Reconciled Months No Longer Reconciled in MLS

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Wayne Roberts-p40
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Reconciled Months No Longer Reconciled in MLS

Postby Wayne Roberts-p40 » Tue Jan 27, 2009 4:45 pm

We're experiencing an ongoing problem in our Stake regarding changing reconciliation report data - I'm sure there are others on this forum that have experienced it as well but I couldn't find a thread on the subject.

When the Church Unit Financial Statement is reconciled with MLS and the report is printed for signature showing no unreconciled differences (and no temporary items), logically those numbers should not change unless changes are made in MLS with an effective date that was prior to the month in question.

I'm thinking back to the FIS days when you could go back through previous month's data and the report would be exactly as you left it when you finished the reconciliation. Many Financial Clerks in our Stake report that after they've reconciled the current month, they go back to that report in MLS months down the road and find that the numbers have changed.

I discussed this issue with MLS Clerk Support over a year ago and I was told it's a glich in MLS. If this is true has there been any progress in resolving the problem or is it even on the front burner, so to speak?

Is anyone else on this forum experiencing the same problem? If so, is there a specific cause or is the underlying problem random in nature?

Thanks


Wayne Roberts
(Assistant Stake Clerk - Finance)

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aebrown
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Postby aebrown » Tue Jan 27, 2009 4:54 pm

Wayne Roberts wrote:We're experiencing an ongoing problem in our Stake regarding changing reconciliation report data - I'm sure there are others on this forum that have experienced it as well but I couldn't find a thread on the subject.

When the Church Unit Financial Statement is reconciled with MLS and the report is printed for signature showing no unreconciled differences (and no temporary items), logically those numbers should not change unless changes are made in MLS with an effective date that was prior to the month in question.

I'm thinking back to the FIS days when you could go back through previous month's data and the report would be exactly as you left it when you finished the reconciliation. Many Financial Clerks in our Stake report that after they've reconciled the current month, they go back to that report in MLS months down the road and find that the numbers have changed.

I discussed this issue with MLS Clerk Support over a year ago and I was told it's a glich in MLS. If this is true has there been any progress in resolving the problem or is it even on the front burner, so to speak?

Is anyone else on this forum experiencing the same problem? If so, is there a specific cause or is the underlying problem random in nature?


It's not random, and it's not a glitch. It's a conscious design decision made in MLS. I don't like it, and it has caused lots of confusion, but it's very predictable once you understand what is happening.

The basic issue is that MLS creates transactions for adjustments to checks or deposits with dates that match the original date.

As time goes by, most units will need to make various adjustments because of donor checks that bounce, category adjustments to donations or checks, etc. When these adjustments are made in months that precede the last reconciliation date, they will create these pre-dated transfers in MLS. Once such a pre-dated transaction is created, all reconciliations from that month on will no longer balance.

This is particularly confusing because the corresponding corrections that appear on the Church Unit Financial Statement (CUFS) will be dated with the date the correction was made by the administration office. So you could have a correction made in January for a check deposited in a November batch that actually was returned by the bank in December. The December CUFS would show the bounce (debit to the Other category), and the January CUFS would show the batch adjustment and credit to the Other category, but in MLS the corrections would all be dated in November, because that was the date of the original batch.

This would all be much clearer if standard accounting practices were followed, and any corrections were dated with the date the correction is made, with reference numbers that connected the correction back to the original transaction. Then completed reconciliations would never be fouled up by future corrections, even for older transactions.

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Postby aebrown » Tue Jan 27, 2009 5:04 pm

Wayne Roberts wrote:I'm thinking back to the FIS days when you could go back through previous month's data and the report would be exactly as you left it when you finished the reconciliation. Many Financial Clerks in our Stake report that after they've reconciled the current month, they go back to that report in MLS months down the road and find that the numbers have changed.


I neglected to mention FIS in my previous post. The reason FIS seemed so much more reasonable in this regard is that the financial clerk could decide what date to apply to any corrections. So the corrections could be made in FIS with a date that matched the transaction on the CUFS. Thus the FIS corrections would not be pre-dated and so would not break any previous reconciliations or change the values on any reports printed for past months.

FIS was much more manual, but because of this the clerk had control over the dates of corrections. MLS does these corrections automatically and the clerk has no control over the date assigned to such transactions.

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Postby jbh001 » Tue Jan 27, 2009 6:20 pm

I remember when I was first called as ward clerk, reconciliations had not been done since the ward switched over to MLS (because no one could figure out how to do them in MLS). In trying to rectify this (and never having done a reconciliation with MLS or FIS before) I decided to reconcile the most current statement ant then try to work my way back. Bad idea! After I reconciled the most recent statement, I was off in the realm of more than $20,000 dollars missing. So instead, I girded up my loins and went back and started with the very first reconciliation since the unit switched to MLS. I just kept working my way forward without checking to see if is was fixing the problem or not. When I finally finished reconciling the most recent CUFS, the discrepancy had disappeared. (Whew!)

It was then I realized that MLS only tracks what has cleared and uncleared, and that as soon as I marked a check has having cleared that was previously uncleared, it would throw off all previous reconciliations if I went back to look at them.

My solution: print out a hard copy showing that the accounts were balanced with that particular CUFS, attach it to the corresponding CUFS, and never look back (Genesis 19:6, 2 Kings 2:24, Luke 9:62, D&C 133:15). :D

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Postby rmrichesjr » Tue Jan 27, 2009 9:24 pm

Wayne Roberts wrote:We're experiencing an ongoing problem in our Stake regarding changing reconciliation report data - I'm sure there are others on this forum that have experienced it as well but I couldn't find a thread on the subject.

When the Church Unit Financial Statement is reconciled with MLS and the report is printed for signature showing no unreconciled differences (and no temporary items), logically those numbers should not change unless changes are made in MLS with an effective date that was prior to the month in question.

...

Is anyone else on this forum experiencing the same problem? If so, is there a specific cause or is the underlying problem random in nature?

Thanks


Wayne Roberts
(Assistant Stake Clerk - Finance)


jbh001 wrote:...

It was then I realized that MLS only tracks what has cleared and uncleared, and that as soon as I marked a check has having cleared that was previously uncleared, it would throw off all previous reconciliations if I went back to look at them.

My solution: print out a hard copy showing that the accounts were balanced with that particular CUFS, attach it to the corresponding CUFS, and never look back (Genesis 19:6, 2 Kings 2:24, Luke 9:62, D&C 133:15). :D


As other responders have stated, this problem impacts everyone, and it is firmly baked into the design and architecture of MLS. When I was stake finance clerk and had to switch to MLS, I was very unhappy about this problem (and a few others). An architecture that would avoid this problem would need to keep two dates for each transaction to reflect the date on which the transaction was initiated (usually by the local unit) and the date the transaction was completed (usually by clearing the bank), or at least an integer field for the month in which the transaction cleared the bank. As others have mentioned, adjustments to transactions further complicate things, but they can be handled if done carefully. If there is eventually another generation of financial software to replace MLS, I hope the design will solve this problem.

(The Reflex-based database I had been using for stake finances prior to the switch to MLS had a field for 'month cleared' so the reports and reconciliation forms could be generated for earlier months. We did use MIS for deposits, but everything else was done with Reflex.)

With the current design of MLS, the best that can be done is to print out the reconciliation from MLS and save the paper copy with the bank statement.

(Disclaimer: The above is my personal view only.)

Wayne Roberts-p40
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Postby Wayne Roberts-p40 » Wed Jan 28, 2009 12:39 pm

Thank you for the great feedback.

This single issue has been the source of more headaches and wasted time than any other issue associated with MLS. When I train new Finance Clerks I specifically mention this problem (and it is a problem) but I still receive phone calls (at least one a month) from Clerks that are pulling their hair out (figuratively speaking) because they're going back to a month that was previously balanced, only
to find it's no longer balanced.

I tell all of the Clerks to ensure the reconciliation report is printed, signed, and stapled to the CUFS but I recently had to deal with a problem where one Ward had 7 months worth of reconciled CUFS's w/reports go missing. Some of the months were no longer reconciled so we had to spend hours tracing the source of the problem. This shouldn't be necessary.

Last night I was doing some training and saw a good example of the issue you refer to concerning an NSF check. The check was for $25.00 and once the donation had been cancelled, it threw off the
balances for every month after the month that contained the batch with the NSF check.

When you look at the reconciliation report, all you see is an unreconciled difference with no reference at all to the transaction that caused it. This problem can be very difficult to track down if you're dealing
with multiple NSF cheques across numerous months.

How difficult would it be to change the program to show the relevant information on the report instead of just showing the total unreconciled difference(s)? Given the high turn-over rate for Clerks in the Church, something needs to be done to point the replacement Clerk in the right direction.

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Postby jbh001 » Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:19 am

Wayne Roberts wrote:How difficult would it be to change the program ...
While it may not be the best example, there are merits to having the Church rewrite the financial portion of MLS so that it functions more like Quicken (with regards to reconciliation). Specifically, I'm thinking of the feature that lets you download transactions from the bank, and then reconcile them with your personal records.

We now download the CUFS each month. It would seem to make more sense to have all financial transactions bi-directionally transmitted to/from CHQ. Checks are already transmitted to CHQ from MLS, but it would be nice if the other transactions were also sent to the local unit's MLS as well, such as monthly missionary expenses and direct charges from the distribution center and elsewhere. I realize that this would likely take a fair amount of reprogramming MLS, but the resulting simplification would be worth it (IMO).

I guess my point is that with Internet banking, there seem to be a variety of viable models the Church could draw upon to make this process work better and simpler that it currently does.

And having said that, I was never a finance clerk in the pre-MLS or even pre-FIS days. So I shudder to even think what that calling was like back then.

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Postby aebrown » Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:36 am

jbh001 wrote:While it may not be the best example, there are merits to having the Church rewrite the financial portion of MLS so that it functions more like Quicken (with regards to reconciliation). Specifically, I'm thinking of the feature that lets you download transactions from the bank, and then reconcile them with your personal records.

We now download the CUFS each month. It would seem to make more sense to have all financial transactions bi-directionally transmitted to/from CHQ. Checks are already transmitted to CHQ from MLS, but it would be nice if the other transactions were also sent to the local unit's MLS as well, such as monthly missionary expenses and direct charges from the distribution center and elsewhere. I realize that this would likely take a fair amount of reprogramming MLS, but the resulting simplification would be worth it (IMO).


Through interaction I have had with some clerks in the UK, I know that this is already the case there. Automatic debits are automatically downloaded to MLS. So I doubt that significant changes to MLS would be required. My guess is that the challenge is much more in making changes to the central financial systems of the Church.

Downloading transactions would be a significant help and reduce one major problem area that affects accounting. But as long as MLS insists on dating all adjustment transactions with the original date, rather than the date of the adjustment, reconciliation will continue to be a confusing process.

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Reconciled months no longer reconciled

Postby SmithGW » Fri Jan 30, 2009 11:09 am

jbh001 said:

My solution: print out a hard copy showing that the accounts were balanced with that particular CUFS, attach it to the corresponding CUFS, and never look back.
As a stake auditor, I can tell you that this is wise council indeed. It saves a lot of headaches later.


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