Suggested Improvement for Reconciliation in MLS

Discussions around using and interfacing with the Church MLS program.
kkelley-p40
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Suggested Improvement for Reconciliation in MLS

Postby kkelley-p40 » Thu Feb 19, 2009 8:10 pm

A few months ago our stake asked the wards to forward excess ward missionary funds to HQ, leaving only about a three month reserve for each missionary ($1200). I did so. When the bishop was reviewing January's reconciliation, he noted that our ending balance under "Missionary" was only about $600, when it "should" have been about $2800, according to our records in MLS.

What happened was over the previous two years several automatic transactions related to missionary support had been entered in as "other transactions" during the reconciliation process. The funds had been entered under "missionary" instead of "ward missionary". Since these two accounts are apparently treated the same in the reconciliation process (?), the error was never noted. So for about two years our MLS balance for ward missionary and the actual balance for ward missionary were severely out of sync.

As far as I am aware, the two balances are never directly compared anywhere in the reconciliation process or in the regular audits.

In our case we were fortunate that the discrepancy was less than what we had intended to keep in the account as a reserve, so our ward missionary funds remained in the black.

I am not sure what the appropriate solution to this trap is. It's an easy mistake to make, though, and there doesn't seem to be any mechanism in place to catch the error.

jbh001
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Postby jbh001 » Thu Feb 19, 2009 8:46 pm

This same thing can happen with the "Other" account if you are not careful, and both can be fixed buy doing a simple internal transfer within MLS. Just make sure you document somewhere why the transfer was made (like on an expense authorization form that gets filed with the checks). You will also have to manually "clear" that transfer at reconciliation time by going to the Transfers tab (after the Deposits and Expenses tabs) on the reconciliation screen.

One reason to document this on an "expense authorization form" is that all expenses need to be authorized by the bishop's autograph (at least that's one way of putting it). Thus if you make sure the bishop signs off on it first before doing the transfer, not only to you have a paper trail if you need it, but it might help jog some memories if needed when auditing time comes around.

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Postby jbh001 » Thu Feb 19, 2009 9:05 pm

kkelley wrote:What happened was over the previous two years several automatic transactions related to missionary support had been entered in as "other transactions" during the reconciliation process. The funds had been entered under "missionary" instead of "ward missionary". Since these two accounts are apparently treated the same in the reconciliation process (?), the error was never noted. So for about two years our MLS balance for ward missionary and the actual balance for ward missionary were severely out of sync.
Ward mission accounts usually look something like this in MLS:
Ward missionary
Ward missionary:Joseph Smith
Ward missionary:Brigham Young


If you are saying that the debits to the ward's mission account were entered locally to "Ward missionary" instead of "Ward missionary: Joseph Smith" (or vice versa) then a simple internal transfer in MLS will correct that problem.

If you are saying that the debits to the ward mission account were entered locally to the "Other" or "Other:Scouts" (or similar) accounts, then I'm not sure how you would not have noticed the problem at reconciliation time even once, let alone for 2 years.

From the MLS menu bar, if you navigate to Finance > Finance Reports > Income and Expense Report > and set Report: to Summary by Sub-Category, you should be able to quickly see any disparity between subcategories that need to be addressed.

It would be a good practice to check this report on a regular basis for such discrepancies and correct them as needed.

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aebrown
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Postby aebrown » Thu Feb 19, 2009 10:14 pm

kkelley wrote:What happened was over the previous two years several automatic transactions related to missionary support had been entered in as "other transactions" during the reconciliation process. The funds had been entered under "missionary" instead of "ward missionary". Since these two accounts are apparently treated the same in the reconciliation process (?), the error was never noted. So for about two years our MLS balance for ward missionary and the actual balance for ward missionary were severely out of sync.


There is indeed a Missionary category that is quite distinct from the Ward Missionary account (at least in the test database it exists). I'm really not sure what the purpose of the Missionary category is. There is no way to enter a donation (in a donation batch) to that category. You also can't create a check from that category. But you can create a Transfer, and you can also create an Other Item during reconciliation using that category. You can report on it using an Income and Expense Report.

The thing that confuses me about your scenario is that whenever I create an Other Item using the Missionary category, it creates two transfer transactions -- one in and one out. So the net is always zero, and thus I don't see how you could have ever used such transactions to create actual debits to th account and still successfully reconcile.

The question I would have for the MLS developers is why that account even exists. It doesn't seem to have a valid use, and so it can only lead to confusion. Perhaps it had something to do with the FIS-MLS transition, but that is only a supposition. In the test database, there are some transactions dated in 2006 related to that account. It is indeed quite odd.

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Postby russellhltn » Fri Feb 20, 2009 2:12 am

Alan_Brown wrote:There is indeed a Missionary category that is quite distinct from the Ward Missionary account (at least in the test database it exists).


Maybe I'm looking in the wrong place, but it seems that Missionary is a top-level category that contains Book of Mormon, General Missionary and Ward Missionary.

Alan_Brown wrote:In the test database, there are some transactions dated in 2006 related to that account. It is indeed quite odd.


I believe the date of the transactions is the year that you installed the test unit.
Have you searched the Wiki?
Try using a Google search by adding "site:tech.lds.org/wiki" to the search criteria.

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Mikerowaved
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Postby Mikerowaved » Fri Feb 20, 2009 3:42 am

Alan_Brown wrote:There is indeed a Missionary category that is quite distinct from the Ward Missionary account (at least in the test database it exists). I'm really not sure what the purpose of the Missionary category is. There is no way to enter a donation (in a donation batch) to that category.

Donations to "Missionary" are swept into the general missionary fund. Donations to "Ward Missionary" remain in control of the ward and will earn interest.

kkelley wrote:As far as I am aware, the two balances are never directly compared anywhere in the reconciliation process or in the regular audits.

Hummm... I was certain they were, with any discrepancies showing up as a non-zero item on the balance line. I've read your post several times and still can't quite get a handle on what happened or why you wouldn't see it for that long.
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crislapi
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Postby crislapi » Fri Feb 20, 2009 10:00 am

A couple years ago the auditors in my stake asked us to completely discontinue use of the Missionary category. All donations were to be put in either Ward or General Missionary. All transactions that had occurred in Missionary that year were moved to Ward Missionary.

I don't know if they received a memo on it, but both worked professionally as accountants for the Church, traveling literally around the world to train different regions on how handle church finances. I therefore assumed this was a church-wide policy. No one has said anything like that yet, so perhaps not?

jbh001
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Postby jbh001 » Fri Feb 20, 2009 10:49 am

The current version of MLS only seems to allow expenses to be created against the following categories: Budget, Fast Offerings, Other, and Ward Missionary.

Missionary donations only seem to be allowed to "General missionary" and "Ward missionary." "General missionary" is a sweep account. "Ward missionary" is not.

While "Missionary" does show up as a budget category when I checked our live ward instead of the test ward, it appears to be a hold over from something else because (1) the category cannot be deleted or modified, (2) no donations or expenses can be made using that category in a live database, and (3) it seems logical that the "General missionary" and "Ward missionary" categories probably replaced it.

If this does not match your experience and you still have a "Missionary" account you can still use and manipulate, I would probably be trying to find a way to discontinue using it in favor of the "Ward missionary" account.

Since the "Test" ward still has it this way, and there are remnants of it in the "Live" database as well, at some point there must have been an MLS message sent out and/or software upgrade telling us to make the switch away from the "Missionary" account and toward the "Ward missionary" account. It's probably that that happened long enough ago that we just did it and forgot about it, and no one that has yet replied to the thread even remembers such a transition happening.

Although that brings up another question: At what point will the "Test" ward database be brought more up to date? (But that's definitely a topic for a different thread.)


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