The Accounting Profession:

Status of Panel on Audit Effectiveness Recommendations to Enhance the Self-Regulatory System

GAO-02-411: Published: May 17, 2002. Publicly Released: Jun 18, 2002.

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The accounting profession maintains a voluntary, self-regulatory system through the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) that includes establishing professional standards, monitoring compliance with professional standards, disciplining members for improper acts and substandard performance, and conducting oversight. The Panel of Audit Effectiveness, set up to examine the AICPA's methods, made recommendations to enhance the accounting profession's self-regulatory system. Implementing actions taken or in process have addressed many of the Panel's recommendations. However, the Panel's recommendations did not fully address the limitations of the self-regulatory system identified in its report. Also, some of the Panel's recommendations were either not accepted or are still under study. Additional experience is needed to evaluate the effectiveness of actions taken or planned. However, the system is fragmented, uncoordinated, and has a disciplinary function that is widely perceived to be ineffective. The self-regulatory system is unable to protect the confidentiality of investigative information about alleged audit failures or other disciplinary matters concerning members of the profession. The lack of such protective powers hinders the timing of investigations and affects the public's perception of the self-regulatory system's effectiveness. The Panel recognized the need for legislation to address this issue, but given the uncertainty of obtaining it, the Panel recommended other actions to protect the public interest when public accounting firms or their members are named in litigation alleging an audit failure.

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