Why You Need To Segregate Duties In Your Accounting Department

Bank reconciliations should be done by someone other than the person who is making cash deposits or withdrawals. Sign up to receive more well-researched small business articles and topics in your inbox, personalized for you. Eric Gerard Ruiz is an accounting and bookkeeping expert for Fit Small Business. He completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Accountancy at Silliman University in Dumaguete City, Philippines. Before joining FSB, Eric has worked as a freelance content writer with various digital marketing agencies in Australia, the United States, and the Philippines.

  • Additionally, Penn receives significant funding from federal sponsors and other sources that carry substantial fiduciary responsibilities.
  • This only happens if there is duplicate data entry, or if multiple people verify each others’ work.
  • Again, such boundaries must be assessed to determine if they introduce any residual risk.

In IT Control Objectives for Sarbanes-Oxley, 3rd Edition—a fourth duty—the verification or control duty is listed as potentially incompatible with the remaining three duties. On the top-down side of the approach, the organization was analyzed to determine what the roles were for every department, function or office involved. Then, roles were matched with actors described in process-flow diagrams and procedures. This resulted in the ability to match individuals in the process flow with a specific job description within the organization.

Why Do You Need Segregation of Duties?

If that were to occur it could have extreme consequences for a cash-strapped company. The accounts payable process or function is immensely important since it involves nearly all of a company’s payments outside of payroll. The accounts payable process might be carried out by an accounts payable department in a large corporation, by a small staff in a medium-sized company, or by a bookkeeper or perhaps the owner in a small business. In order to ensure the propriety of submitted hours, employee time cards/records are to be approved by their supervisor as certification that the hours/work were actually performed as reported. Supervisors should sign or initial and date the timecards to document their review and approval.

  • Purchasing Card Roles & Responsibilities require that transaction approvers confirm cardholder transactions for legitimacy and compliance with University policies.
  • The receiving report may be a paper form or it may be a computer entry.
  • Additionally, you can download an internal controls separation of duties matrix.
  • This reduces the risk that checks will be removed from the company and deposited into a person’s own checking account.
  • When a higher level of efficiency is desired, the usual trade-off is weaker control because the segregation of duties has been reduced.

For example, third-party audits by a separate function (e.g., internal audit) or an external entity (e.g., external audit) may be beneficial. In this case, a function-level or company-level SoD may be used, for example, to assess effectiveness of individual-level SoD. This is a secondary level of controls that provides assurance about the effectiveness of existing SoD controls. This alternate model encompasses some management duties within the authorization of access grant and segregates them from the other duties.

What are the controls when segregation of duties is not possible?

Vendors often send statements to their customers to indicate the amounts (listed by invoice number) that remain unpaid. When a vendor statement is received the details on the statement should be compared to the company’s records. A receiving report is a company’s documentation of the goods it has received. The receiving report may be a paper form or it may be a computer entry. The quantity and description of the goods shown on the receiving report should be compared to the information on the company’s purchase order. Just as delays in paying bills can cause problems, so could paying bills too soon.

This reduces the risk that an employee will divert an incoming payment from a customer and cover the theft with a matching credit to that customer’s account. As an example of the segregation of duties, the person who receives goods from suppliers in the warehouse cannot sign checks to pay the suppliers for those goods. As another example, the person who maintains inventory records does not have physical possession of the inventory. And as a third example, the person who sells a fixed asset to a third party cannot record the sale or take custody of the payment from the third party.

Recording & Reconciliation

Due to a limited number of employees, small businesses often face challenges in SoD as some admin employees have to handle two or three roles to cope. When a single employee handles tasks that violate the segregation of duties we discussed, it’s vitally important that the small business owner be involved in reviewing the work to help prevent fraud. By segregating duties in an accounting department, multiple people are held responsible for the end product. The person inputting payroll isn’t the one reconciling the bank account. Furthermore, having multiple people in the department may be enough of a deterrent to keep employees from attempting fraud in the first place. This trusting mindset places the company, its employees and its overall success at risk.

If the person who wrote the checks also makes out purchase orders, they could make out a fraudulent purchase order to themselves or a relative. The books might show a payout for computer repair services when in fact no computers were broken, the accounting clerk just took the money for himself. If one person made the purchase order and a second person wrote the check it would be much harder to steal. Make sure each person’s job description aligns with what they are doing.

One person compiles the gross pay and net pay information for a payroll, and another person verifies the calculations. This keeps a payroll clerk from artificially increasing the compensation of some employees, or from creating and paying what are audit assertions and why they are important fake employees. Let’s assume the company driver has the authority over fuel expenses. If they think fraudulently, they can be creative and charge the fuel expenses of their personal vehicle as fuel expenses of the company trucks.

Concepts and Best Practices

Having written job descriptions puts everything on paper and leaves less room for miscommunication of roles and responsibilities. Assessing employee experience and strengths is a vital step in successfully managing your accounting department. Additionally, a month-end checklist is helpful in creating a list of who is responsible for what. When something doesn’t go as planned, or when someone doesn’t do their job, it makes it much easier to see where the problem is and greatly reduces finger pointing.

What Is the Fraud Triangle in Accounting?

In fact, keep accounting completely separate from the rest of the operations divisions in the company. Therefore, there should be no individuals in the work-in-progress section that are keeping track of products in the finished goods section. One person opens envelopes containing checks, and another person records the checks in the accounting system.

When there is no SoD in place, opportunities to commit fraud might arise, especially if it incentivizes the perpetrators. Processes as Scoping Boundaries
A second boundary may be created by the processes that transform the assets or their status. Again, such boundaries must be assessed to determine if they introduce any residual risk.