Let’s take a look at the dictionary definition of the word “accountant.”
n. One that keeps, audits, and inspects the financial records of individuals or business concerns and prepares financial and tax reports.
Basically, accountants are the ones who take care of all financial/numerical matters. Operational managers, according to Wikipedia, are people with “responsibility of ensuring that business operations are efficient in terms of using as little resource as needed, and effective in terms of meeting customer requirements.” Apparently, I am an operational manager. Yet, on this project – involving European Commission and several partners from Italy, UK and France – I am writing all the invoices, making inquiries of the payment due dates and tracking what money is for what part. Then why the hell am I doing all financial matters? Because, our accountant cannot speak effing English. If I am doing all the invoices, tracking, and financial inquiries, then there’s a problem. If all other programs’ finances are managed by her and EC program is exception, then for sure there is a problem.
I had an issue with the accountant today.
Today, long-waited funding from our client, European Comission, has finally arrived. There has been a lot of trouble over this funding. First, they called off some sudden stock taking meeting, asking us to send representatives. And EC failed to set a separate funding for trip reimbursement. Second, since our clients and partners are Europeans, almost all offices and departments shut down all activities so they can go on their 3-months summer vacation. This caused an incredible delay and troubles on all the communications, including funding. Because there was no pre-set trip reimbursement funding, there were lots of rule-bendings, making-up documents and fly-under-the-radar involved. I was in the middle of that, not our accountant. Finally, the money from EC was wired. Obviously they sent everything as a whole, instead of dividing them nicely so we can track the money easily.
The accountant demanded me to pin-point the objects of each amount. It would have been much easier if I handed her all the invoices beforehand, but this time it was impossible: there were so many adjustments going on in a short amount of time, bending the rules, making up the documents and stealth-flying. Some I could answer right away, but some I had to ask our partners. Then the accountant said, “you need to be more responsible for the funding of this program. You are the operational manager.” I almost got flipped. Excuse me? Well, guess who’s writing all that invoices and making funding inquiries! And you expect me to track all of the fundings while dealing with hyperdemanding Europeans?
I: Well, here’s the thing. It is not a one-time ready-to-go document sending. Sometimes one invoice has to be adjusted five times, not to mention all the communication involved and delays. So to me, it is quiet difficult to remember every single details
Accountant: I don’t need an excuse (for sure I would have screamed if I were in a terrible mood). Don’t you think you need to have better knowledge of funding details because you are the manager? The other manager who worked before you did not have this kind of problem, she always handed the invoice on time,
I: No, I am not making an excuse. I am trying to figure out a solution, because a. there are just too many details and adjustment to remember while managing the program, and b. as an accountant, you are having troubles of funding tracking because I don’t remember all details. So why don’t I just share the whatever information sent by our French accountant? I’ll forward it to you.
Accountant: Er, no need, because I don’t speak English…
I: (imaginary facepalm) okay, no, you don’t have to worry – you just have to know the invoice number, object, and monetary amount.
Accountant: Uh, no, my point is that I keep reminding you about the money and you just need to be more responsible and…
I did not know what to do except eye-rolling. Our French partner has two people involved in this project. One is accountant and the other one is operational manager. When it comes to money, I contact their accountant, not another one. Our UK partner also has two people, one being the academic coordinator and another one being operational manager. Our Italian partner has only one manager, but they are involved only with 10% of the entire project.
As of us, Koreans, we do have an accountant with 9 years of experience. In other Korean domestic projects, when someone asks for invoices, receipts and such, everyone let the accountant handle the matter. For the EC program, I do all of what is originally our accountant’s job – in other words, she’s just sitting there. And she tells me that I need to be more responsible? If she really wants to say that to me, she either needs to learn English so I don’t have to do all the funding communication while I don’t really understand what’s going on in the world of finance (and also can focus on operations), or at least tries to immerse herself on this project’s communication rather than leaving everything to me, or hire another accountant who can speak English and concentrate on this kind of English-involving project.
But for sure I know that will not happen, and I’m leaving.