INTERNAL CONTROL

IC "SNAPS"

Internal Control SNAPS published previously

1) General Introduction 

Starting next week, the Daily will bring you information about good internal control practices under the headline “Internal Control SNAPS (Speedy Notes About Procedures and Security)." On behalf of the Internal Control Program at Buffalo State, I hope you will find this information useful and encourage your comments or questions (which may be turned into a future IC “SNAP”). Please look for these upcoming informational items and contact schenkrj@buffalostate.edu if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for topics.

2) Employee Separation Checklist

Here is a Speedy Note About Procedures and Security (SNAP): Were you aware of a campus checklist which can help ensure that you have taken all the necessary actions when an employee leaves campus and/or your department?

You can find the "Employee Separation Checklist" in the forms section of the Human Resource Management Web site, http://www.buffalostate.edu/offices/hr/forms.asp.

3) Securing Personal Belongings 

Summer is the ideal time for vacation, relaxation, and summer schedules. It is also an ideal time for light-fingered and swift-of-speed intruders to visit an open office and take unsecured valuables. Be sure to lock the door when you are not in, secure those items easily transported (e.g., purses, laptops, cell phones, etc.), and never leave them unattended. For more information on protecting yourself and your belongings, check out the UPD Web site at http://www.buffalostate.edu/offices/police/about/. If you hear or see something suspicious, call University Police immediately at ext. 6333.

4) Cash Deposits

Are you or someone else in your area handling cash as part of routine operations? Besides keeping cash in a secured, locked location at all times, be sure to deposit cash on a frequency that makes sense for your program—weekly at a minimum and more frequently if larger amounts or more collections occur. Also, be sure to request and receive a receipt for all cash deposits. Contact the College Comptroller (thorja@buffalostate.edu or ext. 4312) if you have any questions regarding cash collections at Buffalo State.

5) Locking Computer

Have you ever walked away from your computer leaving open or minimized windows on your monitor? To keep both sensitive information and your Windows-based computer from being accessed by someone else, simply press the Windows logo key + L. When you return to your computer, sign back on and you can resume working where you left off.

6) IC SNAPS (General)

Have you been reading IC SNAPS lately? If so, we would like to hear what you think. Just sending a quick e-mail to schenkrj@buffalostate.edu with the subject line "IC SNAPS" will help us know the extent of our readership. Also, did you know that every program—no matter what its focus—has internal control implications? If you have any questions about your program and where internal control plays a part or have an idea for a future IC SNAPS topic, please contact Rebecca Schenk (via e-mail or ext. 4312). We welcome your feedback.

7) Organization Chart

Do you have five or 50 people in your department? Do you think everyone has a clear understanding of who reports to whom? An organizational chart, updated periodically or when reporting relationships change, is a component of good communication when shared with employees within a department. It is also one of the first documents an external auditor will request when performing a departmental or program review. Many software applications provide templates to help create organizational charts. Please contact Rebecca Schenk (ext. 4522) if you have any questions about creating a chart for your area.

8) Procedures Documentation

Documentation - do you love it or hate it? Are you confused about what should be documented in your department? A general rule of thumb regarding documentation for routine procedures is to ask yourself: If all departmental employees left today, would someone arriving in your department tomorrow have access to sufficient documentation to complete routine processes and transactions? Good internal controls start with documentation, but also include ensuring that critical processes and transactions—where the risk of handling something incorrectly may be high, or have significant negative outcome for a program or the college—have appropriate controls in place to minimize risk.

If you have any questions about procedures and documentation for your area, or how to get started on the process of documentation, please contact Rebecca Schenk at ext. 4312.

9) Accountability & OSC’s Open Book Web Site

When administering financial resources, good internal control calls for responsible stewardship and proper accounting of funds. You may find yourself serving as the administrator of program funds, the source of program funds, or both. Consider the expectations surrounding the management of money—accountability is paramount regardless of whether the revenue is from students or taxpayers. Whether a program is administered nationally, statewide, or at Buffalo State, everyone has the right to expect accountability, or should expect to be accountable as an administrator, for funds management.

You may be interested in New York State’s reporting on spending activity at the statewide level. This information can be found at http://www.openbooknewyork.com/index.htm.

10) Internal Controls is a Process

Did you know that you play an important role in internal control at Buffalo State? Every employee has responsibilities that contribute to the successful mission of the college. When duties and responsibilities are performed appropriately, we all succeed! Just as the whole is more than the sum of its parts, internal control is more than merely procedures, policies, and separation of duties. Internal control is a process for the entire organization to support expected and responsible behaviors, and minimize risk in the workplace. If you have any questions about how you can help the college maintain good internal controls in your area, please contact  Rebecca Schenk ext. 4312.

11)  Internal Controls - Includes more... (Timesheets)

Good internal control includes more than you might think. Timeliness is a significant factor in good internal controls. An easy way to help maintain good internal controls in any department is by completing one’s timesheet when due. Completing time and attendance reports in a timely manner is the responsibility of both employee and supervisor and will ensure determination of appropriate employee compensation and benefits. The act of completing a timesheet as required to report time worked, and including the appropriate supervisory approval, represents a good internal control. Timeliness can make the difference between an employee who is compensated appropriately and one who is not.

12)  Internal Controls - Includes more... (Status Changes)

Good internal control includes more than you might think. Timeliness is a significant factor in good internal controls and not only where timesheets are involved. Did you know that Buffalo State’s base budget which supports most of the instructional and administrative programs is comprised almost 85 percent of payroll resources? That percentage represents almost $72 million in the 2009-10 Budget of $84.3 million.

Such a significant amount of resources budgeted to pay employees makes every employee status change important. Any employee status change should be reported timely. Timeliness can make the difference between an employee who is compensated appropriately and one who is not.

13)  Identity Theft

The Internal Revenue Service recently published reminders for individuals concerning identity theft and tax scams in which the IRS name, logo, or Web Site is used to convince taxpayers that the scam is legitimate. Taxpayers may learn more about how to protect themselves from such schemes at http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=211669,00.html.

Good internal controls include vigilance about protecting the security of data, whether business-related or personal. This is more important than ever before as schemes to obtain data for illegal use have become increasingly sophisticated. An individual whose personal data has been compromised through identify theft may need to expend both time and money to rectify the situation, and resolution might take months or years to accomplish. This affects the person as both an individual and an employee. Be alert to situations where identity theft could occur and remember the adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

14)  Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) Requests

The Freedom of Information Law (Public Officers Law, sections 84–90) requires that Buffalo State College make certain records available to the public. Requests for information from the campus should be directed to the records access officer, Jill A. Powell, senior assistant to the vice president, Finance and Management, Cleveland Hall 507, ext. 3561.

All requests for information are to be acted upon within five business days. If the college is unable to answer a request within five days of receipt, it must acknowledge the request and inform the requestor of the approximate and reasonable time when the request will be answered. For this reason, if you are ever the recipient of a FOIL request, please forward it to Ms. Powell immediately to aid in the college’s compliance.

The University policy concerning Freedom of Information can be found at http://www.suny.edu/sunypp/documents.cfm?doc_id=537.

15) Securing Sensitive Information

Is your department responsible for maintaining records that contain sensitive information, such as Social Security Numbers? Do you store any of these records in paper format, in locations or cabinets accessible to individuals who are not authorized to manage such records? All such files must be maintained in a secured location or cabinet which can be accessed only by authorized personnel. If you are using file cabinets or free-standing cabinets for storage of this kind, be sure they are locked when not in use. Contact the Campus Lockshop (ext. 6111) if keys are needed for lockable file cabinets.    

16) Trademark Licensing

Does your office plan to order t-shirts, mugs, or other merchandise bearing the marks of the college or your school?  If so, our trademark licensing director can help ensure that your order bears the correct logo, and is placed with a licensed vendor.

Buffalo State closely monitors the usage of its trademarks, seal, and logos - the symbols that represent the college's history, traditions and scholarship.  Trademark licensing helps the college to enhance its reputation and protect its name and symbols from inappropriate use.

Contact Jill Powell, senior assistant to the vice president, Finance and Management, who is director of the college's trademark licensing program, at 716-878-3561 or powellja@buffalostate.edu with any questions.

17) Security Systems

Do you have a security system in your area? Knowing how it functions and when to call for assistance can save time, money, and frustration.

If you have an audible tone sounding in your area or see a message on the wall touchpad unit such as “trouble”, “battery”, or “error", your system may need service. Make sure your area is properly secured (call University Police at x6333 if assistance is needed), and retry the system. If the unit shows a “battery” message you can first call UPD, but most likely this will require a service call from your alarm system provider. The backup battery in your system may need to be replaced and this is usually done by the alarm system provider.

New employees should be shown how to use the system by colleagues in your area. Please contact John Lombardo, Deputy Chief of University Police, at lombarja@buffalostate.edu or x6333 for assistance with troubleshooting persistent problems. Service calls should be a last resort after all else has failed to remedy a troublesome alarm system.

18) Property Control Audits

Do you recall the last time equipment registered to your department was checked by campus staff from Buffalo State’s Property Control area? As part of that periodic audit process, performed on a department by department basis, individual assets are inventoried to ensure accurate records are maintained as to the asset's current location and status. Although status updates are expected whenever changes occur that affect departmental property and equipment, at the time of a departmental audit Property Control staff also request any updates as to the departmental staff person assigned operational responsibility for each asset. Ultimately, department chairs or directors are responsible for ensuring that the current status of departmental assets is updated appropriately.

Please check the last departmental audit performed for your area to ensure each name listed as having operational responsibility for an asset is accurate. The individual cited should know the status and location of the asset at all times. Any questions or updates may be directed to Business Services at ext. 6835.

19) Procedures Documentation

Are you wondering how to get started on the process of documenting procedures for your area? Does it seem like too big a task? It helps to start at the beginning—determine the location where relevant materials will reside and inform those staff involved with the activity. Then, identify each person who plays a pivotal part in the process by their position title. Finally, specify what they do, in the order in which the activity occurs.

Procedures which should be documented are those that are essential to how an office or program operates: information a new person would need to know in order to accomplish necessary tasks and functions. Procedures documentation can include any references or manuals that inform how a task should be accomplished.

Procedures documentation does not have to be a complicated process, but it may take some time to finish to your satisfaction. If you start today, with a current process, you will be well on your way.

If you have any questions, please contact Rebecca Schenk at schenkrj@buffalostate.edu or ext. 4312.

20) Cash Receipts

We have said it before, but it bears repeating: Handling cash warrants appropriate safeguarding for all employees. Whenever making a cash deposit, be sure to request and receive a receipt. A receipt protects the individual making the deposit by validating that a deposit was made and is part of the overall transaction trail ("follow the money") that confirms program revenue was deposited appropriately.

21) Blue Ink or Black Ink?

Although customs can vary by country, blue ink was the dominant color choice for signing official documents at one time. This is because it allowed the original document to be easily distinguished from a copy. However, both blue and black ink are now considered acceptable for signing official documents, although blue ink is often preferred. Other color choices (green, purple, etc.) should be reserved for personal correspondence and not used when signing documents in an official capacity.

22) Fraud is Everybody's Business

The intentional mismanagement of resources for personal gain is fraud. Fraud is an illegal act that can carry stiff penalties.

It is well understood that officials and employees in any community are expected to safeguard community assets and not use them for personal gain. This is true for Buffalo State as well. In our official capacities, we are administering federal, state, student, and donor funds as well as managing departmental resources in support of campus programs. Inherent in these activities is the expectation that resources will be well managed and not mismanaged to benefit any person(s).

We rely on employees to recognize or question any activity that might be considered fraudulent; however, being alert to fraud means knowing what to look for in the way of warning signs, or “Fraud Red Flags.” Please visit Buffalo State’s Internal Control Program website for more information regarding fraud, Fraud Red Flags, and reporting any suspected fraudulent activities.