Audit International has learned that for Auditors and best practices, rotation is key! For publicly traded companies, the audit process is among the more arduous and mundane of all corporate responsibilities.
It claims the precious time spent and attention of senior management and executives and is neither strategic nor contributory to company profits or shareholder value. And in the Sarbanes-Oxley era of more regulated corporate governance—in the wake of Enron, MCI WorldCom, and other such scandals—the audit process has only grown in intensity, prompting an exodus of senior in-house accounting and financial executives to private companies.
But despite the enhanced governance requirements of the last ten years, audit quality continues to slip. The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board is still finding deficiencies in audits conducted by the Big Four. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, the chief auditor at the PCAOB stated, “When we look at an audit, the rate of failure has been in a range of around 35 to 40 percent.”
Competition in the audit market has all but disappeared. In the U.K., the Big Four accounting firms hold the auditing business for 99 percent of FTSE 100 companies. In the U.S., those same four companies collected over 94 percent of all auditing fees in 2010.
In the interests of improving audit quality, preventing against early 2000s-style corporate scandals and protecting the investor, regulatory authorities across the globe are looking at both the audit market and the relationship between company and auditor and are putting in place mandatory audit rotation. That is, a legal requirement that companies put up for tender and potentially change their auditor every number of years. The EU has already enacted such regulation, requiring most companies to put their audit business up for bid every 10 years. And there is a growing clamor for similar regulation in the U.S.
We will have to wait and see if this regulation improves the working life of internal auditors.
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