I read with interest the two opinion pieces on "While Auditors Watch Clients, Who Should Watch Auditors?" (Viewpoints, March 9). Both viewpoints missed the mark in addressing the fundamental issues for improving the quality of audits in America. I believe the following steps are fundamental to improving the quality of audit performance:
- Increase the consequences and timeliness of sanctions for malpractice. My experience in serving on professional ethics committees in two states points out that seldom is severe punishment meted out, and, when it is, the process can be dragged out for as long as 10 years--equal to almost a third of a professional lifetime.
- Reverse the deregulation of the accounting profession. A recent study by the General Accounting Office of audits of agencies receiving federal funds reveals that 45% of such audits by firms with fewer than 50 partners were deficient. Yet the primary criterion for selecting auditors is price, a practice escalating since the abolition of the prohibition against competitive bidding. Hearings being held by Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) could lead the public to believe that he is concerned about "audit failures," but the committee is dealing with some minor issues and not dealing with some critical issues such as the procurement of accounting services. Dingell should be aware of the maxim, "You get what you pay for." Audits of government agencies are no exception.