DISTINCTION BETWEEN CONTROLLER & TREASURER
Many people confuse the offices of controller & treasurer. The chief financial officer, vice president, typically oversees both the controllership & treasurership functions. The financial executives institute, an association of corporate treasurers & controllers, distinguishes their functions as fellows:
a. Planning & Control a. Provision of capital
b. Reporting & interpreting b. Investor relations
c. Evaluating & Consulting c. Banking & custody
d. Government reporting d. Credit & collections
e. Protection of assets e. Investments
f. Economic appraisal f. Insurance
g.Tax administration g. Short-term financing.
NOTE: How managerial cost accounting is the controller’s primary means of implementing the first three functions of controllership.
The treasurer is the financial executive who is primarily responsible for obtaing investment capital and managing cash. We will not dwell at length on the treasurer’s functions. As the seven points indicate, treasurers are concerned mainly with financial, as distinguished from operating, problems. The exact division of various accounting and financial duties obviously varies from company to company.
The controller is the financial executive who is primarily responsible for both management accounting & financial accounting. The controller has been compared to the ship navigator. The navigator with the help of specialized training assists the captain. Without the navigator, the ship may founder on reefs or miss its destination entirely, but the captain exerts the right to command. The navigator guides and informs the captain as to how well the ship is being steered. This navigator role is especially evident in point 1 through 3 of the controller’s functions.
The word controller is applied to various accounting positions. The stature & duties of the controller vary from company to company. In some firms the controller is little more than a glorified bookkeeper who compiles data primarily for conventional balance sheets and Income statements. In other firms for e.g. General Electric-Controllers are key executives who aid management planning and control in about two hundred subdivisions. In most firms the controller’s status is somewhere between these two extremes. For example, controller’s opinions on the tax implications of certain management decisions may carefully weighed, yet their opinions on the other aspects of these decisions may not be sought.
Whatever the title, the controller the controller is viewed in this article as the chief management accounting executive .The point of terminology here is that the modern controller dose not do any controlling in terms of line authority except over this or her own department. Yet the modern concept of controllership maintains that the controller dose control in a special sense. That is, by reporting and interpreting relevant data, the controller exerts a force or influence that impels management toward logical decisions consistent with objectives.
In sum, the modern controller plays a “two-count” role in organizations. The first count is responsibility to top management for the integrity (reliability) of the financial reports of the subunits. The second count is responsibility for helping the subunit managers in planning and controlling operations.
Therefore controllers must balance their independence and objectivity against their necessary Involvement in assisting line managers. Thus, finance functions tend to start where accounting one ends. In the United States of America, for instance, the accounting function in an organization is usually performed by someone called the controller. The person is usually an accounting graduate who has qualified professionally as Certified Public Accountant (CPA). He works under a Vice president (finance) or Director of Finance, who may or may not have been a controller. Similarly, the finance function is performed by someone with a title of “Treasurer”. The person is usually a graduate of finance with many years of experience and has professionally qualified as Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). Like the controller, the treasurer reports to the vice president (finance) or Director of Finance who may or may not have been a treasurer. This is to say that the vice president (Finance) would once have been a controller or a Treasurer.
Moreover, this arrangement is not common in Nigeria. What obtains here is that the post of Director of Finance tends to be occupied only by Chartered Accountants. This convention was borrowed from Britain where university degree programs in finance and accounting are relatively new compared to American experience. Though in Nigeria today, a graduate of finance and economics has as much chance as an accounting graduate to qualify as Chartered Accountant and consequently to perform as a director of finance.
It should be noted here that the title of “Treasurer” has not found support in Nigeria to the extent the controller has. The rationale for this could be the level of Nigeria’s economic development and indeed our British orientation. We borrowed a lot of from our colonial masters especially in the area of our organizational and educational arrangement. Fundamentally, the division of these functions as the Americans does would be essential in our fight against corruption and job effectiveness and efficiency. The management of money a valuable resource requires the separation of power and extra-ordinary skill on the part of the finance. I am of the opinion that who keeps record of money should not be in possession of money.
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