What are the Common Features of Internal Controls?

Devi Narayanan
Mar 5, 2021
4
Minutes

We know that good governance is the culmination of robust internal controls. Risk management specialists and compliance officers always speak about implementing internal controls. What exactly is the definition of internal controls?

The federal security law, Section 13(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 provides a clear definition of internal controls interns of accounting and bookkeeping: 

The act states that: 

(1) All transactions should be conducted only in accordance with management's general or specific authorization 

(2) Transactions are recorded as necessary (I) for the preparation of financial statements in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles or any other criteria applicable to such statements (3) and for keeping the accountability of assets 

(3) Access to assets should be done only by management's authorization 

(4) Perform recorded accountability of assets with existing assets at reasonable intervals 

This definition provides only a partial view of the scope for internal controls, which is also only accounting and bookkeeping perspective. Actually, in business, the scope of the term internal control is much more wide. Any measure or process you adopt to achieve the organization's operational, financial, and compliance objectives can be referred as controls. These could include policies or procedures that are preventive, detective, corrective, directive, or corroborative in nature.  There would be no way to track the performance of compliance obligations or financial reporting in the absence of controls. It makes it difficult for the management to make fully informed financial decisions.  

An entire internal control system helps the organizations establish an environment that ensures that the company is doing its business according to the rules and regulations. Regular audits are conducted to calculate the risks arising out of lack of internal controls or to test the effectiveness of controls. 

Establish the internal controls by assigning responsibilities

 

The following are the basic features required for a robust internal control system: 

Leadership Integrity 

 Once the leaders encourage integrity through their actions, employees automatically follow them. It sets the overall value system of the organization. It can be continuously imbibed in the minds of the employee through written materials like handbooks and manuals. However, management should also follow the policies to ensure successful implementation of the policies and procedures. 

Competent Employees 

 An organization's ability to recruit and retain competent personnel indicates management's intent to properly record accounting transactions and compliance obligations. In addition, the retention of employees increases the comparability of financial records from year to year. Furthermore, an auditor's confidence in the underlying accounting records increases as he observes the reliability of the organization's personnel. This in turn reduces an auditor's assessment of the risk of a material misstatement in the entity's financial statements. 

Segregation of Responsibilities 

One can bifurcate a task into a series of small tasks by segregating it between various individuals. Segregation of responsibilities is intended to prevent unwarranted fraud and error. It is important to have an effective SOD policy to ensure the efficiency of the relevant internal control. This reduces the risk of errors, mistakes and misappropriations. It helps the company separate various related functions to ensure that a single individual is not in charge of an important task. 

Records Maintenance 

Documentation is an important component of any internal control. Maintaining appropriate records enables management of records like storing, safeguarding, and destroying tangible or electronic records.  Using a GRC solution that seamlessly integrate various applications like Google Drive with the platform helps maintaining and managing . A backup of all the data ensures there is no data loss in case of power failure or there are no employee creates fake transactions. It also acts a legal proof during litigation. 

Relevant Safeguards 

Many safeguards prevent unauthorized access of company assets. They can be physical e.g. locks or intangible e.g. – passwords and pins . Irrespective of the methods, they are an important feature of the company's internal control plan. Documents such as blank checks, company letterhead and signature stamps are items that require safeguarding. One may commonly overlook this. 

Thus, to ensure good governance and compliance, a company should have effective internal controls in place. VComply is a leading GRC platform that helps meet the demands of compliance professionals by helping them perform risk assessment and implement controls.  It comes with built-in compliance frameworks that helps you automate the implementation of compliance controls.

About the author

Devi drives growth through content at VComply. When she isn't writing, she's either reading, or traveling.

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