Audit committee chairs at companies whose audits are selected for regulatory inspection might have an opportunity to interact with regulators firsthand.
The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board says it plans to reach out to audit committee chairs at certain companies whose audits are selected for inspection to speak with audit inspectors directly. “The purpose of the audit committee dialogue is to provide further insight into our process and obtain their views,” the PCAOB says in a recent brief elaborating on its 2019 inspection plans.
The inspection staff expects to share further updates to audit committees to provide inspectors’ observations from those interviews and inspection findings, the PCAOB said. The PCAOB’s latest strategic plan includes more proactive engagement with stakeholders, including audit committees, in the PCAOB inspection process.
Under an all-new board, the PCAOB indicated in 2018 it planned to retool the inspections process to respond to criticisms and to drive more improvement in audit outcomes. Inspection reports across the major firms have produced unflattering results dating back to 2010, with only limited improvements over the past few years. In its newest alert, the PCAOB also reiterates where it expects to focus its inspections in 2019 and provides suggestions to audit committees on how they can interact with auditors.
For example, the PCAOB plans to put more focus in 2019 on what actions audit firms have taken to address past inspection findings and any new technology they are deploying to better address risks like cyber-security, digital assets, and distributed ledgers, or blockchain. Inspectors will look at how firms are using audit quality indicators to monitor their own work and how auditors have adapted to new accounting standards, like revenue recognition, leases, financial instruments, and pending new rules on credit losses.
Inspections in 2019 will take a close look at how auditors have complied with changes in the standard audit report, including the coming addition of “critical audit matters,” or CAMs, in audit reports. They also will study audit firms’ quality control systems, including firm culture, and audit firm approaches to complying with auditor independence requirements.
For audit committees, the inspection staff provides some suggested questions that could be posed to auditors beyond required areas of communication to further drive dialogue on audit quality. Inspectors recommend questions on how auditors have responded to identified risks and how they are adapting to the pending new CAM disclosures. Audit committees could also ask more questions on the implementation of new accounting standards, quality controls, auditor independence, inspection results, firms’ responses to inspection results, and audit quality indicators.