Behind the Scenes at Challenging Heights: Money Talks
“We are the money watchmen! The ‘money security act.’” Gilbert Oduroh says he and his colleague, Cecilia Donkoh, take care of figures. He’s a numbers guy. She loves the problem solving. The duo makes up the Challenging Heights Finance Department, writing budgets, preparing payment vouchers and reporting back to our esteemed donors. Cecilia says she spends her days completing entries for the reporting software, Quickbooks. She keeps track of what money comes in, where it goes, and writes checks to pay administrative bills like electricity and gas. When payments build up, Cecilia says, that’s when her role can get challenging. “Any mistake you do affects someone’s reports,” she explained. Detail oriented, Cecilia says their office hasn’t had any problems with entries because she and Gilbert are incredibly careful. She joined Challenging Heights in October 2014, after finishing a year of Ghana National Service once she completed her accounting degree. Cecilia says she loves the calculating. When numbers don’t work out, she may get confused and need to start all over, but she really enjoys the puzzle and figuring it out.
Her co-worker, Gilbert, studied business accounting and worked for about seven years doing similar work before joining Challenging Heights in 2013. He says he documents all money that comes in from donors, keeps track of how much is spent and what’s left. Gilbert is often sought after by the nearly 100 Challenging Heights staff members, since he’s the one doling out salaries, making sure all tax deductions are properly taken out and paid. Plus, he handles the petty cash fund. There’s a specific process Gilbert implements to get cash to those who need it for Challenging Heights programming. Staff members raise a request for cash for a specific activity; Gilbert reviews it, approves it and passes it on to Challenging Heights President, James Kofi Annan. Once Senior James gives the O-K, Gilbert writes a check and the activity is carried out. Afterwards, Gilbert expects receipts and supporting documentation of what the money was used for; he files documents and enters each spending item into the system. The pressure Gilbert feels, he says with a laugh, comes from his colleagues. He knows that they want money for their programmes as quickly as he can get it to them, but as finance officers, he and Cecilia need to make sure everything is correct with the budget before releasing a dime.
Cecilia and Gilbert navigate donor requests carefully, knowing that different people expect different documentation. Some are strict with rigid directions on how they want expenditures reported, which can be sometimes prove difficult, but this finance team is methodical and they keep everything organized and clear. “I love what I do – that’s what I know best!” says Gilbert. The two say, they take care of the money; they watch its every move, but they don’t spend a bit of it themselves. It all goes toward programmes for Challenging Heights’ beneficiaries, or directly to beneficiaries.