by Melissa Klein
The past year's corporate accounting scandals and the subsequent spate of regulatory changes have altered the accounting and auditing landscape considerably. Between the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and Statement on Auditing Standards No. 99, keeping pace with the current regulatory changes can be mind-boggling. Fortunately, professional education courses aimed at keeping practitioners clued in on the new rules abound.
Approved late last year by the Auditing Standards Board of the American Institute of CPAs, SAS 99, "Consideration of Fraud in a Financial Statement Audit," supersedes SAS 82 of the same title, and provides auditors with additional guidance for detecting material fraud. The standard is effective for audits performed after fiscal 2003, but the AICPA is encouraging early adoption.
"SAS 99 will substantially change how auditors do their work," noted Arleen Thomas, vice president of professional standards and services at the AICPA. "The auditor has to go into the audit with a different mindset that says, ÔFraud could exist in this organization, where would it come from?’ versus one that said, 'This organization would never have fraud.’ It gets them going in with a healthy level of professional skepticism."
"We have to change behavior by two avenues," said Thomas. "The first is to raise awareness, the second is through education. Fraud isn’t just an auditor issue, it’s a corporate issue too. We, as an organization, looked at the education and the awareness issues on the corporate side and the audit side on an equal footing."
The Austin, Texas-based Association of Certified Fraud Examiners has seen a 40 percent rise in the number of people studying to become CFEs compared to last year, according to president and chief executive Toby Bishop. The ACFE, which last year saw its membership jump by 2,000, has also seen an increase in participation in self-study and instructor-led courses, Bishop said.
"Teaching future accountants about fraud and how to combat it would give those people additional tools and knowledge to enhance their performance and their effectiveness throughout their careers," he added. "Arguably, fraud is one of the greatest concerns of investors because it poses the threat of catastrophic losses for investors. ... We have a duty to investors to educate people in a way that will enable them to serve the public interest and fulfill their duty to their ultimate customers -- investors."
In addition to a financial statement fraud course, the ACFE devotes one of the education tracks at its annual fraud conference to financial statement fraud and offers an additional conference specifically for auditors following the fraud confab.
The AICPA also has introduced a number of courses related to the new standards, including "Fraud and the Financial Statement Audit: Auditor Responsibilities Under New SAS," and "Fraud Detection in a GAAS Audit -- SAS No. 99 Implementation Guide."
The institute teamed with the ACFE to develop a self-study CD-ROM course, "Fraud and the CPA," to educate CPAs on fraud detection and prevention.
In April, the institute will roll out a four-part anti-fraud Webcast series that will explore how aggressive accounting issues can cross over into fraud. Topics include revenue recognition; expenses, liabilities, valuation and journal
entries; how to set up fraud prevention programs and controls; and an in-depth study of SAS 99 requirements.
Mary Howard, director of marketing for Englewood, Colo.-based MicroMash, a Thomson business, confirmed that the company has seen a significant increase in demand for fraud CPE titles from both corporate clients and individuals.
"Specifically, individual practitioners and corporate clients are looking for up-to-date fraud courses with emphasis on topics dealing with the effects of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and SAS 99," Howard noted. As a result, she said, MicroMash has been working to incorporate the newest regulations into corporate training and CPE offerings, as well as updating its off-the-shelf fraud courses for individual practitioners.
MicroMash’s "Internal Controls for Auditors and Managers I -- Theory" is being updated to include Sarbanes-Oxley, while the SAS 82 and auditing update courses are being updated to include SAS 99.
"The SEC released more new regulations under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 in January of 2003, so we are incorporating those most recent regulations into a ‘Sarbanes-Oxley’ course," scheduled for release in March or April, Howard said.
Other course offerings include "Fraud I: Prevention," "Fraud II: Detection," "Fraud III: Auditing" and "Computer Fraud: Detection and Deterrence."
Likewise, Michael Bisk, vice president of administration at Tampa, Fla.-based Bisk Education, said the company has seen demand for fraud-related courses during the past year.
"Our monthly A&A report topics have shifted according to changes in the profession, and we probably will expand our offerings and develop more courses as we see fit and as the industry sees fit," said Bisk. In addition to its accounting and auditing update, the firm added a course, "Accounting Profession Reform: Restoring Confidence in the System" that deals with the regulatory issues facing the profession.
SmartPros, based in Hawthorne, N.Y., has also seen an increase in demand for fraud-related courses, according to account-service representative Brian Angstadt. The company offers a number of courses related to both fraud and the new standards, such as "Auditing Practice: Detecting Fraud -- The Auditor’s New Role," "Profiling and Preventing Corporate Fraud," and "The CPA’s Involvement in Business Fraud Auditing."
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