For several years now, I have served on our Parish Council at the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ottawa and have seen up close how decisions are made concerning finances such as accounting and budgeting, the care of the building, stipends and how money is handled.
In light of some things that have happened in other parishes, I’m quite proud of the way we have always done things in our parish. All cheques are co-signed—-no one person has control over the money. Whenever the collection is counted, there are always two people counting together. We have updates from our treasurer every few months or so where we see how our finances are doing, and how the actual income and expenses compare with our budget. Frankly, for someone like me whose eyes glaze over when the words “financial statement” or “budget” is mentioned, I’m glad we have built in procedures and safeguards that determine how things are run even if the persons occupying various roles changes.
It could be that we are operating this way because of provincial by-laws as we have our own charitable number. But it’s a good way of operating that makes me confident the monies we donate on Sundays are all accounted for and spent or invested wisely.
John Bruce has been doing a series of posts about the finances of St. Mary of the Angels in Los Angeles at his blog and, if his posts are accurate, then it seems cheques could be written on one person’s signature; that there was no system for oversight in terms of regular reporting of finances to the vestry or parish council; and that because of this bills and taxes did not get paid and it took a while for anyone else to find out.
Closer to home here in Ottawa, I’m following the court case of a gambling priest who has been charged with theft, breach of trust, money laundering for something like $400,000 in missing cash and cheques from his parish. The priest admitted to a gambling addiction but has said he never used parish funds. A local newspaper somehow got a hold of his Visa statements which showed huge amounts paid to the local casino. He has yet to make a plea. Also, he was immensely popular. Immensely popular.
The newspaper also reported sacks of cash would be taken after collection to sit uncounted in the unlocked office. Needless to say, the accounting procedures for every parish in Ottawa have now been tightened up considerably.