We have all heard stories of hotels that have had accounting employees commit serious fraud. Maybe it has happened at your hotel. Maybe it is happening at your hotel right now and you don’t know it. Even if you have a perfect record, it is always a good idea to review your internal controls and prevent fraud from happening.
There are some simple controls that every hotel should have, yet many hotels fail in these areas when internal audit comes around. Here are some highlights:
1. Make sure that the General Cashier does not perform any accounts payable or accounts receivable functions. This is especially tough in small hotels that may only have one employee in their accounting office. In a small hotel, we recommend having the Sales Admin or Front Desk Manager be the General Cashier… anyone who does not do A/P or A/R. If a General Cashier has access to A/P or A/R, it makes it incredibly easy to steal cash.
2. Require the General Cashier to take a vacation each year and have their job functions assumed by another associate. Quite often, a cashier will not want someone else to handle their job duties or to take a vacation at all. This is often a red flag that the cashier is committing fraud and afraid of someone looking closely at his/her work.
3. Make sure that every bank in the hotel (including the main safe) is audited on a surprise basis at least once per month. This one is the most basic of basic controls yet many hotels do not do this. They typically find out of a cash shortage when an employee with a bank is terminated. This is especially important when it comes to the main safe. If it is not audited frequently on a surprise basis, it makes it so much easier for the cashier to steal or borrow money.
4. The drop safe should require two people to open. We like the drop safes that need a key and a combination. The combination should be kept by the General Cashier and the key should be kept by a separate person.
5. All deposits should be removed with a witness present and immediately logged. The deposits should be logged with a witnessed in case an envelope is missing.
6. Bank deposits should be made every day via armored car service. Do not allow your General Cashier to skip days and keep cash on hand. This makes it easier to commit fraud. Also, make sure that your deposit is picked up by armored car and not taken to the bank by the General Cashier.
7. Accounts Payable or Accounts Receivable employees should never handle cash or checks. Do not allow the A/P employee to receive checks in the mail. The checks should be received and logged by someone other than the General Cashier or A/R employee. We prefer an Administrative Assistant to handle this or have the checks sent directly to your bank lock box. Also, the A/P or A/R employee should not handle cash, including petty cash.
Again, these are just the basics of control. There is more information available in the HFTP Study Guide for the CHAE Exam. More information is available at http://www.hftp.org/ or your local HFTP Chapter.