WORKING WITH DG ECHO AS AN INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATION | 2021 - 2027
CASH AND VOUCHERS
It has to be considered as voucher.
A Voucher has per its intrinsic nature a restriction on what can be purchased / exchanged for. Therefore if a voucher has a whatsoever restriction is and remain a voucher. It has to be considered cash only if it allows to retrieve money from an ATM or can be used to purchase whatever and whenever (unlikely).
ATTENTION:  some e-card have wallets: some restricted (ie for food only) and some wallets whose amount can be cashed in an ATM. In this case the partner should differentiate the two type of modalities.
It is necessary to refine the approach taken depending on which account the unspent balances are held in.
a) if, for whatever reason, some of the money to be distributed to the final beneficiaries is left pending in the Organisation's central holding account at the end of the Action's eligibility period - that money represents an unspent balance which cannot be charged to any donor. The calculation of the unspent balance per donor will be made on a pro rata basis.  Where needed, this balance may be recovered by ECHO following the agreed procedure in the special clause for the recovery of a surplus balance (currently in place with UNICEF, UNHCR, UNRWA, FAO, UNOPS, PAHO, WHO, UNDO & UN-HABITAT). This provision will not apply to the exchange rates used for reporting.
b) if, for whatever reason, some of the money distributed to the final beneficiaries is left pending in the beneficiary's own account at the end of the Action's eligibility period - that money does not automatically represent an unspent balance since it has been 'incurred'  and if is still under the control of the beneficiary. Funds that are however no longer under the control of the beneficiary due to the timeframe having expired or deactivation of an account are considered as unspent funds and subject to return to the donor. The mere fact that a cost has been "incurred", naturally, will not make it an eligible cost unless the other criteria are also respected. However, in multi-donor Actions questions on cost eligibility of this nature will not always have a financial impact as ineligible costs may be covered by the Notional Approach.
In certain contexts the Humanitarian Organisations may be able to ascertain that, due to inactivity or other reasons the account in the name of the final beneficiary has been deactivated. ECHO does not require its Partners to do this but it seems that it may be emerging as a good practice amongst humanitarian actors. If in such context the Humanitarian Organisation is able to reclaim the unspent balance on the beneficiary's account that balance, it is proposed to require that this balance be returned to the central holding account to be treated together with the global unspent balance (point a) above).
Under the general applicable rules on cost eligibility, the Commission can only pay for a cost when it has, amongst other criteria, been correctly "incurred".
In humanitarian aid actions, provisions exist to determine the moment that a cost has been incurred with regard to goods, equipment, services or works used in connection with the Action. No guidance or interpretation, however, exists as yet to determine when, in the context of Actions involving cash distribution to final beneficiaries, the cash transfer or financial transaction is considered complete and the cost is therefore deemed 'incurred'.
It is widely established that the fact that a legal commitment has been made (e.g. signature of a legally binding agreement or issuing a purchase order) is not sufficient for the costs to be deemed 'incurred'. Likewise the fact that an accounting provision has been made (e.g. money has been placed in an account with a view to being distributed) cannot be sufficient to deem those costs as 'incurred'.
In the case of humanitarian supplies ECHO's provisions require that the costs should relate to supplies distributed/made available to the beneficiaries during the eligibility period of the Action. It would seem appropriate to extend this approach also to cash-based distributions with the following context-specific qualification:
a) where the money to be distributed to the final beneficiaries is held in a bank or other equivalent holding mechanism used by mobile phone operators, hawala agents, etc in the name of one or more humanitarian organisations - the cost shall be deemed incurred when the money has been distributed to the final beneficiary or his/her representative. Money is considered 'distributed' the moment that the beneficiary has access to it.  For example, money does not actually need to be withdrawn for costs to be considered as incurred.
It is however good practice to provide a specific timeframe to beneficiaries during which the money may be accessed;
b) where the money to be distributed to the final beneficiaries is deposited directly into a bank or equivalent account in the name of the final beneficiaries, or is handed over directly to the beneficiary - the cost shall be deemed incurred at that point.
Partner should be prepared to demonstrate that a cost has been actually incurred, for instance, during ECHO audits or verifications. Auditors or Verifiers may ask to visit specific Action locations (distribution points etc.) to verify that the money has been deposited during the eligibility period. During an HQ audit/verification, Commission representatives may check all the supporting documents related to the Action and the relevant dates (including bank accounts and statements).