New Orleans (Oct. 21, 2003) -- The governing Council of the American Institute of CPAs is set to vote Tuesday on the establishment of two new audit quality centers in employee benefit plan audits and government audits in an effort to shore up audit quality in those areas.

The Board of Directors proposed establishing audit quality centers in those areas because they are the two largest practice areas in the audit world, said Ian MacKay, AICPA director of professional standards and services. In a presentation to Council members Monday, MacKay noted that more than 3,500 AICPA member firms perform employee benefit plan audits, and more than 7,000 member firms conduct government audits. If approved, the proposal would authorize the formation of senior executive committees to oversee the centers.

"This is an attempt to do two things -- to enhance the practices of participants in these sections and to send a clear message to practitioners about the need for improved audit quality," Michael Weiser, a spokesman for the institute, said. "It is not intended as a regulatory answer."

The AICPA would fund the initial cost of establishing the centers, which is estimated at less than $500,000 annually for each center. Membership would be firm-based, not individual, so all audit partners of a member firm would be required to be AICPA members. Dues would be based on the size of the firm and the number of audit clients. MacKay estimated that dues for a small firm would probably be a few hundred dollars.

If the proposal is approved by Council, MacKay said development of the employee benefit center could begin in December, with the expectation that it would be operational by April 2004, when the development of the government center would begin.

-- Melissa Klein

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