Here is the full text of my article, Essentials of Internal Control, appearing in Church Management News from Bank of the West. The online article is here.
The article discusses three key ideas:
- The bookkeeper should not sign checks
- Trust is NOT an internal control
- Review unopened bank statement by someone outside of accounting
Essentials of Internal Control
By James L. Ulvog, CPA
The business administrator of a nearby church has been formally charged with embezzling close to $1 million over four years, according to a recent newspaper article. Few details are publicly available. I have friends who worship there, so this hits close to home. I grieve for my friends, the congregation, believers whose faith has been shaken, and even the accused man and his family.
Last year, the bookkeeper of a women’s shelter in my area was sentenced to one year in prison for embezzlement. The executive director of the center was quoted in a newspaper article as saying the shelter had to sell one of their several houses in order to keep operating. The director said eighty women and their children were denied services.
I was going to start this article with a rational appeal to logic as the way to encourage more emphasis on internal controls in our churches. Instead, I would like you to ponder the devastation that follows in the wake of a disaster that can arise from a breakdown in internal controls. The previous reports are only two examples. One of the main goals of developing internal control is to prevent these situations. I could tell you of many more tragedies. A few moments of searching the internet will find dozens of stories.