I was recently asked, "What concrete steps would you take to improve the profession?" After pondering the question for a full second, I replied, "I would redirect some core functions of the American Institute of CPAs and make it an advocacy organization for the members."

Now, I don't find great sport in being an AICPA-basher like some people, but I do have a sense of "calling it like I see it," and no one has ever accused me of "going along to get along." I am a seasoned veteran of fighting on behalf of and defending the profession for more than three decades. During that time, I have observed the conflicting roles of the AICPA. They struggle mightily with protecting the public interest and representing the interests of the profession. I really believe that a new way of thinking about the role of the organized profession is timely and past due.

Simply put, the AICPA was created to bring order out of chaos.

The AICPA's original goal and objectives were probably to set accounting principles and auditing standards and establish a code of ethics and professional conduct. Admittedly, this was a worthy cause more than 100 years ago. Since then, much of this core purpose has transferred to other organizations.

Anyone familiar with the technical standards knows that there are many organizations other than the AICPA now involved in this complex and overlapping process - the Financial Accounting Standards Board, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, the Government Accountability Office, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, the state boards of accountancy, etc.

These bodies developed because of a conceptual credibility problem. I think it is fair to say that many regulators, legislators and much of the general public find it difficult to believe that the concept of true self-regulation will work. Despite the fact that the AICPA has lost ground in the standards-setting/regulation area, it continues to concentrate huge resources on trying to continue to do what it has always done. The AICPA will never ever again lead the standards-setting and regulation process of the profession. When Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, it sent a clear message that it has no confidence in the current regulatory and standards-setting system.

So, it's time to rethink this core purpose of the AICPA.

Instead of the AICPA trying to establish itself as the protector of the public interest, the AICPA needs to become an advocacy organization and represent what is best for its members.

As it says in the Book of Matthew, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's." In other words, let the regulators assume the role of protecting the public, and let the AICPA be responsible to its members. In doing so, the AICPA can make sure that the standards and the regulations enforcing them are fair, reasonable, just, remedial, and punitive only when it is warranted. This would be a purpose that is relevant and valuable to the CPAs of today.

Lloyd "Buddy" Turman, CAE, is the chief executive/executive director of the Florida Institute of CPAs. He has been on the staff of FICPA since 1973. Reach him at turmanb ficpa.org or c/o the Florida Institute of CPAs, P.O. Box 5437, Tallahassee, Fla. 32314.

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