I'm new to this company, and have noticed frequent requests for rush checks. The check request form itself has a check box for "rush"—I really think we should discourage this practice. Thoughts?

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You are quite right—you want to discourage rush checks. The question of on-demand requests for payments (also known as rush, manual, emergency or ASAP checks) is a matter of company policy, and in your company’s case, the policy supports them. There are sound reasons that should change.

In theory it would be best to avoid them entirely. However, that tends to be impossible in actual practice. Nevertheless, it is a best practice to keep the number of on-demand checks to a minimum. Why? Too many rush checks mean weak internal control, can lead to errors and duplicate payments, and put you at risk for fraud. They are also, of course, disruptive and expensive to process. It may be impossible to avoid them in all situations, but they should be true exceptions.

Enlist the support of senior management for a policy change by discussing with them the risks and problems of rush checks. In formulating a new policy, be sure you analyze what is behind the current level of on-demand check requests, then strengthen policy and procedures to address the issues while firming up an exception policy for on-demand check requests that includes the criteria and circumstances acceptable for issue of an on-demand check.

Controls should be in place around on-demand checks, such as requiring a system search, requiring high-level authorization, keeping a log of all on-demand checks issued, and asking (and documenting) the reason for the on-demand check. When a requestor is required to document his or her reason for it, the on-demand check may prove unnecessary. Tracking and documenting who is requesting the checks also can be telling—is it everyone in the company, or are there a few “regulars” that are abusing the process?

Proper communication of relevant AP schedules, policies and procedures can also help to prevent rush checks. Let everyone know the payment schedule (with lead times).

When a payment must be made immediately, consider an alternative to cutting a check—offer to pay the vendor with a P-card.

Here is a case study you might find helpful:
AP Pro Uses Metrics to Slash Rush Checks by 85%

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