Internal controls are the key business function for every organization or entity, and they can be defined as the mechanism or rules and procedures implemented by a business to ensure the integrity and reliability of financial and accounting information and also to ensure that there is no violation of due diligence by the management and employees of the business. These controls are required to be reviewed and monitored as well to ensure that the purpose for which they are implemented in the business is being fulfilled and that any required update or change is performed.
Purpose of implementing internal controls:
For the ethical compliance with the changing laws and regulations as imposed on a business.
To protect the resources of a business that are both tangible and intangible from theft or any destruction.
For timely and accurate reporting of the financial statementsâ€”that is, the balance sheet and the profit-and-loss statement of the business.
To mitigate the risk of fraud and errors by preventing and detecting them.
To improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the operations of the business.
Types of Internal Controls
Preventive Control: Preventative controls are applied to prevent any fraud or loss. They occur on a regular basis. Example: segregation of duties, back up of business data, limiting physical access to assets of the business, etc.
Detective Control: Detective controls are applied to find the errors or problems in the functioning of the business after they have occurred. Example: surprise cash count, reconciliation, physical inventory count, etc.
Corrective Control: Corrective controls are applied to correct the errors found by detective control. Example: reporting problems to the supervisor or top management etc.
Major Internal Controls Procedures
Segregation of Duties: The various functions of a business are divided among different persons so that no one person oversees two or more functions. This reduces the chances of error or fraud.
Example: The cash and purchase order manager should be two different people. Otherwise, the purchase order manager could use the business’s money for his personal use and cover it up by showing fake purchase orders.
Approval and Authorization: As technology has advanced, software can now automatically generate the purchase orders in the case of low inventory levels. Thus, to reduce the chances of fraud or error, these auto-generated purchase orders require prior authorization and approval from the purchase manager.
Audit of Assets: The audit of assets refers to the physical or electronic checking of a business’s assets. Electronic checking can be of cash to see whether it has been received or not. Physical checking can be of inventory or machinery etc. Example: There should be an inventory count at the time of loading or unloading inventory in order to reduce any discrepancies.
Access Controls: It is the control applied to the resources (data, cash, etc.) of a business to restrict unauthorized access to it. Example: Separate user ID and password are assigned to the accountant to restrict unauthorized access to the accounting data.
Data Back-up: Back-ups should be done periodically to recover the lost data in case of happening of any uncontrollable event. Example: Financial and accounting information lost due to server corruption or system failure can be recovered using the backed-up data.
Reconciliation: This control performs cross-verification for various account balances to reduce the chances of fraud or error.
Example: The balance of account receivables standing can be cross-verified or reconciled with the sales invoices or vouchers. The settlement of account receivables balance can be reconciled with cash and bank balance to discover whether they were actually received or not.
Documentation: The various transactions occurring in a business should be properly recorded by documenting them in the same format so that it is easy to review the past and current records in case of any fraud or error.
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