Simple Fraud Analytics in Accounts Payable

There is a lot of talk about Artificial Intelligent (AI) and unstructured data and how this will identify fraud and make life easier for financial monitoring, internal control and audit.  This all sounds great, but we are not even making use of the structured data we have and some basic analysis techniques.  How then can we jump to AI and obtain reliable, understandable, actionable results? So, let me give you…

November 23, 2017

Sampling Guidelines

1.0 Introduction There are two main types of sampling: Statistical sampling is used to draw conclusions about populations. Non-statistical sampling is used to establish the existence, and determine the extent of, suspected conditions. Statistical Sampling Statistical sampling permits auditors to project characteristics of the sample to the population from which the sample s drawn, whereas non-statistical sampling only allows you to draw conclusion about the sample itself. Statistical sampling also…

November 2, 2017

Becoming Sought After

At the annual ACL user conference (Connection 2017) the recurring theme was “Being Sought After”.  Employees who are sought after are recognized by senior management.  In the case of ACL users, this means their ability to use analytics to identify and assess risk, detect fraud and improve operational efficiency and effectiveness.  Clearly, if you can do that, not only will you bring value to the organization, but also to your…

October 5, 2017

Data analytics, the essential and underutilized tool in detecting, assessing, and preventing fraud

The unrelenting advancement of technology is affecting virtually every aspect of our lives.  And as technology becomes more pervasive, so do schemes to commit fraud. Fraudsters are taking advantage of users’ inexperience with newer technology and weaknesses in the controls to perpetuate these schemes.  This is proving to be a challenge for evaluators, auditors and investigators in their efforts to identify and detect fraud.  However, technology is also a tool…

September 17, 2017

Seeing Analytics

I am at the end of day two of teaching an introductory ACL to a really good group of students.  They are quick to grasp the concepts as we go through different commands and ACL functionality.  They are able to answer pointed questions like: give me three ways to ‘sort’ a file. However, when I ask, “where could you use ‘insert an ACL command here’ in your audit work?” they…

August 26, 2017


Stratify has to be one of my favourite commands.  It quickly gives more details regarding the distribution (Low, Medium, and High) of the selected numeric fields (e.g. number of low, medium, high dollar contracts).  This can help with sampling (which I don’t really like to do).  The records in the “High” categories may number only a few, but they often represent a significant portion of the amount.  A stratified sampling…

July 3, 2017

Value of Peer Community (formerly the ACL Forum)

Recently there was a discussion on the ACL peer community between an ACL expert user and myself over when certain commands were included in the basic set of ACL commands (e.g. Cross Tab).  I had built a cross tab script before the command existed in ACL, but was wrong on both the date I created the script and when it was included as part of the ACL command set.  This…

June 18, 2017


Always looking for ideas for my blog, I could not resist when Chris Broussard asked me to write something on ACL workspaces. Simply put, an ACL workspace is used define either physical fields or expressions.  However, instead of defining these fields in the table layout, the definitions are stored in a separate project item (i.e. a workspace).  The main advantage is that the workspace can be shared by multiple data…

May 25, 2017

Life Lessons

I often write about analytics and other aspects of data extraction, interpretation and the like.  Today I thought I would do something different. I am teaching a 4th year university/college course.  The students are eager to get their CMA/CPA designation and go off to work for a big accounting firm.  I admire their zeal, but worry about the lack of practical “seat of the pants” knowledge.   I tell them that…

April 23, 2017


Sometimes even the simplest analytics are extremely useful.  They often tell you what is happening in the detailed transactions without you having to make assumptions about the data.  STATISTICS is one of those commands: with a couple clicks of the mouse you can get: Min and Max Highest and Lowest ‘X’ values Number of Positive, Negative and Zero valued transactions Average Median, Mode and Q25 and Q75 But like any…

April 6, 2017