Last month we released the Assurance Dashboard, a new feature in Xero designed to help advisors monitor a client’s data and identify any anomalies using the built-in controls in Xero.
Xero has always had built-in controls that ensure data has integrity. The Assurance Dashboard makes it easier to take advantage of these controls which are now accessible in one place.
Like any new tool, it’s useful to see how it can be applied in the real world. Here are some ways the Assurance Dashboard can help you add value to your clients, making it even easier to ensure the accuracy and integrity of their financial data, helping them realize high integrity accounting.
Checking user activity
The User Activity tab provides rich information on who has accessed a client’s file. It also provides a high-level view of what the user has done and how long they have been active for. You can use the information presented in this tab to:
- See what users are doing and highlight someone who might be working in areas they shouldn’t. For example, if you know a client’s staff member is just meant to do bank reconciliations, but has spent time using Contacts or Bills, it might be worth qualifying with the client what this staff member’s role is.
- A client may be struggling to keep on top of their finances if they are spending lots of time on certain sections, but not getting the work done (e.g. performing bank reconciliations). This could provide an opportunity for you, as an advisor, to offer a helping hand.
Monitoring bank account activity
The Bank Accounts tab shows the details of any manual bank account updates, specifically manually deleted statement lines or manually reconciled transactions.
Prior to the release of the Assurance Dashboard, the only way to see activity for bank accounts was to drill into each bank account – one by one – and look at the statement tab and account transaction tabs. Now advisors can see everything under the Assurance Dashboard’s Bank Accounts tab. Use this to:
- Help prompt you to look at bank accounts to ensure they are in balance: if there are manual and deleted lines, the live bank feed accuracy may be out. You can use this to check and then contact the client if there are issues, adding value.
- If an account is out of balance, going straight to this tab allows you to see which user may have entered manual lines or deleted lines, and exactly what they changed, which could be the reason why the account is out of balance.
- If an employee isn’t meant to be using bank reconciliation, but they have been deleting statement lines and manually adding in new ones and then reconciling them, this could be cause for concern, providing an opportunity to contact the client. A similar situation could result if an employee of the client is the person doing the bank reconciliations and making substantial quantities (or even regular and consistent quantities) of manual changes: this could also be cause for concern.
Using the Contacts Tab
The Contacts tab shows any contacts that have the same bank account recorded in Xero, or whose bank account has been edited. This helps identify any errors or potentially fraudulent activities where funds for multiple contacts are being directed to a single bank account.
Very simply, a review of this tab could give reason for accountant to contact client if:
- Different contacts now have same bank account numbers.
- A contact has had bank account records changes multiple times. This could indicate the account has been changed to a false number and then back again.
- You know a client staff member should not be changing contact records but has been doing so.
Checking for backdated Invoices and Bills
The Invoices & Bills tab shows invoices and bills that have been backdated. Such backdating could be legitimate or could indicate that someone has attempted to manipulate records.
If invoices have been backdated, you could investigate to make sure any GST claims have not been missed if backdated to prior period.
And if an employee is constantly backdating invoices and then adding in manual bank statement lines which are “payments” or receipts related to backdated invoices, this could indicate something fishy is going on
Also, if an invoice is backdated, statement line deleted and manual lines brought in and also bank account change on contact record, all by same employee on same day, provides a strong indication that some fraudulent activity could be taking place.
The Assurance Dashboard helps advisors identify and rectify errors in Xero, or potentially uncover activity which may not be in the interests of a client. How you use it is up to you – either as part of your current services or to create new continuous assurance services; it’s a tool that will help you serve your clients’ needs and help deliver high integrity accounting.