By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
Coaldale town council will not be changing their cheque listing procedures.
During the regular Dec. 11 meeting of Coaldale town council, a report was brought back on council’s cheque listing approval procedures.
In council’s regular Oct. 30 meeting, they passed a motion to request administration to look into the motions needed for cheque listings and report back to council, after coun. Roger Hohm questioned why they needed to approve the listings after the fact.
“Originally, prior to 1995, the action was required by the province, by the MGA, that the cheque lists were actually approved and registered,” said Michelle Overbeeke, director of financial services for the town.
“(After) revisions in the 1995 MGA, it was no longer required, but many of the councils continue to do so.”
Overbeeke said she had contacted seven other municipalities, with about 50 per cent reporting that they still continue to review and approve the cheque registers, with some receiving for information and others approving the listings.
According to the auditor’s opinion in the report, it stresses that duties are segregated and a control should be put in place to review everything if one person does all the work.
“We do have segregation of duties, the only issue is myself or Kalen (Hastings, town CAO) if he so chooses, could actually do the process from start to finish. So, the auditor is saying for a type of control, bringing the cheques actually finishes that loop, that council is now still involved in the process. Although it is still after the cheques have come out, it’s still putting a control in place in that we know that we’re being checked, we know that things are being verified and it becomes a public document.”
Overbeeke noted that the auditor said that the town has great controls in place, but should council choose to change the cheque listing process, the town would have to change some of their account processes as well.
Three recommendations were made to council: 1) keep the present practice of including the cheque listings for Council’s approval, 2) remove the cheque listings from the Council package, but the listing could be made available if requested, and by approving this recommendation then Council agrees that the controls are in place that ensures that expenditures do not exceed the budget and that it is management’s responsibility to inform Council of any over-expenditures due to emergencies or unanticipated events, and 3) change the accounts payable process so that the Mayor signs off to release the cheques and then the cheque listings is brought before Council as information only.
Overbeeke also informed council that no matter what decision they made, the town would have to follow the current process until the end of the 2017 year.
Coun. Roger Hohm had a question with option three, wondering why the town couldn’t simply bring the listing straight to council for information only, as it would allow them to ask questions about individual entries but not having them approve something that has already been sent.
Overbeeke replied that it would not finish the “loop” in place.
“It’s a control in place, that by council approving it, it finishes the loop that is available for me to possibly convey a vendor, do the input, cut the cheque and then go and walk away with the cheque without you having any say in it,” said Overbeeke.
“There are two types of controls. There’s preventative controls that happen before a process, and there’s detective controls that happen after the process. You’re still looking for errors on detective controls, after the cheques has occurred, and that is, in the auditor’s opinion, still a control that is in place that finishes the loop to make sure the controls are not missing.”
Hohm noted that he still felt “very uncomfortable” approving something that has already been sent. He suggested that including the cheque listing as information, so the can still see information on “every cheque that’s written”, but the approve for information only. Overbeeke said that she would still have to change the account process
Coun. Briane Simpson suggested keeping the current practice, or the first recommendation, as it would be “easier this way” but still acts as a control.
Council passed a motion go with recommendation one, keep the present practice of including the cheque listings for Council’s approval. Hohm opposed the motion.