In Control: Why Monitor When We Know it is Broken?
- Holly Ueland
- 15 September, 2016
- In Control
- minute(s)In part 1 of this series, we discussed how continuous controls monitoring is incredibly valuable for management. In this installment of the series, we address a recurring question we hear. When chatting with clients we hear "Listen, I know our processes is broken. Why waste time monitoring it when we could spend that time fixing it? Aren't checking the pulse of a dead patient?" This statement does seem to have some logic to it. But it over-simplifies the situation. The reality is that monitoring your control activities is an integral part of the effort to fix them. When we say "broken" we typically mean that the process is failing to achieve its objective. Translating this into Internal Control terminology we mean the control activities are failing to mitigate risk. Business processes are often very complex with many steps, risks, controls, stakeholders and participants. When we say "the process" is broken we mean one or more risks are not being controlled. But which controls? Why? That information is going to be critical in determining how we fix "it". Monitoring controls that we suspect are not functioning can tell us which controls are failing and why. This information is critical to making good decisions about how to resolve the issue: Further, once we resolve the issue (Repair, Implement, or Remove) we will want to monitor to ensure new problems don't crop up or old ones reocur. If you go in for heart surgery, Doctors want to keep a close eye on you for some time thereafter! How does your organization determine what expected controls are for various processes and determine which ones to monitor? Through best practices, which we discuss in part III of this series.
The importance of Monitoring is often overlooked in internal control systems. Even when processes are"broken", it turns out monitoring is essential.READ MORE
6 Key Fraud Findings for Government Finance Officers
- Holly Ueland
- 12 September, 2016
- In Control
- minute(s)The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) 2016 Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud and Abuse had several findings that will be very interesting to finance managers in local government. The 2016 report is based on the results of the 2015 survey. As part of the survey, respondents were asked to provide a detailed narrative of the single largest fraud case they had investigated since January 2014. Respondents were then presented with 81 questions to answer regarding the particular details of the case, including information about the perpetrator, the victim organization, and the methods employed, as well as fraud trends in general. While the report is very interesting from many respects, there are 6 points we want to highlight. 6 Findings relevant for Government Finance Officers The most prominent organizational weakness that contributed to the frauds in the study was a lack of internal controls, which was cited in 29.3% of cases, followed by an override of existing internal controls, which contributed to just over 20% of cases. Government and public administration experienced the third highest incidence of losses due to error and fraud, with a median loss of $109,000/ incident. Small organizations had a significantly lower implementation rate of anti-fraud controls compared to large organizations. Small government organizations are more susceptible to fraud. Out of all the government bodies included in the report, from federal to local, small organizations (those with fewer than 100 employees) accounted for the greatest number of fraud occurrences overall. In addition, of the fraud occurrences in small organizations, those involving cash occurred over twice as frequently. The presence of anti-fraud controls was correlated with lower fraud losses. ACFE compared organizations that had specific anti-fraud controls in place against organizations lacking those controls and found that where controls were present, fraud losses were 14.3%–54% lower Anti-fraud controls also correlated with much faster detection. Frauds were detected 33.3%–50% more quickly if the organization used such controls. The report also notes that total losses represented in the study were actually significantly higher. However, to conservatively report loss amounts, the top and bottom 1% of results were excluded from the total loss figure. Even viewing the losses reported through a conservative lens, a typical loss of $108,000 per fraud can be devastating to many organizations, especially when combined with the indirect fallout that often accompanies a fraud scheme. Join us for a free webinar and see how CaseWare's Continuous Controls Monitoring will improve your organization's internal control. We’ll examine the ever-evolving risk profile that governments experience and also demonstrate the significant benefits available (timeliness, accuracy, and cost-effectiveness) of automating monitoring and enforcement of internal control (Continuous Monitoring) using CaseWare solutions.
2016 ACFE Report outlines several key points for government finance officers interested in internal control and eliminating fraud.READ MORE
Financial Statement Automation Saves Time & Money for Lethbridge
- Jamie Black
- 08 September, 2016
- Success Stories
- minute(s)Lethbridge, is a commercial, financial, transportation, and industrial centre with a population of 89,000. The City of Lethbridge provides both essential and nonessential services to its residents, from fire and emergency response to museum and library operations. The City’s Financial Services department is staffed by a team of professionals charged with bringing efficiency, accuracy, and transparency to the organization. CaseWare Working Papers and Financials are the tools the department relies on to fulfill that goal. More and More Spreadsheets As the PSAB (Public Sector Accounting Board) requirements changed, organizations like the City of Lethbridge were forced to change the presentation of their financial statements. Many turned to spreadsheets to accommodate the changes. Municipal governments within the province of Alberta are required to file a Municipal Financial Information Return (MFIR), which must be submitted to the Municipal Affairs office along with audited financial statements by May 1 of each year. At the City of Lethbridge, preparing it involved a multitude of spreadsheets and the dedicated work of one of the City’s most tenured employees. The City of Lethbridge has been using CaseWare Working Papers for many years, although in a limited capacity. “We were just using CaseWare for our balance sheet items,” recalls Tricia Fraser, Financial Reporting Supervisor for the City. “Essentially it was serving as a document holder only. We created our financial statements and other financial reports in Excel®. We needed a better way, as it was just too manual and time consuming.” Embracing Efficiency The City engaged F.H. Black & Company, a CaseWare certified consultant, to help it gain efficiency and reduce manual data entry tasks. “F.H. Black has been a tremendous resource,” says Fraser. “Their knowledge and experience with CaseWare has helped us make more strategic use of the product.” Financial Statements Completed in Record Time Using CaseWare Financials the City tackled financial statement automation. Now the City’s annual financial statement is completed substantially faster than before. “In fact, I had staff asking me what we had forgotten because they were so surprised that we were done so quickly.” That time savings is being put to productive use, Fraser says. “We used to spend so much time preparing documents and assembling the report, that we had little time to analyze the data and look for improvements. CaseWare buys us strategic planning time, time where we can consider what didn’t work, what worked well, and what we can do better. That’s priceless.” Three Weeks Saved in Production of MFIR F.H. Black showed the City how to use CaseWare Working Papers and CaseWare Connector to populate the MFIR report directly. “As a test, we prepared last year’s MFIR both ways, the old way and using CaseWare for the portions we automated,” says Fraser. “Both ways produced the exact same result, only CaseWare did it instantly. Now, instead of handing our auditors a series of spreadsheets and a binder of supporting documentation, we will hand them a CaseWare file.” Fraser says this single change will likely result in lower audit fees, and enables the City to complete its MFIR three weeks sooner than in the past. Improved Accuracy and Security Another benefit the City is realizing through CaseWare is increased accuracy. In the past, personnel would be assigned to troubleshoot and validate the Excel spreadsheets. “Now, when something is out of balance, we can easily follow the trail to the source and make the corrections,” says Fraser. “And because there is no manual input, the opportunity for errors is greatly reduced.” The move to CaseWare Financials has led to improved data security. “I used to be scared to give anyone else access to the spreadsheets, fearing someone would change something and I wouldn’t know who did it or why,” Fraser explains. “In CaseWare, I’m able to set up security so that I can control who has access to what. Now, we have 20 people working in CaseWare, and the data is accessible, auditable, and secure.” Leverage the Investment The City is leveraging its use of CaseWare by using it to produce other financial reports, including sections of its unaudited financial statement that is sent to council prior to the publication of the audited report. “This report is due during our busiest time of the year,” notes Fraser. “We were able to put it into CaseWare and the time savings is unbelievable. Frustration levels of staff during this crunch time are dramatically reduced.” Fraser and her family are relocating soon, and as she discusses new employment opportunities with potential employers, she is certain to ask one question: “I always ask if they use CaseWare. If the answer is no, the conversation is over.”
The City of Lethbridge uses CaseWare Working Papers to automate annual financial statements and the MFIR, driving significant time savings and reducing cost.READ MORE
Continuous Controls Monitoring is Management's Best Friend
- Holly Ueland
- 06 September, 2016
- In Control
- minute(s)Being audited is hard work! Managers spend a lot of time getting prepared, answering questions and generally feel like they are under a microscope. Despite this, most acknowledge that audits are valuable. How can you get the benefits that audits provide without the pain? Continuous Controls Monitoring (sometimes referred to by the acronym CCM or just shortened to continuous monitoring)! To understand why this is true, we need to understand a bit about the similarities and differences between the two. Both include the performance of assessments. One difference is ownership of the assessment process – the auditor is responsible for auditing, while monitoring is owned by management.You could say monitoring is auditing performed by management. CCM also provides several benefits. Easier (and Cheaper) Audits Continuous controls monitoring and external audit often directly impact each other. If you have an undocumented, unmonitored set of internal control activities, you should expect your external auditor to perform extensive sampling and testing. That leads to increased time and effort for the auditor, increased professional fees and increased support work for you. Contrast that with an organization who has very strong monitoring of their internal controls, excellent documentation of the exceptions found and their remediation. Your auditor can review this evidence of your strong internal control system and conclude that there is minimal risk. That means less testing and time on their part, reduced professional fees and less work for you. With continuous monitoring, your audit reports can change from a laundry list of errors made throughout the prior year to a discussion of improvements in your management and control processes to better prevent, detect and remediate errors in the future. Timely and Efficient Management In addition to reducing the number of tests being performed (which should yield less expensive audits), continuous monitoring provides another significant benefit - timeliness. CCM occurs alongside business processes, so identified issues can be addressed proactively before it becomes a major (public) problem. Consider the difference between: finding and putting a hold on a suspected duplicate invoice payment before it is paid vs. detecting the payment months after it has occurred during an audit and then trying to recover funds from the vendor. By monitoring your internal control activities continuously, you have the opportunity to manage your processes as they are happening, rather than retrospectively. Check out the second part of this blog series to find out why continuous monitoring is even more important when we know controls are broken.
Continuous Controls Monitoring (CCM or sometimes Continuous Monitoring) provides a massive benefit to management AND simplifies the annual audit process.READ MORE
LGDE Simplification for your BC Local Government
- Tricia Fraser
- 01 September, 2016
- What's New
- minute(s)We are happy to announce the release of a new member of our CaseWare Add-On Tools family. In addition to the requirement to present PSAB compliant statements, British Columbia Municipalities and Regional Districts must prepare the LGDE (Local Government Data Entry forms). This is annual requirement for BC local governments (under Community Charter section 167(4)) to be submitted to the Inspector of Municipalities. Unfortunately for those of us preparing this annual information, very typically we find that the grouping / presentation of information for the LGDE is substantially different from PSAB standards. FHB’s LGDE Automation Tool provides groupings to facilitate the simplification of the LGDE preparation. It also includes a complete package of leadsheets tied to these groupings which allow you to verify balances, add supporting working papers, reference and then sign off on your work on a line by line basis. Finally our tool replicates the data entry forms to facilitate easy data entry into the Ministry's website. Unfortunately the Ministry will not allow us to automate the upload of these values but our Automation Tool will help alleviate the agony experienced in painstakingly trying to prove agreement between your audited financial statements and the LGDE. Those ‘last minute’ adjusting journal entries from the auditor will no longer be an issue, just post your adjustments in the Working Paper File and the effects will roll out across your financial statements, notes, schedules and LGDE balances!
The annual LGDE requirement for BC local governments can be largely automated with CaseWare Working Papers and our add-on tool.READ MORE
CaseWare Feature Spotlight: Content Library
- Jamie Black
- 31 August, 2016
- CaseWare Feature Spotlight
- minute(s)CaseWare Working Papers is the first choice of finance professionals around the world for automating complex financial reporting. When spreadsheets are the problem, CaseWare's sophisticated features are the solution. We've developed this article series to outline many of these features for two reasons: so prospective users can appreciate all of CaseWare's power and to encourage existing users to maximize their utilization of the software. One of the CaseWare's features that will reduce time spent on the year end and yield better quality results is its Content Library. If you are used to maintaining your financial reports in spreadsheets, you know it is all up to you. You have to develop your own formats and content whenever there is a new pronouncement and you are responsible for updating and maintaining your own custom Excel worksheets forevermore. Rather than building your reports from scratch, you can leverage the power of CaseWare's platform for management and use of standard content. Major features include: Predefined & updated content - CaseWare Financials comes pre-packaged with extensive libraries of content that are pre-configured to use standard group codes. The library includes standard statements, schedules and hundreds of notes. There are different libraries (ASPE, GAAP, GASB & IFRS) and your annual software license provides content updates, providing you with tested and reviewed content to ensure compliance with new standards. Thus, when a GASB pronouncement dictates you need a new pension note, it is ready and waiting for you to insert into your financial statements. Add your own content - While the content library can certainly aid when a new report or disclosure is required, you can always add your own content to the library. This allows you to reproduce any existing statements or handle a special reporting requirement. Adding your content is simple and you can even integrate directly into the library's strong content management and organization features.
Rather than building your reports from scratch, yourself, leverage the power of CaseWare Working Paper's GASBE / IFRS / ASPE content library.READ MORE
Version 14 of CaseWare Financials Released
- Darryl Parker
- 30 August, 2016
- What's New
- minute(s)CaseWare Financials 14.00 Software: CaseWare Financials Prior Version: Financials 13.00 New Version: Financials 14.00 Release Date: August 23, 2016 There have been significant changes to the existing features. Here's a list some of the more noteworthy items: 1. For those reporting under GASB new cash flow worksheets by major/minor funds has been added: Statement of Cash Flows Proprietary Funds Non-major Enterprise Funds Combining Statement of Cash Flows Internal Service Funds Combining Statement of Cash Flows 2. New functionality in libraries: Tagging content to industries is now available for Template authors. See more… Content for additional statement areas can now be based on standard statement libraries. 3. DIY Tables Enhancements The Table Column Properties dialog now has a new Auto fit all columns option to redistribute column widths among remaining columns in a DIY table with skipped/hidden columns. See more… A new Switch entity/mapping selector locations option is now available to switch the location of the entity and mapping selectors in a DIY table.See more... The Replicate DIY table option has been expanded to support note and section libraries. See more... For a comprehensive list of new features and updates visit the CaseWare site here.
CaseWare Financials 14.00 was released last week. Here's a list of some of the prominent new features and major changes to the software.READ MORE
Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health Automates Financial Reporting
- Jamie Black
- 15 August, 2016
- Success Stories
- minute(s)Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health works to improve the health of 250,000 residents of Wellington and Dufferin counties and the city of Guelph with a wide range of health services and resources, including immunizations, dental care, parenting support services, travel information, and infectious disease control. With 230 employees spread across six locations and an annual operating budget of $27 million, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health embraces technology and the efficiencies it can provide to enable it to devote more resources to its mission. CaseWare Working Papers and Financials are two pieces of technology the organization relies on to streamline their financial reporting. Working Papers for Municipalities “We implemented CaseWare in 2013,” recalls Shanna O’Dwyer, Manager of Finance for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health. “My first year here at the organization I used Excel® spreadsheets - and a lot of them - to produce the annual financial statements. I remember being concerned through the entire cycle that something would get missed and not updated properly. It was a stressful time.” O’Dwyer had used Working Papers in her prior position with an accounting firm, so was familiar with the solution and its capabilities when she saw it in action at a Municipal Finance Officers conference. “I met F.H. Black & Company Incorporated at the conference and learned how they have successfully implemented CaseWare for dozens of municipal organizations like ours across Canada,” she says. “We determined CaseWare would be an ideal fit for us.” Professional Implementation The implementation went very well says O’Dwyer. “F.H. Black & Company was fantastic. They were highly organized and very methodical in their approach. They kept the project on schedule and saw that we were informed and involved throughout the process.” Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health also appreciated the easy access to members of the F.H. Black’s consulting team. “We are able to view their calendars online and book a time slot that’s convenient for us,” O’Dwyer says. “But if we have an urgent matter, they are always directly available.” Simplifying Complex Tasks After receiving training in the solution and the mechanics involved in generating the financial statement templates, O’Dwyer was able to create the organization’s templates herself. She then set about duplicating the prior year’s financial statements in Working Papers as a proof of concept. “F.H. Black & Company helped with the export of the trial balance data from our accounting system,” O’Dwyer says. “It’s complex data with many different departments, segments, and funds but with their help we got it done.” During the past fiscal year, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health has made a number of changes to its financial statement layout. “F.H. Black & Company helped us modify the templates to meet our needs and we were good to go,” says O’Dwyer. “It would have been a nightmare to try to incorporate all those changes if we were still using spreadsheets.” In subsequent years, O’Dwyer anticipates the time savings that Working Papers will deliver will be substantial. “In a short time frame, we are able to produce accurate, consistent financial statements.” Quality, Confidence, and Control Using Working Papers has improved the quality of Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health’s financial statements and made them more consistent O’Dwyer says. “Before CaseWare, we were copying rows of data from our financial statements and dropping them into the spreadsheets. Now we establish the account groupings in CaseWare and it does the work for us. Changes made to the working papers flow to the statements so we are confident that it’s right.” Previously, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health’s auditors would take the organization’s spreadsheet data and produce the financial statements for them. Now, the organization produces its own statements through Working Papers. “We feel we have much more control over the process now,” says O’Dwyer. Paperless Process O’Dwyer says the first year with Working Papers, the organization continued its practice of building a paper binder, but that they have now eliminated paper entirely. “CaseWare is so reliable and secure, and we are able to link various references to outside documents such as funding agreements, that we determined paper was no longer needed.” Streamline Quarterly Reporting Building on the successful roll out of Working Papers for its financial statement generation, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health plans to expand the solution’s use to quarterly reporting. “We’re still doing this in Excel, and there’s no reason why CaseWare can’t be leveraged to help streamline this task as well,” says O’Dwyer. She concludes, “We are really pleased with CaseWare. It has proven to be a real asset to us, and the great support we receive from F.H. Black & Company makes it all the better.” Ready to learn more about what CaseWare® Working Papers could do for your organization? Join us for a free webinar.
Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health automates financial reporting with CaseWare Working Papers and increases efficiency, effectiveness & reliability.READ MORE
2016 CaseWare Working Papers: Talk to IT Now
- Darryl Parker
- 10 August, 2016
- What's New
- minute(s)On July 20, 2016 CaseWare Working Papers users started to receive email notifications that Working Papers 2016 was released and available for download. The annual release is much-anticipated, and for those of us who have been around the CaseWare world for a few years, perhaps somewhat routine. But the latest release email has some very important technical information that could have implications for your use of the software. If you ignore this and fail to take action, you could find yourself with a significant technical problem next year. We summarize the issues into two categories. 1) Today you WANT to be on 64-bit Windows Contained in CaseWare International's announcement was the fact that within a few months we will have a 64-bit version of Working Papers 2016 available to us!!! Not excited by that? It's a technical matter that your I.T. department will appreciate. For many years now we've all been using computer hardware that can hold and manage very large chunks of memory, but we've been using software that can't take advantage of it. With the replacement of our older 32-bit software with the newer generation 64-bit software, we'll be able to hold a lot more information in our computer's RAM. More RAM on your computer likely means more RAM for CaseWare which translates to better performance in certain scenarios and ability to store and process much larger data sets. To utilize the new 64-bit release of Working Papers you need to be running a 64-bit version of Microsoft Windows. If you are still on a 32-bit version of Windows, you will not be able to realize the benefits. 2) Next year you MUST be on 64-bit Windows In the email announcing the Working Papers 2016 version, CaseWare made an important statement that is especially important to people currently using a 32-bit version of Microsoft Windows. Starting with the 2017 release of Working Papers, CaseWare International will only offer a 64-bit version. No 32-bit version of the software will be available. If CaseWare International follows through with their currently-stated position, some of you may find yourself unable to upgrade to Working Papers 2017 until you get a 64-bit version of Windows. Start the Conversation with I.T. NOW In some organizations, especially large ones with dedicated I.T. departments, the decision to upgrade Microsoft Windows is a major one, and does not happen quickly. There is usually an extensive review, testing and deployment project that you should discuss with them NOW. Don't leave this conversation until you get that 2017 release email telling you that you cannot install the new version on your computer. A good way to start is to forward this blog post to your I.T. department right now. Want to provide I.T. with our recommended hardware configuration so you can use the 64-bit version of CaseWare? We wrote an article for just this purpose! F.H. Black & Company Incorporated will continue to follow this important development in the Working Papers ecosystem and update as we learn of changes.
Learn the significance of CaseWare's 64-bit announcement for Working Papers 2016 and 2017.READ MORE
CaseWare Feature Spotlight: Document Management
- Jamie Black
- 09 August, 2016
- CaseWare Feature Spotlight
- minute(s)CaseWare Working Papers is recognized as a global leader in the Financial Reporting industry. This is a well-deserved reputation. However, it's a mistake to think of CaseWare as "just" a report writer - it contains a huge number of features and tools to assist the entire financial reporting work flow. We've developed this article series to outline many of these features and demonstrate how to maximize your utilization of the software. Clients want to save time and they would love to lower audit fees. One of the many features of CaseWare that delivers these very benefits is often-overlooked: Document Management. Document Management When preparing a year end file, Finance needs to be able to support the values they are presenting, both for their own certainty as well as for the auditor. Note 6 to your financial statements says total receivables are $12,932,000 with a table showing the aging analysis. We must evidence the underlying accounts that comprise this total. The first line of your Balance Sheet (Statement of Financial Position for Canadians) presents your current year cash balance of $3,866,345. How can the auditor be sure this is correct? The answer is (of course), we provide documentation that supports these values. CaseWare Working Papers provides a completely customizable Document Manager for generating & collecting all the documentation you require. Below is part of a document manager we use in our presentations to represent a typical local government Document Manager: Automatic Leadsheets The first, most obvious type of support to a financial balance on a statement, schedule or note is a leadsheet. CaseWare's Automatic Leadsheets are maintained by the system and provide a detailed listing of all the G/L accounts that comprise a total. These leadsheets are automatically updated every time data is imported, journal entries are recorded or G/L accounts are re-grouped. The example below shows a lead-sheet that has been grouped into meaningful sub-totals which facilitate more detailed reporting in notes. Clicking on the + sign to the left of any of the subtotals shows all the G/L accounts that make up the total: These documents are incredibly important for understanding why a number is what it is. The second step for many balances is providing other supporting documents (bank statements, reconciliations, contracts etc.). Supporting Documents In the image above, we see a Receivable - Utilities account with a balance of $23,578. We know the auditor is going to need to see the lists of individuals / corporations that owe that money. This is likely easy to generate from your ERP system. With CaseWare, all you need to do is drag and drop it onto the document manager to ensure you have one central repository. CaseWare intelligently numbers the supporting document and makes it available to your team and your auditor (assuming you provide your CaseWare Working Papers file to them) for subsequent review. Placeholders You determined you needed to support Receivables - Utilities, went to your ERP system and printed the report. Very likely, you will need to support this amount next year too. CaseWare will maintain the list of required supporting documents. On any supporting document, mark it to "Roll Forward as Placeholder". When a roll forward is performed, CaseWare finds every document with this property, removes the current year's content and replaces it with a shell (a placeholder). These placeholders are clearly identified so you can find what support you still need to provide. And then you can hand the complete file over to your auditor, fully supported and referenced.
One of the CaseWare's unsung features is Document Management - the easy for Finance to support their reports.READ MORE