There are no prerequisites.

Course Description

Strong internal controls are essential for any effective accounts payable function. Without them, fraud is easier to commit, duplicate payments increase, and cost-effectiveness is sacrificed. This course presents information you can use to identify control problems and implement strong controls. Industry expert Mary Schaeffer shows auditors, controllers, and managers where control issues are likely to occur, how to strengthen controls, and best practices for an effective accounts payable function.

Please note that the information covered in this course is also covered in Creating an Accounts Payable Policy and Procedures Manual, Vendor Issues in Accounts Payable, and Best Practices for Accounts Payable.


Mary S. Schaeffer, MBA

Mary S. Schaeffer, MBA, has the inimitable ability to find accounts-payable-related solutions that really work—without making a major dent in the bottom line. Armed with a degree in math and a graduate degree in finance, she takes a “roll up your sleeves and dig into the details” approach to finding solutions to those problems that cause migraines for CFOs, controllers, and managers.

Fifteen years spent researching and writing about payment issues gives Mary a unique vantage point. Combine that with an almost equal amount of time spent in the corporate trenches of several large finance and treasury departments, and you’ll understand why she’s become known as America’s leading accounts payable expert.

A wide variety of institutions have taken advantage of her unique expertise: John Wiley & Sons has published over a dozen of her books; CRYSTALLUS, Inc. relies on her know-how to direct its professional publication, training, and consulting business; and the Institute of Financial Operations (IFO) turned to her to serve as its editor-in-chief, steering cutting-edge commentary into its Financial Ops magazine. She also developed the IFO’s Innovating Accounts Payable certificate program.

Mary shares her expertise in a variety of venues, giving 1-day seminars, as a guest speaker at regional and national events, and online in 25–30 webinars each year. For Western CPE, she produces self-study courses and webcasts.

She has a BS in mathematics from York College (CUNY) and an MBA in finance from New York University.

Course Specifics

Aug 15, 2019
There are no prerequisites.

Compliance Information

Qualifies for CA Fraud: No

Learning Objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, participants will be able to:

Chapter 1

  • Detect problems likely to occur as a result of weak controls.
  • Identify the regulatory consequences of poor or ineffective controls.

Chapter 2

  • Identify accounts payable practices that weaken controls.
  • Pinpoint problems likely to occur if strong controls are not used in accounts payable.

Chapter 3

  • Delineate problems created when segregation of duties are not set up correctly.
  • Identify issues that arise due to poor internal controls.

Chapter 4

  • Identify the relationship between fraud and poor internal controls.

Chapter 5

  • Identify weak control practices that enable duplicate payments.

Chapter 6

  • Identify places where internal controls commonly breakdown in accounts payable.
  • Cite how an accounts payable policy and procedures manual strengthens controls.

Chapter 7

  • Identify places where purchase orders cause control problems.

Chapter 8

  • Identify how best invoice control practices improve the processing function.

Chapter 9

  • Cite how control issues can fail during the month-end and year-end close.

Chapter 10

  • Cite proper controls regarding the check production process.

Chapter 11

  • Identify controls related to check request forms.

Chapter 12

  • Identify controls that should be incorporated into every corporate procurement program.

Chapter 13

  • Cite best control practices related to electronic payments.

Chapter 14

  • Cite how controls around the master vendor file prevent fraud and help the bottom line.

Chapter 15

  • Identify how to control expense reimbursement fraud.

Chapter 16

  • Cite why it is important to have a policy regarding employees using personal devices for work.

Chapter 17

  • Identify how to check for bribery into the accounts payable department.

Chapter 18

  • Identify control problems created when employees share passwords.
  • Cite the importance of eliminating petty cash boxes.
  • Identify issues created by super users of ERP systems.

Chapter 19

  • Identify how a good policy and procedures manual can strengthen internal controls.
  • Cite how updating the policy and procedures manual on a regular basis strengthens internal controls.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1 – Why Internal Controls Matter

Learning Objectives


Duplicate Payments

Regulatory Noncompliance

Other Reasons

Chapter 1 – Review Questions

Chapter 2 – The Basics of Internal Controls: The Theory

Learning Objectives

Segregation of Duties

What Gets Moved

The Future

Reasonable Hiring and Background Checks

Strong Controls throughout the Accounts Payable Process

Eliminate Really Bad Accounts Payable Practices

Related Internal Control Concepts

Audit Trails

Monitoring Reports


Chapter 2 – Review Questions

Chapter 3 – The Basics of Internal Controls: In Practice

Learning Objectives

Problems Created by Inappropriate Segregation of Duties

Segregation of Duties Problems

Dissecting the Procure-to-Pay Process

Common Control Conflicts

Concluding Thoughts

Practices that Make AP More Efficient and May Tighten Controls in the Process

Chapter 3 – Review Questions

Chapter 4 – Fraud Prevention Controls and Practices

Learning Objectives

Types of Fraud

ACFE’s Biannual Report

Fraudulent Disbursements

Uncovering Fraud

Who Commits Fraud

Dealing with Employee Fraud

The Ugly Issue: Employee Fraud Prevention

The Big Problem

Overriding Fraud Prevention/Detection Guidelines

What Else

If You Suspect Fraud

Vendor Fraud

Small Dollar Invoice Fraud


Check Fraud

Six Practices that Enable Internal Check Fraud

Demand Draft Fraud

Concluding Thoughts

Chapter 4 – Review Questions

Chapter 5 – Duplicate Payments and Their Relationship with Poor Internal Controls

Learning Objectives

Traditional Prevention: What Works and What Doesn’t

What Doesn’t Work

What Does Work

Concluding Thoughts

Check Request Practices to Avoid Duplicate Payments and Fraud


Where Check Requests Cause Problems

Best Check Request Practices

Reducing the Number of Check Request Forms

Common Scenarios That Cause Duplicate Pays & How to Stop Them


Scenario #1: Credit Card Payments and Invoices

Scenario #2: Extinguishing POs and Receivers

Scenario #3: Travel and Entertainment Reimbursement & Invoices

Scenario #4: Check Request Forms and Invoices

Scenario #5: Printing Electronic Invoices

Closing Thoughts

Chapter 5 – Review Questions

Chapter 6 – Where Internal Controls Breakdown

Learning Objectives

The Internal Controls Breakdown: The Overlooked People Issues

Segregation of Duties

Departing Employees

Expense Reimbursements

Internal Controls Breakdown: The Payment Process

Wire Transfers

Payments Made Outside Accounts Payable

Recurring and Repetitive Payments

When Internal Controls Breakdown: The AP Practice

Breakdown #1: Master Vendor File Access

Breakdown #2: Not Insisting on Rigid Coding Standards

Breakdown #3: Allowing Rush (ASAP) Checks

Breakdown #4: Returning Checks to Requisitioners

Breakdown #5: Having a Petty Cash Box

Concluding Thoughts

Five Reasons Internal Controls Can Fail and What You Can Do to Make Sure It Doesn’t Happen to You

Chapter 6 – Review Questions

Chapter 7 – Purchase Orders & Their Role in Internal Controls

Learning Objectives

Purchase Orders and Appropriate Internal Controls

Purchase Order Problems

Purchase Orders for Everything

Non Purchase Order Invoices

Purchase Orders for Everything

Controlling Maverick Spend

How Purchase Order Analytics Can Help

Maverick Spend by an Unlikely Source

Chapter 7 – Review Questions

Chapter 8 – Invoice Processing: The Core of the Accounts Payable Function

Learning Objectives

Practices That Ensure Tight Controls


Invoice Handling: Clear Instructions

Invoice Approval Process: Delegations

Getting the Approval

The Three-Way Match

Special Invoice Situations

Handling Small-Dollar Invoices

Dealing with Invoices without Invoice Numbers

Chapter 8 – Review Questions

Chapter 9 – Invoice-Related Control Issues

Learning Objectives

Recommended Invoice Processing Practices to Ensure Tight Controls

Contract Compliance

Master Vendor File Basics Related to Invoices

Electronic Invoicing


Emailed Invoices

Fiscal Period Closes

The Month-End Close

Year-End Close

Making the Close Run a Little Smoother

Closing Thoughts

Chapter 9 – Review Questions

Chapter 10 – When Paying by Check: The Internal Control Migraine

Learning Objectives

Check Issuance from a Strong Control Perspective

Authorized Signers and Board Delegations

Authorized Signers

Documentation: Check Signers and Accounts

Check Stock

Laser versus Preprinted

Security Features


Check Signing and Mailing Procedures

Facsimile Signer: Rubber Stamps

Other Facsimile Signers

Mailing Checks

Chapter 10 – Review Questions

Chapter 11 – Check Related Control Issues

Learning Objectives

Strengthening Controls around Checks

Check Request Forms

Use of Positive Pay

Timely Reconciliation of Bank Statements

Recurring Payments

Concluding Thoughts

Rush Checks: A Control Nightmare

Reducing the Number of Rush Checks

Talk to the Requester

Insist on Mailing the Payment

Better Yet, Insist on ACH

Some Additional Tactics

Returning Checks to Requisitioners

What You Can Do to Ensure No Hanky Panky

The Attachment Issue

Checks at Closings

The Rebate Check Issue

Closing Thoughts

Chapter 11 – Review Questions

Chapter 12 – Corporate Procurement Cards: An Alternative to Paper Checks

Learning Objectives

How the P-Card Process Should Work

Individual Limits

Fraud Prevention

Auditing the Program

End-User Training

Chapter 12 – Review Questions

Chapter 13 – Electronic Payment Alternatives: A Better Payment Approach

Learning Objectives

Wire Transfers: Who’s in Charge


Initiating a Wire Transfer


Automated Clearinghouse (ACH): Electronic Payments for the Masses


Positive Pay

Protecting Your Bank Accounts

More Electronic Payment Fraud Prevention Tips


Recurring Payments

Daily Reconciliations

The Electronic Control Best Practice Checklist

Closing Thoughts

Chapter 13 – Review Questions

Chapter 14 – Master Vendor File: Where It All Begins

Learning Objectives

When Should the Vendor Be Set up in the Master Vendor File?

New Vendor Set-up Spectrum

The Complete Lack of Control Scenario

The Average Control Scenario

The Tight Control Scenario

Master Vendor File Controls

Best Practice Overview

Best Practice: Controls

Naming Conventions: Increase Control

More about the Naming Convention

Vendor Contact Information

Change of Bank Account Requests

How Good Is Your Contact Information?

Fraud through the Master Vendor File

In Closing: A Word about Segregation of Duties

Chapter 14 – Review Questions

Chapter 15 – The Travel and Entertainment Component: Expense Reimbursements

Learning Objectives

The Expense Reimbursement Policy

The Importance of Uniform Enforcement of the Policy

Where Policies Sometimes Fall Apart

Dual Reimbursements

Going the Extra Mile

Airline Pricing Opportunities

Fine Dining?

The Receipt Debate

Best Practices to Deter & Detect T&E Fraud

Concluding Thoughts

Additional Tactics That Tighten Controls around Expense Reimbursements

Chapter 15 – Review Questions

Chapter 16 – Computers, Tablets, and Smartphones: The Often-Overlooked Control Component

Learning Objectives

What is BYOD?

The Security Issue

The Corporate Stance

The Future for BYOD

The Issue

The Decision

Creating a BYOD Policy for Your Organization

Issues to be Covered

Other Considerations

Chapter 16 – Review Questions

Chapter 17 – Controls to Prevent the Bribing of Foreign Government Officials

Learning Objectives


Basics of FCPA

What Constitutes a Violation?

One Last Caveat


Where to Look for Bribery Payments

1. Typical invoices

2. Consultants’ Invoices

3. Travel and Entertainment Expense Reports and FCPA Risk Management

What Should You Look for

What Should You Do if You Suspect Bribery Is Involved

What This Means for Accounts Payable

Chapter 17 – Review Questions

Chapter 18 – Other Issues That Present Control Concerns

Learning Objectives

The Super User

The Super User, the Semi-Super User and Their Impact on Internal Controls

The Issue

The Problem

The Solution

When Employees Leave the Organization

The Ideal Process

Avoiding the Card Problem Completely

When HR Doesn’t Notify AP

The IT Component

Sharing P-cards

Sharing Passwords

Resist the Temptation

Another Password Control Issue: Sticky on the Side of a Computer

Management Overrides

Dumpster Diving and Confidential Information

Petty Cash

The Recommended Approach

Awful Petty Cash Practices

Surprise Audits


Chapter 18 – Review Questions

Chapter 19 – Policy and Procedures Manual: Tying It All Together

Learning Objectives

Why a Policy and Procedures Manual Is Needed

The Policy and Procedures Manual from a Control Standpoint

The Policy and Procedures Manual: An Ongoing Project

Including a Flowchart Is Not a Bad Idea

Chapter 19 – Review Questions

Review Question Answers and Rationales



Qualified Assessment

Answer Sheet

Course Evaluation


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