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Masonic Service Association of North America

Emessay Notes January 2016

Aud1ts And Numb3rs: A Quick Guide For Lodge Auditing

William J. Thomas, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New York, in his “From the East” column in the Winter issue of the Empire State Mason Magazine, wrote a very useful article on some simple concepts for members of the annual Lodge Audit Committee, and MSA thought it valuable enough to reprint in this issue.  Please clip this out and share it in your Lodge.

Oh, give me your pity; I'm on a Committee,
Which means that from morning to night
We attend and amend, and contend and defend
Without a conclusion in sight.

I received a frantic call from a Brother recently: “I’ve been assigned to the Lodge Audit Committee, and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I asked both the Master and the Chairman of the Committee, and they didn’t seem to know either. Help!”

I could visualize the sweat on his brow, the distress in his eyes – and the Masonic signs he must be making.

This seems to be one of those questions that everyone has, but nobody wants to verbalize. Who wants to admit that he doesn’t know something that should be common knowledge to everyone?

Common knowledge? Or is it?

I can assure you that it is NOT common knowledge to everyone, and ignoring the question is much like the ostrich putting his head in the sand, and hoping that it will go away. But I can also assure you that the work is not complicated.  Here are some simple guidelines to help get you started:

Note that there are only three things that happen with monies of the Lodge:

  • Money comes in
  • Money goes out
  • Money remains in an account

The Audit Committee’s work is simply looking at those three things and confirming that they happened.  Nothing more need be done. And most Lodges’ financial transactions are few and simple enough that it can be done in short order.

Here’s the short course:

  • Make a list of all the Lodge accounts, including account number, location:
    1. Bank accounts
    2. Savings accounts
    3. Investment accounts
    4. Cash accounts

  • Make your audit:
    1. Use monthly statements to confirm the beginning balances. 
    2. Confirm the monies going in, and confirm the source (addition).
    3. Confirm the monies going out, and confirm the vouchers (subtraction). Vouchers should include a paper trail, including a receipt and what it was for. Your by-laws might have additional requirements, such as finance committee review or Lodge approval of payment.
    4. Use monthly statements to confirm the ending balances.

  • Write a report for each account
    1. The balances agree, or
    2. The balances don’t agree, and give your opinion why they don’t agree.

And that’s it. 

  • You don’t need an accounting degree. 
  • You don’t need to pay for an expensive outside audit.
  • You don’t need special software.

There are some pitfalls:

  • Cash in:  The paper trail with cash is feeble at best, and lends itself to questions. It is much easier to document transactions with a non-cash paper trail and nobody is being accused of irregularities.
  • Cash out: Avoid cash disbursements completely.
  • Third-hand receipts: Vouchers should reflect who paid for something and how. It’s difficult to follow a paper trail that travels among multiple people.

Keys points:

  • Avoid cash
  • Keep the payment system simple
  • Avoid cash
  • Make monthly audits, rather than waiting until the end of the year.
  • Avoid cash
  • If you don’t understand the answer to a question, ask it again until you understand the response. Don’t be hoodwinked by terminology that is otherwise simple.
  • Finally, avoid cash

Yes, there are other issues to consider. This is not an all-inclusive primer. But it will help get you started.

 

The Art Of Being A Gentleman In The 21st Century

The California Freemason, among the best Masonic periodicals in the country, often selects a theme for each issue.  The current December/January 2016 issue focuses on “The Art of Being a Gentleman.”

The magazine explains:  “The quest to be a better man – and a gentleman – is the heart of Freemasonry’s teachings.  But what does it mean to be a gentleman in present-day society?  Is the concept of the gentleman still relevant and valuable?  And if so, what does it take to be a gentleman today?” 

This issue offers a number of interesting and thought-provoking stories on the subject, and provides good Masonic reading.

The magazine can be read in full on the webpage – www.freemason.org -- of the Grand Lodge of California.

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