How to lower embezzlement

By CHARLIE SMITH,

President Reagan often said of dealing with the Russians reducing their nuclear stockpile “trust but verify.”

The idea is you don’t go around suspiciously accusing people of misdeeds, but that at the same time you check to make sure they’re doing right.

The latest case of embezzlement at a Mississippi church points to the importance of every organization doing so.

Broadmoor Baptist Church in Madison, one of the state’s largest and most influential congregations, alleged in an emailed statement to The Clarion-Ledger this week that former executive pastor Riley Brown took $332,000 over a little more than two years.

Brown could not be reached for comment by the Jackson newspaper and has not been charged with any crime, but it’s unlikely that the church would publicly release the allegations without strong evidence of them.

“As a body of Christ, we sought to find a proper balance between accountability and grace; and given our changes in personnel and the significant new safeguards and internal controls we have added, and will continue to add, we are confident we can responsibly steward the resources entrusted to us,” Broadmoor said in a statement.

The church said it chose not to pursue criminal charges but will cooperate with prosecutors if the prosecutors choose to pursue it. It also said it had replaced its in-house accounting and finance team with a full-time CPA and is interviewing audit firms.

Things like this come up from time to time: A beloved longtime secretary who was secretly robbing her company blind or a trusted public official taking from the till. They show to prove that no entity is safe from theft. What can you do to protect your business, church or civic group?

Most churches or businesses don’t have the resources to hire a full-time CPA to keep an eye on things like Broadmoor, but there are simple steps anyone can take to strengthen their internal controls:

-Have different people open the mail, post transactions in your accounting system and make deposits.

-Balance your check book

-Require two signatures on checks

-Count your cash and inventory regularly

-Hire an independent auditor to go through your books annually.

Don’t think you don’t need it. Everyone does.

Remember, trust but verify.