The third edition of PricewaterhouseCoopers' study, "Audit Committee Effectiveness: What Works Best," warns that given their increased workload, audit committees need to resist the temptation to try and do everything themselves.

"Audit committees are looking for guidance regarding their new and manifold responsibilities," said PricewaterhouseCoopers partner and chief author of the study, Catherine Bromilow, in a statement. "They have a lot on their plates and so they need help to ensure they see the forest, not just the trees. This study is meant to help them affect what experienced directors describe as their role -- 'noses in, fingers out.'"

In conducting the most recent study Bromilow  said audit committee chairs expressed concern about whether their responsibilities had expanded "beyond reason," particularly given the increased scrutiny audit committees are receiving.

The study focuses and provides insight on leading audit committee practices in 10 areas. The guidance, first published in 1993, was revised in 2000 and again this year to provide direction to audit committee members on how best to carry out their responsibilities.

An overview of the study can be found at the Institute of Internal Auditors Web site, www.theiia.org.

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