections, regions, societies, councils, and major boards, have access to complete financial information in order to fulfill their fiduciary duty to the organization.

The ad hoc committee on contracting is charged with addressing issues that have been raised with our contracting workflows. Every year IEEE organizes nearly 2,000 conferences, half of which are in partnership with other organizations. Issues related to contracting with conference service providers frustrate volunteers and staff and could degrade the value of the events for attendees.

The committee is to propose practical suggestions that consider risk, timing, and available resources.

The ad hoc committee on conference finance management is developing and implementing policies and systems to provide IEEE with a financial management ecosystem for its conference business. It will provide best-in-class support for conference organizers and their organizational units while minimizing the vulnerabilities related to a distributed, global conference business.

And for a more open organization, the ad hoc committee on transparency in meetings, document classification, and elections is drafting bylaws and policies on executive sessions and election-related governing documents to provide maximum but reasonable transparency while still protecting corporate information.

I will continue to champion transparency at all levels, striving for increased communication and an open and accountable IEEE. Share your thoughts with me at president@ieee.org.

This article appears in the June 2019 print issue as “The Importance Of Transparency.”

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