The first event was the Intercapitular Assembly, when we have put into focus our journey with regard to all sectors of our life, including the finance. Since March 2007 in the General Office for Finance there is Bro. João Ferreira da Silva as treasurer general’s assistant, in view of a valid collaboration and responsibility in the Institute. To Fr. Elio Zanei, who has left us to become treasurer at the Casa Madre in Verona, we owe our thanks for all the services he has provided during these years.
1. Reports. Even at the level of the General Administration there is the problem of deadlines and coordination of commitments between the GC and the general office for finance, a situation that, I’m sure, some of you experience at provincial level. The Budget for 2007 was prepared by the General Council for Finance in October 2006, but it was too late for approval by the GC. It was, therefore, approved in the Consulta of March 2007. The financial Report of 2007 will be examined by the GC in June 2007.
2. Scholasticates. Concerning this sector, there are important information and novelties coming from the basic formation secretariat. As far as finance are concerned, what has made a difference is mainly the decrease (not drastic) in the number of candidates. The scholasticate activity in Elstree has ceased. In Chicago the numbers of the candidates has decreased, also due to bureaucratic difficulties in getting the entry visa.
The first fee amount sent to the scholasticates was the same as that of 2006, since the GC had not yet approved our updated amount suggested for 2007.
In general, for the past few years there has been a reduction of expenses incurred in the scholasticates: The General council for finance has suggested a decrease of 25% in the membership amount to be debited to the provinces.
3. Medical General Fund (M.G.F.). The M.G.F., instead, is in need of better support, due to the refunds made to the provinces. It has been suggested an increase of 25% in the membership fee for this Fund, though the increase will apply only in 2008, as we have already debited the membership fee in January, when the new budget had not yet been approved.
It was the first time that our insurance payment was in red. Unfortunately not all the treasurers had done their homework concerning the necessary documen-tation for requesting the refunds, namely the original invoices and medical declarations about the need for treatment or proof of the undergone medical tests. In order to encourage the getting of this documentation, the General Secretariat intends to be more severe when it comes to refund the provinces: those that will have the required documentation will be immediately refunded, following the normal guidelines foreseen by the Statute; amounts that are over € (or $) 1.000, with no sufficient documentation, will be discussed and decided by the General Treasurer’s Council; amounts over € (or $) 5.000 will have to attend the decision of the GC. The purpose is to make all the treasurers coresponsible in the administration of this kind of service.
4. General financial situation. The financial situation in the Institute is positive, thanks to the solidarity shown by the provinces and for which we are grateful. Very few provinces (not always the poorest) do not take part in this chain of solidarity, not even in a symbolic way. From last year the general financial situation is registering a surplus, if we base ourselves on the criteria fixed by the 1997 General Chapter. The Financial Council has reflected on this and has made a few proposals to the GC. We are waiting for their decision which will be taken in the next Consulta (we hope), so that we may be consistent with what we assert in our assemblies as well as for following an economic orientation to guide the whole Institute.
5. Economic orientation. The Intercapitular Assembly has been a favourable occasion to evaluate what are the guidelines followed by the Comboni Missionaries in their economic life and which find all of us basically in agreement, at least on principle, even if a few have personal attitudes which go against the communitarian ones. Other aspects are being consolidated or clarified, but we feel to be on the right path and are confident for the future.
At the level of the GC there will be soon a statement made. What already en-joys a multiyear ample approval, supported by the RL as well as by the last General Chapters, are the following points: The Community Fund (or Common cash) – The “superavit” (maximum surplus amount) at community and provincial level – The management and limits of amounts and funds for extraordinary ex-penses and financial security – The setting up and management of Inalienable Assets. We still have to actively reflect on: Provincial Common Fund – Requests and handling of Subsidies and Projects – Provincial self-sufficiency – Formation of Treasurers.
6. Inalienable Assets. Almost all the provinces have answered the letter of the GC concerning this point. Already the word “almost” is not a very positive indication: after three years of debates on this argument, we are unable to make clear proposals. From the provincial treasurers I was expecting greater technical cooperation, first of all with their PC and, subsequently, with the treasurer general. In any case, the Financial Council has examined the various proposals submitted by the provinces and in the June Consulta the GC will deal with this point to give its final decision.
7. Reconstruction of Sudan. In the new situations created by the peace agreements in Sudan, but still under pressure for what is going on in Darfur, there are many aid initiatives springing up for the reconstruction of this na-tion. The Comboni Family is directly interested for the role they play, but also for the historical importance of their presence. The interested forces are numerous and varied: lay, institutional, ecclesial and religious. The two General Councils, SMC and MCCI, are out in front in committing themselves and intend to give a support that in a way works for a planned future, not for an improvi-sation. For this reason, the Superior General, Fr. Teresino, this year has sent around a letter for making us responsive to solidarity, underlining the need for coordinating the Comboni provinces when asked to support the Sudan. Anyone, therefore, intending to answer in a positive way to requests of support for the Sudan, is asked to always go through the General Administration.
8. Private accounts and personal initiatives. In the March Consulta, the GC has also expressed worries about the existence of some private accounts in our procures, which create uneasiness in the community life of the provinces. It is necessary to arrive at a praxis that is commonly shared and respectful of our lifestyle: all accounts have to be authorised by the provincial superior and administered by the provincial or delegation treasurer. We shall reflect about it and possibly arrive at some guidelines.
9. Visits to provinces. During these first months of 2007 I have already vis-ited the provinces of Central Africa and Chad, as previously planned. In this month of May I’m visiting the province of Italy, the first time in my twelve years of service in Rome; in August and September there is planned a visit to the DCA and NAP. The European provinces have organised an assembly for provincial treasurers to meet at Limone, beginning on 15 May 2007.
10. The future. During this year 2007-2008, a good number of provincial and delegate superiors will have been changed. It is an important occasion to establish good working relations of collaboration. It is important how you make available the information in your possession and communicate the basic principles of the financial situation in your province / delegation, so that the new superior, even if he already knows the social and Comboni situation, may be appropriately introduced to his new responsibilities.
I inform you already that in September 2008 we shall have the general assembly of the treasurers in Rome, which in its turn will prepare the grounds, in financial matters, for the General Chapter 2009. It will be an excellent opportunity to begin the reflection on what the provinces wish to propose for the capitular discussion.
A. Lwanga Guarda