STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTING in .NET

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STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTING
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The National Intergovernmental Audit Forum, in its handbook How to Avoid a Substandard Audit: Suggestions for Procuring an Audit, indicates:
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Public entities should never select auditors without considering ve basic elements of an effective audit procurement process:
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planning (determining what needs to be done and when), fostering competition by soliciting proposals (writing a clear and direct solicitation document and
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disseminating it widely),
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technically evaluating proposals and quali cations (authorizing a committee of knowledgeable
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persons to evaluate the ability of prospective auditors to effectively carry out the audit),
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preparing a written agreement (documenting the expectations of both the entity and the auditor), and monitoring the auditor s performance (periodically reviewing the progress of that performance)
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This handbook provides detailed information about the ve elements of procurement listed above as well as the use of audit committees in a government environment and other useful information about the auditor procurement process (i) Governmental Rotation of Auditors The automatic rotation of auditors after a given number of years is a common practice in many governments; however, it is not always bene cial Many governments have followed this policy, believing that they will (1) receive a fresh outlook from the audit, (2) spread the work among several rms, and (3) encourage lower fees In actuality, automatic rotation may be harmful in that it could deprive the government of the extensive knowledge of the entity developed by the current auditor It may also impair auditing effectiveness since a new auditor may need to spend considerable time learning the government s system the government may actually incur more cost since its personnel will need to spend time explaining the organization, systems, and data to the new auditors, and the new auditors will need to spend valuable time reviewing information that is already part of the previous auditor s workpapers Although a government should continuously monitor its auditor s performance to assure that the service obtained is commensurate with the cost, the entity should normally change auditors only because of dissatisfaction with services and not for the sake of receiving a lower fee (ii) Audit Committees In recent years, governments have started establishing audit committees similar to those in the private sector Some appropriate tasks for a local government s audit committee are:
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Reviewing signi cant nancial information for reliability, timeliness, clarity, appropriateness
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of disclosure, and compliance with GAAP and legal requirements
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Ascertaining that the internal control structure is appropriately designed and functioning
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effectively
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Evaluating independent audit rms and selecting one for approval by the appropriate body Overseeing the scope and performance of the independent audit function Ensuring that the auditors recommendations for improvements in internal controls and oper-
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ating methods receive management s attention and are implemented on a timely basis
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Providing an effective communications link between the auditors and the full governing board
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The primary bene t of an audit committee is in assisting the full governing board to ful ll its responsibilities for the presentation of nancial information about the governmental unit There are also secondary bene ts: The other parties involved in the issuance of nancial information management and independent and internal auditors can perform their roles more effectively if an audit committee is involved in the process Finally, there are advantages for the government s constituencies in particular, the taxpayers and bondholders
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3416 APPENDIX 341
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34 75
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3415 CONCLUDING REMARKS
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Governmental accounting and reporting is changing and expanding at an increasing rapid rate Coupling this with public accountability issues, the federal government s pressure for increased audit quality, and the penalties for substandard audit performance results in increasing levels of audit risk Government audits, often considered low-risk engagements by many, are quickly becoming areas of extremely high risk Auditing professionals need to recognize the risk associated with government engagements now and in the future before incurring severe penalties or embarrassment The technical issues involved in government auditing are on a par with those in the commercial environment but auditors have much less experience and less technical guidance to fall back on Dealing with these technical issues requires well-trained, highly motivated individuals and can no longer be left to less experienced members of the audit team Dealing with the real issues governments are facing (eg, infrastructure, terrorism, prison overcrowding, drugs, etc) requires even more from the individuals in the profession Like it or not, government accounting and reporting is being thrust into the spotlight and will be scrutinized by a multitude of individuals and groups It is imperative that individuals in the industry realize this fact and begin now to prepare for the future