Segregation of Duties. What is that?

When one person controls multiple phases of accounting transactions (i.e. accounts payable, payroll, accounts receivable, etc.), the opportunity for fraud in the workplace significantly increases.

By involving at least one other person in the transaction, the risk of fraud can be greatly reduced. According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiner’s Report to the Nation, the presence of anti-fraud controls such as segregation of duties are associated with reduced fraud losses.

Accounting processes are divided into three separate phases:

  1. Authorization (requires an employee to direct another employee to initiate a transaction)
  2. Custody (the actual possession of the asset)
  3. Recording (adjusting accounts to reflect the transaction within the accounting records)

The “ARC” duties should be se segregated so an employee doesn’t have responsibility for more than one phase (authorization, custody and/or recording) within an accounting process.

The Perfect Storm: Lack of Internal Controls & Financial Pressures

According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) 2016 Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud and Abuse, an organization’s lack of internal controls is the number one weakness contributing to fraud; while living beyond one’s means is the number one behavioral red flag of employees engaging in fraudulent activities.

Like many other fraud examinations, there was a recent fraud loss at an organization due to their lack of internal controls and an executive with the financial pressures to take advantage of those lack of internal controls. The following chart reflects the behavior red flags displayed by perpetrators according to the ACFE’s 2016 Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud and Abuse. The executive in this situation displayed the top 5 behavioral red flags.


The organization had been going through financial difficulties, all while the executive was engaging in lavish spending for his/her personal benefit with business funds and excessive purchases for the organization. The executive was able to conceal the organization’s financial difficulties and their fraud scheme of personal expenses with business funds by controlling what information was shared with board members, the lack of internal controls regarding job duties and the organization not having the proper policies in place for documenting business’ purchases.

This organization lost hundreds of thousands of dollars and it all may have been prevented/detected earlier with some proper internal controls and additional oversight by board members and/or staff.

Take a minute to reflect on your organization to identify any weaknesses you have in your internal controls and do you have any employees displaying behavioral red flags? If so, address those concerns immediately before it’s too late!