Poor financial controls can create significant waste, fraud, or decreased credit rating – yet it happens to thousands of businesses every year. A sound internal control environment is the foundation from which a corporate finance function can be relied upon to protect and report on the company’s cash and general financial position.
Unfortunately many small and mid-market companies have completely inadequate controls due to the perceived expense and skill-set required to establish a strong internal control environment proper ones, leaving them exposed to several risks including:
- Lost revenue
- Wasted spending
- Internal fraud
- Unavailability of credit
Improper controls in any of the different areas of the finance function can lead to the issues above. These include:
- Mistakes in the invoicing process (over billing, under billing or unclear billing) can cost the company money and/ or damage the company’s credibility stance in the marketplace with customers.
- Errors in the payment process (late payments, missed payments or over-payments) can damage a companies credit rating, can cause business disruptions through vendor credit holds or cost the company money as many vendors are not going to return cash that was overpaid to them.
- Lack of controls in the cash payment process or general accounting area open the company up to fraud that would be difficult to detect see.
- Incorrect or incomplete financial reports can adversely affect business decision making and can lead to the inability to get obtain financing, or to increased audit costs
Take the Consero Financial Performance Assessment
Here are 11 questions executives must ask to improve financial controls.
- Do I have an invoicing process that I am confident yields consistently accurate invoices to clients?
- Do I have the ability to automatically verify that ALL billable expenses (time, materials, sub- contractors, etc…) were passed back through to clients?
- Are my revenue recognition practices compliant with US GAAP?
- Accounts Payable
- Does my current process ensure that invoices are received and can be tracked through all the way to payment?
- Do I have a purchase requisition process to ensure that all material payments of any significance to be pre-approved?
- Do I have separation of duties so that no one person in my accounting function can 1) create a vendor 2) setup a payment to a vendor 3) initiate/authorize a payment to a vendor?
- Does my accounting system prevent entries from being deleted after a check was printed or a payment generated?
- General Accounting and Reporting
- Are bank reconciliations done each month to verify that the accounting system accurately reflects bank account activity?
- Are the people doing bank reconciliations separate from the people who have the ability to generate payments?
- While all companies like to think things won’t happen to them, if you can answer “No” to any of the questions above, you are likely exposed to the risks outlined at the beginning of this note.
- Contrary to common perceptions, proper financial controls for small and mid-market companies do not have to be expensive to implement and can have an extremely positive ROI in savings…not to mention peace of mind.