A comptroller is a management-level position responsible for supervising the quality of accounting and financial reporting of an organization. A financial comptroller is a senior-level executive who acts as the head of accounting, and oversees the preparation of financial reports, such as balance sheets and income statements.
In most Commonwealth countries, the comptroller general, auditor general, or comptroller and auditor general is the external auditor of the budget execution of the government and of government-owned companies. Typically, the independent institution headed by the comptroller general is a member of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI). In American government, the comptroller is effectively the chief financial officer of a public body.
In business management, the comptroller is closer to a chief audit executive, holding a senior role in internal audit functions. Generally, the title encompasses a variety of responsibilities, from overseeing accounting and monitoring internal controls to countersigning on expenses and commitments.
The term comptroller evolved in the 15th century through a blend of the French compte ("an account") and the Middle English countreroller (someone who checks a copy of a scroll, from the French contreroule "counter-roll, scroll copy"), thus creating a title for a compteroller who specializes in checking financial ledgers. This etymology explains why the name is often pronounced identically to "controller" despite the distinct spelling. However, comptroller is sometimes pronounced phonetically by those unaware of the word's origins or who wish specifically to avoid confusion with "controller."
A comptroller is a person in the business who oversees accounting and the implementation and monitoring of internal controls, independently from the chief financial officer (or CFO). In the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Israel and Canada, a comptroller or financial comptroller is a senior position, reporting to the CFO in companies that have one.
The title of comptroller is used in the Royal Household for various offices, including:
- the Comptroller of the Household (nowadays a sinecure, invariably held by a government whip in the House of Commons). The office was established as part of the Wardrobe (a powerful department of household and state) in the 13th century, in order to maintain a check on the accounts of the Treasurer of the Household. Today, the Comptroller's duties outside of government are minimal and mainly ceremonial.
- the Comptroller of the Lord Chamberlain's Office, who is a full-time member of the Royal Household; his duties are concerned with the arrangement of ceremonial affairs rather than financial affairs.
The Comptroller and City Solicitor is one of the High Officers of the City of London Corporation, responsible for provision of all legal services. The post of comptroller dates from 1311, and that of City Solicitor from 1544; the two were amalgamated in 1945.
The title of comptroller is held by various government officials.
- The Comptroller General is the director of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), an agency founded in 1921 (as General Accounting Office) to ensure the accountability of the federal government.
- Banks are supervised by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, an officer within the federal Department of The Treasury.
- Several states and local governments (cities, counties, etc.) have comptrollers, variously elected or appointed, with widely varying powers over budgetary and management matters. (See Connecticut Comptroller, Florida Comptroller, Illinois Comptroller, Comptroller of Maryland, State Comptroller of New Jersey, New York State Comptroller, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts; New York City Comptroller.)
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- Etymology of comptroller at etymology online, etymonline.com. Accessed 2007-07-01.
- Etymology of comptroller at Merriam-Webster online, m-w.com. Accessed 2007-07-01.
- "the definition of comptroller". Dictionary.com.
- "Controller Vs Comptroller". The Strategic CFO. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
- "What is the Difference Between a Controller and a Comptroller?". Top Accounting Degrees. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
- "Home Page". U.S. office of the Comptroller of the Currency.