Internal Control Issues and Procedures for Inventory

Internal control

Internal control for inventory is especially important so we protect against theft and waste.

An effective internal control structure for inventory includes a company’s plan of organization and all the procedures and actions it takes to:

•Protect its assets against theft and waste.

•Ensure compliance with company policies and federal law.

•Evaluate the performance of all personnel to promote efficient operations.

•Ensure accurate and reliable operating data and accounting reports.

We will look at how these concepts are applied to inventory and we will discuss internal controls more in depth later in the course.

Protect Assets

Companies protect their assets by (1) segregating employee duties, (2) assigning specific duties to each employee, (3) rotating employee job assignments, and (4) using mechanical devices.

Segregation of employee duties Segregation of duties requires that someone other than the employee responsible for safeguarding an asset must maintain the accounting records for that asset. Also, employees share responsibility for related transactions so that one employee’s work serves as a check on the work of other employees.

When a company segregates the duties of employees, it minimizes the probability of an employee being able to steal assets and cover up the theft. For example, an employee could not steal inventory from a company and have the theft go undetected unless someone else changes the inventory records to cover the shortage. To change the records, the employee stealing the inventory must also maintain the inventory records or be in collusion with the employee who maintains the inventory records.

Assignment of specific duties to each employee When the responsibility for a particular work function is assigned to one employee, that employee is accountable for specific tasks. Should a problem occur, the company can quickly identify the responsible employee.

Rotation of employee job assignments Some companies rotate job assignments to discourage employees from engaging in long-term schemes to steal from them. Employees realize that if they steal from the company, the next employees assigned to their positions may discover the theft.

Frequently, companies have the policy that all employees must take an annual vacation. This policy also discourages theft because many dishonest schemes collapse when the employee does not attend to the scheme on a daily basis.

Use of mechanical devices Companies use several mechanical devices to help protect their assets. Bar codes scanners make it difficult for employees to steal inventory and alter company documents and records.

Accurate and Reliable Inventory Records

Companies should maintain complete and accurate accounting records.  Inaccurate or inadequate accounting records serve as an invitation to theft by dishonest employees because theft can be concealed more easily.

One or more business documents support most accounting transactions. These source documents are an integral part of the internal control structure. For optimal control, source documents should be serially numbered.

Since source documents serve as documentation of business transactions, from time to time firms check the validity of these documents. For example, to review a purchase transaction, they check the documents used to record the transaction against the proper accounting records. When the accounting department records a purchase transaction, it should receive copies of the following four documents:

•A purchase requisition is a written request from an employee inside the company to the purchasing department to purchase certain items.


No. 2416

BRYAN WHOLESALE COMPANY Date:        November20
Fro: Automotive Supplies Department

To:     Purchasing Department Suggested supplier:  Wilkes Radio Company
Please purchase the following items:
Description Item Number Quantity Estimated Price
Model No. 5868–24393 200 $50perunit
Reason for request:   To be filled in by purchasing department:
Customer order Dated ordered November 29
Baier Company Purchase order number N-MS
Approved R.S.T.

•A purchase order  is a document sent from the purchasing department to a supplier requesting that merchandise or other items be shipped to the purchaser.




  BRYAN WHOLESALE COMPANY Date:     November 21
  476 Mason Street Ship by:  December 20  
  Detroit, Michigan 48823    
To:   Wilkes Radio Company    

2515 West Peachtree Street  
Atlanta, Georgia 30303  
Ship to: Above address   FOB terms requested: Destination
    Discount terms requested: 2/10, n/30
Please send the foil owing item;      
Description Item Number Quantity Price

Per Unit
Total Amount
True-tone stereo radios Model No. 5868-24393 200 $50 $10,000
Ordered by:   Jane Knight Please include order number on all
   invoice and shipments.  

•An invoice  is the statement sent by the supplier to the purchaser requesting payment for the merchandise shipped.

INVOICE Invoice No. 1574

Date:  Dec. 15

2515 West Peachtree Street

Atlanta, Georgia 30303
Customer’s Orders No. N-14S
Sold to:     Bryan Wholesale Co.
Address:    475 Mason Street
                   Detroit, Michigan 4S823
Terms:  2/10, n/30, FOB destination Date shipped: December 15
Shipped by:    Nagel Trucking Co.
Description Item Number Quantity Price Per Unit Total Amount
  Model No. 5868-24393 200 $50 $10,000
    Total   $10

•A receiving report is a document prepared by the receiving department showing the descriptions and quantities of all items received from a supplier in a particular shipment. A copy of the purchase order can serve as a receiving report if the quantity ordered is omitted. Then, because receiving department personnel do not know what quantity to expect, they will count the quantity received more accurately.

These four documents together serve as authorization to pay for merchandise and should be checked against the accounting records. Without these documents, a company might fail to pay a legitimate invoice, pay fictitious invoices, or pay an invoice more than once. Companies can accomplish proper internal control only by periodically checking the source documents of business transactions with the accounting records of those transactions.

Unfortunately, even though a company implements all of these features in its internal control structure, theft may still occur. If employees are dishonest, they can usually figure out a way to steal from a company, thus circumventing even the most effective internal control structure. Therefore, companies should carry adequate casualty insurance on assets.

Inventory Management Systems

An inventory management system is a series of procedures, often aided by computer software, that tracks assets progression through inventory. For example, assume a set amount of raw material is acquired by the company. When the company receives that material, the amount should be noted in the inventory management system. As the material is processed into the goods for resale, the amount of raw material used should be deducted from the "raw material inventory" and the amount of goods that result from the process should be added to the "finished goods inventory. " As each finished item is sold, the "finished goods inventory" should be decreased by that amount.

The benefit of a properly used and maintained inventory management system is that it allows management to be able to know how much inventory it has at any given time.

Physical Inventory Count

Physical inventory counts are a way of ensuring that a company's inventory management system is accurate and as a check to make sure goods are not being lost or stolen. A detailed physical count of a company's entire inventory is generally taken prior to the issuance of a company's balance sheet, to ensure that the company accurately report its inventory levels.

Cycle Counts

Companies usually conduct cycle counts periodically throughout an accounting period as a means to ensure that the information in its inventory management system is correct. To conduct a cycle count, an auditor will select a small subset of inventory, in a specific location, and count it on a specified day. The auditor will then compare the count to the related information in the inventory management system. If the counts match, no further action is taken. If the numbers differ, the auditor will take additional steps to determine why the counts do not match.

Cycle counts contrast with traditional physical inventory in that a full physical inventory may stop operation at a facility while all items are counted at one time. Cycle counts are less disruptive to daily operations, provide an ongoing measure of inventory accuracy and procedure execution, and can be tailored to focus on items with higher value, higher movement volume, or that are critical to business processes. Cycle counting should only be performed in facilities with a high degree of inventory accuracy.

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