The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) announced this week the formation of an Audit Quality Center for CPA firms that audit employee benefit plans. This Center has now begun accepting member applications, and is the second of three AICPA Audit Quality Centers to be launched in recent months.
Following approval by the Governing Council of the AICPA at its Fall 2003 meeting, the Institute has moved ahead with creating three new audit quality centers focusing on areas of critical importance to the public interest: public companies, employee benefit plans and governmental entities. As part of this mandate, the AICPA established the Center for Public Company Audit Firms in January 2004, offering enhanced resources to firms that audit publicly traded companies. In November of 2003, the Institute began the process of defining aspects of the new Employee Benefit Plan Audit Quality Center by forming an Executive Committee appointed by Chairman S. Scott Voynich. Center membership requirements were established by the Committee and the Board of Directors in February 2004.
According to Mr. Voynich, "The launch of the Employee Benefit Plan Audit Quality Center is intended to provide a forum that spurs CPA firms performing audits to make immediate quality improvements to employee benefit plan audits under Employee Retirement Income Security Act
(ERISA), including pension, health and welfare, and 401(k) plans."
"In addition to gaining access to best practices, guidelines, and tools focused around quality improvement, members of the Center will be subject to membership requirements that demonstrate the firm's commitment to audit quality in this area," continued Voynich.
To meet its overall objectives, the Center will:
- Create a community of firms that demonstrate a commitment to employee benefit plan audit quality
- Serve as a comprehensive resource provider for member firms
- Provide information about the Center's activities to other employee benefit plan stakeholders
- Raise awareness about the importance of employee benefit plan audits
"These Centers are intended to make a direct statement to members of our profession about the importance of their audit performance,â said Susan Coffey, Vice President, Audit Quality and Professional Ethics. "The Center will give members the tools they need to adhere to a high
standard of quality. It will be a place where firms dedicated to quality auditing of benefit plans will share best practices, learn about emerging issues, and take steps to enhance quality in their practices."
A dedicated Center website, with a single access point to the latest developments in employee benefit plan audits, is now available to those wishing to learn more about the Center and its features.