Internal Control: Integrated Framework

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Internal Control - Integrated Framework Executive Summary Senior executives have long sought ways to better control the enterprises they run. Internal controls are put in place to keep the company on course toward profitability goals and achievement of its mission, and to minimize surprises along the way. They enable management to deal with rapidly changing economic and competitive environments, shifting customer demands and priorities, and restructuring for future growth. Internal controls promote efficiency, reduce risk of asset loss, and help ensure the reliability of financial statements and compliance with laws and regulations. Because internal control serves many important purposes, there are increasing calls for better internal control systems and report cards on them. Internal control is looked upon more and more as a solution to a variety of potential problems. Internal Control Internal control means different things to different people. This causes confusion among businesspeople, legislators, regulators and others. Resulting miscommunication and different expectations cause problems within an enterprise. Problems are compounded when the term, if not clearly defined, is written into law, regulation or rule. This report deals with the needs and expectations of management and others. It defines and describes internal control to: 1. Establish a common definition serving the needs of different parties. 2. Provide a standard against which business and other entities--large or small, in the public or private sector, for profit or not--can assess their control systems and determine how to improve them. Internal control is broadly defined as a process, effected by an entity's board of directors, management and other personnel, designed to provide reasonable assurance regarding the achievement of objectives in the following categories: 1. Effectiveness and efficiency of operations. 2. Reliability of financial reporting. 3. Compliance with applicable laws and regulations. The first category addresses an entity's basic business objectives, including performance and profitability goals and safeguarding of resources. The second relates to the preparation of reliable published financial statements, including interim and condensed financial statements and selected financial data derived from such statements, such as earnings releases, reported publicly. The third deals with complying with those laws and regulations to which the entity is subject. These distinct but overlapping categories address different needs and allow a directed focus to meet the separate needs. Internal control systems operate at different levels of effectiveness. Internal control can be judged effective in each of the three categories, respectively, if the board of directors and management have reasonable assurance that: They understand the extent to which the entity's operations objectives are being achieved. 1. Published financial statements are being prepared reliably. 2. Applicable laws and regulations are being complied with. 3. While internal control is a process, its effectiveness is a state or condition of the process at one or more points in time. Internal control consists of five interrelated components. These are derived from the way management runs a business, and are integrated with the management process. Although the components apply to all entities, small and mid-size companies may implement them differently than large ones. Its controls may be less formal and less structured, yet a small company can still have effective internal control. The components are: Control Environment The control environment sets the tone of an organization, influencing the control consciousness of its people. It is the foundation for all other components of internal control, providing discipline and structure. Control environment factors include the integrity, ethical values and competence of the entity's people; management's philosophy and operating style; the way...
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