Gloria Rengifo has led CIAT’s Finance and Administration area for three years now, but her story within the Center begins 15 years back as an administrative assistant. I talked to her some days ago to get acquainted with her journey at CIAT, the operations in her area, and the forthcoming and future challenges facing her working team.
S.P. How do you recall starting work at CIAT?
G.R. I started in 2003 as an administrative assistant at the Rural Innovation Institute, under the administration of Jacqueline Ashby. I worked alongside her for almost four years and I owe her part of my knowledge, as she became one of my role models.
Then, following my dream of engaging in the financial sector, I spent a semester away from CIAT, working at an investment holding, but there I discovered that my true passion was working for non-profit organizations. I came back to CIAT on 2007, as administrative assistant to Albin Hubscher, who also has had a great influence in defining what I am today as a professional.
During that same period, I completed a Master’s degree in Finance and then I took over as Head of Financial Planning; then I spent three years at CCAFS as Senior Manager, Finance, Contracts & Liaison, where I worked under Bruce Campbell, from whom I learned so much. Here I was able to develop skills I wasn’t even aware I had. I greatly admire Bruce for being an excellent leader and scientist.
During my time at CCAFS, the Finance Manager position became vacant at CIAT; I applied and I was selected to hold the position. Less than a year had gone by, when the organization underwent restructuring in the Corporate Services area, and this is when I became Director of Finance and Administration.
S.P. How is the working team organized?
G.R. There are nine areas in total, which are divided as follows:
Two Finance areas:
Financial Planning and Monitoring: It is led by Luis Fernando Osorio and it is the area responsible for creating the institutional budget, as well as the budget for administrative units; it also provides support and budget analyses for proposals, financial support and follow-up, while research activities are carried out, among others.
Financial Operations: It is led by Jorge Peña and it is the area responsible for recording, preparing, preserving, maintaining, and reporting accounting and financial information; fully complying with international financial reporting standards (IFRS), as well as financial guidelines issued by CGIAR, policies, internal control guidelines and procedures for the Center, which allow the Management Team to make decisions. In addition, they are in charge of ensuring an optimal management of financial resources, submitting financial statements to donors, and complying with legal requirements in host countries.
There are seven areas in Administration:
Logistics: It is led by Julio Valenzuela and it is the support area in charge of providing an efficient service to procure goods and services, both nationally and internationally, to enable the proper operation of research and administrative areas.
Information Systems (IT): It is led by Carlos Meneses. This area ensures the connectivity and operation of all the equipment within the Center. The service for regions is currently being decentralized, with two focal points in Africa and Asia. This team provides important support for the research and administrative processes, as it offers good-quality services, solutions, and IT platforms.
Infrastructure and Field Operations: It is led by Camilo Ujueta and the purpose of this area is monitoring the proper operation of the physical plant and infrastructure in terms of lighting, ventilation, water, toilet services, maintenance, motor pool services, vehicle fleet, field operations (site preparation for research trials), and, as of this year, the security area is also included as part of this team. Likewise, they are in charge of crop management at the Palmira location and experiment stations, as well as bus transport, among others.
Catering and Guest House: It is led by Lina Quintana and this area is in charge of daily supplying food to 800 people (canteen, cafeteria, snack bar, and main dining area). It is also responsible for providing services when events are held and accommodation services in the guest house.
Financial and Administrative Coordination – Africa: It is led by Yosam Mugarura and this area is in charge of providing support with the purpose of contributing towards the achievement of CIAT’s goals, by creating an enabling operational framework to facilitate research activities.
Financial and Administrative Coordination – Central America: It is led by Vilia Escober and it is in charge of providing support to research to fulfill CIAT’s goals in Central America, ensuring an efficient and effective management of human and financial resources, as well as goods and materials, following the proper enforcement of administrative processes in the institution.
Administrative Coordination – Asia: It is led by Thao Hoang and it is in charge of providing support to research with the purpose of improving efficiency, coordination, and reporting, as well as the communication between the administrative and financial duties in Asia.
S.P. What are the area’s main goals for 2018?
G.R. For this year, we have set ourselves the following main goals:
- Reorganize and adjust to the financial reality of the Center, since due to a budget situation, we were forced to reduce staff. We are going to reallocate responsibilities to continue working hard towards the enhancement of efficiency and effectiveness, and most importantly, we will work on motivating the team.
- Expand photovoltaic power supply in the Palmira location to 50%.
- Optimize water from oxidation ponds, through a recycling project, for irrigation. Last year, the Center made a major investment in said ponds, which significantly improved water quality.
- Continue to expand the use and harnessing of our ERP (Agresso/UBW), as an example, and launch our project to generate financial reports. We will also reinforce the use of this tool in the regions.
- Improve response times of financial reports for donors.
- Provide support to bring the “Future Seeds” project to life, where we are involved in issues related to budgeting, designing, and contracting suppliers.
S.P. What is your message to CIAT staff regarding the current financial situation?
G.R. We are not in crisis; we are simply adjusting to a new financial reality. At the end of 2017, Financial Statements report a deficit of approximately 2.6 million US dollars, which was anticipated before the year was over. This responds to the fact that during 2017 we spent more than we had planned and at the end did not materialize.
At the end of last year, we had to take some measures, such as letting some of our collaborators go, and this year greater efforts will be made to control the materialization and implementation of new resources, in order to mitigate and provide a timely response to situations such as those faced during 2017; we must think about the sustainability of the Center.
With the team I lead, I have been very emphatic in pointing out that we should think differently to do different/innovative things. We have to continue proposing and implementing strategies that add value to what we do without losing sight of our purpose and those whom we provide our services.
Finally, I have absolutely no doubt that CIAT’s success depends on being able to overcome difficult situations and become strengthened. Each and everyone of us plays a part in this, so I call upon everybody: let’s continue working together as the team we are for this great institution.