This week it appears that the federal government is doing its part to expand the accounting job market. President Bush has signed legislation that will permit the Securities and Exchange Commission to speed up the hiring of more than 800 additional staff. The SEC already employs approximately 3,200.
It may be that the ultimate result of the new SEC hiring will be the discovery of more corporate scandals and more accountants out of work, but for now the personnel office is open and accountants are encouraged to apply.
The legislation that the President signed last week will enable the SEC to bypass some of the civil service hiring requirements that often bog down government employment. Gone, for example, is the need for competitive exams where accountants, economists, and examiners are concerned. The hiring process should now take only a few weeks instead of the former six months. Both the House and the Senate approved the plan that was introduced by Republican representatives Michael Oxley and Richard Baker.
SEC Chairman William Donaldson applauded the arrangement. "I believe this expedited hiring authority will enable the Commission to better police and address the types of accounting abuses we've seen over the past few years." Mr. Donaldson's reference could have been to any number of companies, such as Enron, MCI/WorldCom, Tyco, Peregrine, and the list goes on.
The SEC has been laden with the task of enforcing its relatively new auditor independence guidelines. Additional staff will enable the agency to meet that goal.