12. Accountable Documents

Introduction

Accountable documents are documents or forms that, once completed, can be exchanged or negotiated for a benefit such as money, goods or services.

This FMM chapter applies only to DFAT accountable documents (including accountable documents held by Honorary Consuls and Canadian missions) that could have a financial value.  Procedures for managing DFAT documents deemed accountable for other reasons (e.g. security) are dealt with in other documents.

12.1 Mandatory Accountable Documents

  1. The following accountable documents must be managed in accordance with this Chapter. Travel documents must also be managed in accordance with instructions issued by the Australian Passport Office through the Online Passport Information (OPI) website.
    • Travel documents (including passports, provisional travel documents and other travel documents)
    • Passport laminates E.S. TT and “White Tail
    • Official receipt books
    • Credit vouchers (e.g. Cabcharge e-tickets, taxi vouchers, petrol coupons).
  2. Official receipt books must be sourced from the DFAT Print and Design Centre.
  3. Pre-paid vouchers (e.g. car wash vouchers, meal tickets) and postage stamps must be managed as cash.  Refer to FMM 5 – Collection and Security of Public Money.
  4. Unused cheques should be managed using SAP cheque lots.  Refer to SAP Helpcard ‘Creating Additional Cheque Lots’.
  5. Other agency accountable documents should not be held, inspected or destroyed by DFAT officers unless agreed to under SLA arrangements and appropriate authorisations from the attached agency have been received.

12.2 Custody and Control of Accountable Documents

Appointment of officers

  1. The Finance Manager must appoint and issue written instruction to officers to take responsibility for custody, inspection, and destruction of accountable documents.  Officers acting temporarily as Custodian or Holders of Accountable Documents due to an unforeseen absence should be issued letters and instruction on handover, if not already appointed as an alternate officer.  Appointment letters are available under FMM Forms on the intranet.  Refer to Chapter 2 for information on appointments. 
  2. Any officer exercising control over accountable documents is responsible for the security and custody of the documents. Accountable document officers include:
      • Custodian of Bulk Stock of Accountable Documents.
      • Holder of Working Stock of Accountable Documents where this role is required in the work area.
      • Accountable Documents Inspection Official.
      • Accountable Documents Destruction Officials.
    • Custodians must be A-based staff or senior LES.
    • More than one Custodian or Holder may be appointed to meet operational requirements.  For example, a post may have a Custodian for payment related accountable documents (receipt books and credit vouchers) and a separate Custodian for travel documents.
    • Honorary Consuls and Canadian missions (where applicable) should be provided with instruction as Holders of Working Stock.
    • Attached agency officers must not be appointed as Custodians or Holders unless written approval has been provided by the CFO.
    • The selection of the Inspection Official should be made with consideration to separation of duties.  See section 12.6 – Inspection of Accountable Documents.
    • Destruction Officials should be appointed only when required.
    • Any officer exercising control over accountable documents is responsible for the security and custody of the documents.

Credit vouchers in Canberra

  1. For credit vouchers issued in Canberra, Divisional Coordinators (or Budget Coordinators in standalone branches) should undertake the Finance Manager responsibilities listed in this Chapter.
  2. Divisional Coordinators may choose retain Custodian responsibilities.  If not, then Divisional Coordinators must appoint and provide instruction to other officers to manage credit vouchers (e.g. Cabcharge e-tickets) in accordance with this Chapter.  The following details should be kept up-to-date and held on file:
    • Work area
    • Date the voucher facility was approved
    • Voucher facility identification account code/number
    • Name and position of Work area manager or Divisional Coordinator
    • Name and position of Custodian(s) and Holder(s) (where applicable)
    • Name and position of inspection official(s)
  3. See also section 12.3 – Issue and use of credit vouchers and section 12.6 – Inspection of Accountable Documents.
  4. Should a work unit no longer require credit vouchers, the credit voucher account must be cancelled and surplus credit vouchers managed in accordance with the issuing authority/supplier’s policy (either returned or destroyed) and in accordance with this chapter.  Stock registers must be updated with cancellation details and the completed stock register filed. Where vouchers are to be destroyed rather than returned, refer to section 12.5 – Disposal of Accountable Documents.

Storage of Accountable Documents

  1. Custodians and Holders must store accountable documents in a secure receptacle to which they have sole access.
  2. The security code and/or duplicate key to the secure receptacle must be sealed in an opaque envelope with identifying detail including date, name, position (e.g. Consular Sub-Cashier), container number and ‘sole access’ written on the front.  Sealed envelopes must be submitted to the Custodian of Duplicate Keys and Combinations.
  3. Security codes must change every time a handover/takeover occurs and should not repeat previously used codes.
  4. For travel related accountable documents, refer to the Online Passport Information (OPI) website for further detailed instruction on the safe custody of accountable documents.

Registers of Accountable Documents

  1. Custodians must maintain an Accountable Documents Bulk Stock Register to record the receipt and issue of all accountable documents.  
    • APO electronic systems (e.g. PICs, TARDIS) are considered Accountable Document Bulk and Working Stock Registers.
    • For non-travel related documents, a sample Bulk and Working Stock Register is provided on the Intranet under Financial Forms and Templates.
  2. Holders (where appointed) must record the receipt of accountable documents from the Custodian.  Holders must also keep a record of the issue of documents (other than receipts) from their Working Stocks of Accountable Documents Register.
    • APO electronic systems (e.g. PICs, TARDIS) are considered Accountable Document Bulk and Working Stock Registers. 
    • For non-travel related documents, a sample Bulk and Working Stock Register is provided on the Intranet under Financial Forms and Templates.

Transfer of custody

  1. An auditable trail of custody must exist from the accountable document source through to its final use and/or issue to the public.
    • For travel related accountable documents, refer to the OPI website for detailed instruction on the receipt, distribution and acquittal of accountable documents.
  2. On receipt of accountable documents, the receiver must provide prompt acknowledgment to the provider.  For example, acknowledgement requests issued by the APO Central Custodian must be signed and promptly returned and transfer of stock between Custodian and Holder must be acknowledged.
    • Electronic acknowledgement of stock transfer (e.g. via email and filed) is acceptable.
    • Electronic transfer of stock allocated and acknowledged in APO electronic systems within the work unit/post, is a sufficient audit trail.
  3. Custodians or Holders must prepare a Handover/Takeover Statement whenever custody is transferred, either temporarily or permanently, to another officer.
    • The outgoing officer must prepare a list of the accountable documents in their custody.
    • The incoming officer must sign the Handover/Takeover Statement when satisfied that the accountable documents stock list is complete and accurately reflects the stock being transferred.
    • The Handover/Takeover Statement should be filed and a copy provided to the Finance Manager.
    • Each officer must maintain sole access to the stocks for which they are responsible.  This will include a transfer of the receptacle key and/or change of security code(s).  See section 12.2 – Storage of accountable documents.
      • For non-travel related documents, a sample Handover/Takeover Statement is provided on the Intranet under Financial Forms and Templates.
      • For travel related accountable documents, refer to the OPI website for detailed instruction on Handover/Takeover requirements.
  4. In the event of an absence (e.g. planned recreation leave, PCL leave), the Finance Manager can decide not to fill the position temporarily if it will not affect work area operations.  Where the absence is unforeseen and the position is to be filled, the Finance Manager and the incoming officer must access the accountable documents container with the assistance of the Custodian of Duplicate Keys and Combinations and prepare a Handover/Takeover statement to verify the accountable documents register agrees with stock on hand.  The incoming officer must ensure sole access is maintained.  See section 12.2 – Storage of Accountable Documents.

12.3 Receiving and Issuing Accountable Documents

Receiving and issuing – Custodians

  1. On receipt of bulk stocks of accountable documents:
    • Ensure that the stock received matches the delivery docket.
    • Check that the order is complete and that the serial numbers are in sequence.  It is recommended that this check be documented (e.g. creating a file note, or notating the Accountable Documents Bulk Stock Register).
    • Enter details of stock received (including unused returned vouchers, where applicable) into the Accountable Documents Bulk Stock Register.
    • Acknowledge receipt of the accountable documents to the issuing office (where appropriate).
    • Store the stock in a secure receptacle to which the Custodian has sole access.
    • If any accountable documents in the bulk delivery are missing, follow up with the issuing authority, advise the Finance Manager in writing, and place a copy of the advice on file.
    • Refer also to section 12.2 – Transfer of Custody.
  2. When issuing from bulk stocks:
    • Enter the name of the receiver against the document’s serial number(s) in the Accountable Documents Bulk Stock Register.
    • Obtain the signature of the receiver in the Accountable Documents Bulk Stock Register.  For an electronic register without adequate audit trail (e.g. word or excel document), this will mean that either the accountable documents register will need to be printed, signed manually and filed each time working stocks are issued or emails acknowledging the stock transfers are filed.
    • Refer also to section 12.2 – Transfer of Custody.

Receiving and issuing Instruction – Holders

  1. On receipt of stocks:
    • Ensure no accountable documents are missing.  If documents are missing, the Holder should advise the Custodian.
    • Having established that all documents are present, sign for stocks received in the Accountable Documents Bulk Stock Register or provide prompt emailed acknowledgement of the transfer.  In the case of stock allocated within APO electronic systems the transfer is recorded electronically.  
    • Accurately record the stock received (including unused returned vouchers, where applicable) into the Working Stock Register.
    • Store the working stocks of accountable documents in a secure container to which the Holder has sole access.
    • Used receipt books must be managed in line with Records Management instruction.  See section 12.5 – Disposal of Accountable Documents.
    • Refer also to section 12.2 – Transfer of Custody.
  2. On issuing stocks:
    • With the exception of issued official receipts, maintain an appropriate record of stock issued, including the date, name and signature (where appropriate) of the recipient.

Issue and use of credit vouchers

  1. Requests for credit vouchers must be made in writing (e.g. by email) to the Custodian or Holder and include the manager’s FMA Regulation 9 approval.
    • The officer who requires a credit voucher(s) sends an email to their manager (at a minimum of EL2 in Canberra).  The email must include the reason why the officer needs the voucher(s), and the number of vouchers sought for the exercise. (e.g. I request Regulation 9 approval for two taxi vouchers for a return trip from RG Casey Building to DIAC Belconnen for a meeting on Border Control).
    • The manager can approve the request where they are satisfied the vouchers would be a proper use of Commonwealth resources and send a reply to the requesting officer to confirm their approval
    • The requesting officer forwards the email containing both the request and the Reg 9 approval to the Custodian/Holder of credit vouchers.
    • The Custodian/Holder files the email and issues the voucher(s).
  2. Employees receiving credit vouchers are responsible for their security and proper use.  Any instance of missing vouchers should be reported promptly to the Custodian or Holder who issued the voucher and to the Finance Manager or Divisional Coordinator who should take appropriate action to prevent the use of the missing voucher.  See also section 12.4 – Lost, Damaged, Obsolete and Spoilt Accountable Documents.
  3. Receipts/stubs received following use of a credit voucher must be retained and submitted to the Custodian or Holder at the first available opportunity.
  4. Unused credit vouchers must be promptly returned to the Custodian or Holder.  The voucher must be re-entered on the appropriate stock register.  The officer returning the voucher and the Custodian or Holder receiving the voucher must sign (or confirm via email and file) acknowledgement of the vouchers return.

12.4 Lost, Damaged and Spoilt Accountable Documents

  1. All lost accountable documents should be reported to the Custodian/Holder who issued the stock and to the Finance Manager as soon as the loss is discovered.  A written report describing how and why the loss occurred and a description of actions taken must be submitted to the Finance Manager.  The Finance Manager should review procedures to guard against further loss and initiate remedial procedures where required.  A copy of the full report must be placed on the work units’ accountable documents file.  For credit vouchers issued in Canberra, reports should be made to/by the Divisional Coordinator and copied to AS FSB (Canberra Finance Manager).
  2. Where travel documents have been lost, spoilt or damaged refer to the Online Passport Information (OPI) website for instructions.
  3. Take prompt action to prevent the use of the lost documents (e.g. advise the credit voucher provider).
  4. All damaged, spoilt, voided or obsolete accountable documents must be cancelled and retained until disposal (see section 12.5 – Disposal of Accountable Documents).  The appropriate bulk or working stock register, including APO electronic systems (e.g. PICs, TARDIS) must be updated to indicate the loss.
  5. Where fraud is suspected, the Finance Manager should contact the Conduct and Ethics Unit (CEU) for advice.  Where the suspected fraud relates to passports or travel documents refer to the OPI website for instruction and contact the Passport Fraud Section (PFS).

12.5 Disposal of Accountable Documents

  1. For travel related accountable documents, refer to the Online Passport Information (OPI) website for detailed instruction on disposal of travel related accountable documents.
  2. The Finance Manager may approve the destruction of surplus, damaged, spoilt, voided and obsolete accountable document stock.  Following destruction, a Notification of Records Destroyed (NAS 45) form should be completed and sent to Corporate Records Section (SATIN_DM_COR-APS@dfat.gov.au).
  3. All other records, including used accountable documents (e.g. used receipt books), must be managed in accordance with the Administrative Functions Disposal Authority(AFDA) issued under Section 24 of The Archives Act 1983 (available through the National Archives of Australia website at www.naa.gov.au).  Refer to the AFDA Financial Management chapter.
  4. The Finance Manager must seek authorisation from the Archives Act Delegate (Director, Corporate Records (COR)) prior to disposing of records, including used accountable documents.
  5. Where the issuing office is another Commonwealth agency (e.g. DIAC) that agency’s disposal procedures must be followed.  See also section 12.1 point 5.
  6. Once disposal is authorised, the Finance Manager must appoint two officers, at least one of whom must be A-based, to undertake the disposal of accountable documents. 
  7. Following destruction (in line with retention periods specified in the AFDA) a NAS 45 form should be completed and sent to Corporate Records Section (SATIN_DM_COR-APS@dfat.gov.au).  Finance Managers should only sign the NAS 45 after documents have been destroyed (a template is available on the Intranet).
  8. The Finance Manager must retain on file evidence of the disposal process, in accordance with Corporate Records (COR) record keeping instruction available on the DFAT Intranet.
  9. In general, principal accounting records (e.g. used receipt books) are required to be retained for seven years, and secondary records (e.g. bulk and working stock registers) for two years, following last action taken. 
  10. The destruction of surplus, damaged, spoilt, voided and obsolete accountable documents should be tightly managed to avoid potential fraud.
  11. Contact COR via email at SATIN_DM_COR-APS@dfat.gov.au for further guidance if required.

Disposal instruction – Finance Managers

Disposal instruction – Officers responsible for accountable documents

Disposal instruction – Destruction officers

12.6 Inspection of Accountable Documents

  1. The Finance Manager must appoint and provide written instruction to an Inspection Official.  See section 12.2 – Custody and Control of Accountable Documents.
  2. Inspections of travel documents and laminates must take place at least once per quarter, in line with instruction detailed in the Overseas Passport Information (OPI) website.  Inspections of other accountable documents must take place at least once every six months.
    • Example Inspection of Accountable Documents forms are available on the Intranet under Finance Forms and Templates.
    • For travel related documents, stock reports generated from the appropriate APO electronic system (refer to the OPI website), physically verified and signed by the relevant Custodian / Holder, Inspection Official and Finance Manager, and filed are acceptable. 
Documents Minimum frequency
  • Travel documents (including passports, provisional travel documents and other travel documents).
  • E.S. TT and “White Tail” passport laminates.

Inspect at least once in each of the following quarters:
1 January to 31 March
1 April to 30 June
1 July to 30 September
1 October to 31 December 

Note: A completed APO half year check, where all documents were accounted for, may replace a quarterly inspection for APC reporting purposes.

  • Official receipts
  • Manual credit vouchers (i.e. credit vouchers where expense details are manually recorded on a paper voucher and signed-off by the customer (e.g. taxi vouchers other than e-tickets, petrol coupons).

Inspect at least once in each of the the following six monthly periods:
1 January to 30 June
1 July to 31 December

Note: Manual official receipts and credit vouchers are not examined through other control mechanisms and therefore must be regularly checked.

  • E-tickets (i.e. credit card sized tickets with a magnetic strip where expense details are electronically recorded by swiping the e-ticket through a terminal.  The terminal generates a receipt and records the e-ticket as ‘used’).

Inspection is not required.
E-tickets are lower risk because they are designed to minimise fraud and are reconciled on a monthly basis as part of the statement payment process.

  1. Inspections should be conducted on a random basis, meaning:
    • Not at the same time of day, or day of the week as the previous inspection.
    • There should be a reasonable period of lapsed time between inspections.
    • Receipt books should not only be checked following banking.
    • The Custodian or Holder must not be alerted before the inspection takes place.
  2. Where accountable documents are held by Honorary-Consuls and/or Canadian Missions, a statement verifying the holding of any accountable documents (including obsolete, damaged, lost and spoilt stock) should be sent to the supervising post each quarter.  Obsolete, damaged or spoilt stock must be returned to the supervising mission for appropriate destruction.  It is expected that when an A-based officer is travelling to these locations they should perform an accountable documents check.
  3. Obsolete, damaged and spoilt stock identified during the inspection should be reported to the Finance Manager to enable disposal.  See section 12.5 - Disposal of Accountable Documents.
  4. Inspections must be reported in the Administrative Procedures Checklist (APC) (also referred to as Mercury).

How to undertake an Inspection of Accountable Documents

  1. Confirm with the Finance Manager the current Custodians and Holders.
  2. Undertake the inspection in the presence of the Custodian or Holder to ensure the sole access rules are maintained.
  3. Print out an Accountable Documents Inspection form, available on the Intranet, or for travel related documents print stock lists from the APO electronic system (refer to instruction contained on the OPI website).
  4. Physically inspect the stock of accountable documents.
  5. Compare the stock to the appropriate (bulk or working) stock register.  Note where a handover/takeover to a new officer has occurred since the last inspection and include information on the inspection report.
  6. Accurately complete an Inspection of Accountable Documents, checking that the quantity numbers add up:
    • Documents carried forward from the last inspection
    • Plus stock received since the last inspection (including unused returned vouchers, where applicable)
    • Minus stock issued since the last inspection
    • Minus stock destroyed since the last inspection
    • Equals the total stock on hand
  7. Complete separate inspection forms for bulk stocks and working stocks (where applicable).
  8. Retain the completed and signed form on file.

Advice on how to undertake an Inspection of Bulk Stock

Check that:

Advice on how to undertake an Inspection of Working Stock

Advice on how to undertake an Inspection of manual Credit Vouchers

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