Communication is an essential component of a comprehensive framework of internal controls. One method of communication that is particularly effective for controls over accounting and financial reporting is the formal documentation of accounting policies and procedures. A well-designed and properly maintained system of documenting accounting policies and procedures enhances both accountability and consistency. The resulting documentation can also serve as a useful training tool for staff.
GFOA recommends that every government should document its accounting policies and procedures. Traditionally, such documentation has taken the form of an accounting policies and procedures manual. Thanks to advances in technology, even more effective methods are now also available for this purpose.
An appropriate level of management to emphasize their importance and authority should promulgate accounting policies and procedures. The documentation of accounting policies and procedures should be evaluated annually and updated periodically, no less than once every three years, according to a predetermined schedule. Changes in policies and procedures that occur between these periodic reviews should be updated in the documentation promptly as they occur. A specific employee should be assigned the duty of overseeing this process. Management is responsible for ensuring that this duty is performed consistently.
The documentation of accounting policies and procedures should be readily available to all employees who need it. It should delineate the authority and responsibility of all employees, especially the authority to authorize transactions and the responsibility for the safekeeping of assets and records. Likewise, the documentation of accounting policies and procedures should indicate which employees are to perform which procedures. Procedures should be described as they are actually intended to be performed rather than in some idealized form. Also, the documentation of accounting policies and procedures should explain the design and purpose of control-related procedures to increase employee understanding of and support for controls.
This best practice was previously titled Documenting Accounting Policies and Procedures.
- Board approval date: Saturday, March 31, 2007