QC Section 40
The Personnel Management Element of a Firm's System of Quality Control-Competencies Required by a Practitioner-in-Charge of an Attest Engagement
Section 20, System of Quality Control for a CPA Firm's Accounting and Auditing Practice, provides that a CPA firm shall have a system of quality control for its accounting and auditing practice fn 1 that should encompass the following elements:
- Independence, integrity, and objectivity
- Personnel management
- Acceptance and continuance of clients and engagements
- Engagement performance
The Personnel Management Element of Quality Control
Personnel Management encompasses hiring, assigning personnel to engagements, professional development, and advancement activities. Accordingly, policies and procedures should be established to provide the firm with reasonable assurance that—
- Those hired possess the appropriate characteristics to enable them to perform competently. Examples of such characteristics may include meeting minimum academic requirements established by the firm, maturity, integrity, and leadership traits.
- Work is assigned to personnel having the degree of technical training and proficiency required in the circumstances.
- Personnel participate in general and industry-specific continuing professional education and other professional development activities that enable them to fulfill responsibilities assigned, and satisfy applicable continuing professional education requirements of the AICPA, and regulatory agencies.fn 2
- Personnel selected for advancement have the qualifications necessary for fulfillment of the responsibilities they will be called on to assume.
This section clarifies the requirements of the personnel management element of a firm's system of quality control. In light of the significant responsibilities during the planning and performance of accounting, auditing, and attestation engagements of individuals who are responsible for supervising accounting, auditing, and attestation engagements and signing or authorizing an individual to sign the accountants report on such engagements, a firm's policies and procedures related to the items noted in paragraph .02 above should be designed to provide a firm with reasonable assurance that such individuals possess the kinds of competencies that are appropriate given the circumstances of individual client engagements. For purposes of this standard, such an individual is referred to as the practitioner-in-charge of the engagement.
Competencies are the knowledge, skills, and abilities that enable a practitioner-in-charge to be qualified to perform an accounting, auditing, or attestation engagement. A firm is expected to determine the kinds of competencies that are necessary in the individual circumstances. Competencies are not measured by periods of time because such a quantitative measurement may not accurately reflect the kinds of experiences gained by a practitioner in any given time period. Accordingly, for purposes of this section, a measure of overall competency is qualitative rather than quantitative.
A firm's policies and procedures would ordinarily require a practitioner-in-charge of an engagement to gain the necessary competencies through recent experience in accounting, auditing, and attestation engagements. In some cases, however, a practitioner-in-charge will have obtained the necessary competencies through disciplines other than the practice of public accounting, such as in relevant industry, governmental, and academic positions. If necessary, the experience of the practitioner-in-charge should be supplemented by continuing professional education (CPE) and consultation. The following are examples.
- A practitioner-in-charge of an engagement whose recent experience has consisted primarily in providing tax services may acquire the competencies necessary in the circumstances to perform a compilation or review engagement by obtaining relevant CPE.
- A practitioner-in-charge of an engagement who did not have any experience in auditing the financial statements of a public company and only possessed recent prior experience in auditing the financial statements of nonpublic entities may develop the necessary competencies by obtaining relevant CPE related to SEC rules and regulations and consulting with other practitioners who possess relevant knowledge related to SEC rules and regulations.
- A practitioner-in-charge of an engagement who did not have any experience in auditing the financial statements of a public company but possessed prior public accounting practice experience auditing financial statements of nonpublic entities and who also has relevant experience as the controller of a public company may have the necessary competencies in the circumstances.
- A practitioner-in-charge of an engagement whose actual experience consists of performing review and compilation engagements may be able to obtain the necessary competencies to perform an audit by becoming familiar with the industry in which the client operates, obtaining continuing professional education relating to auditing, and/or using consulting sources during the course of performing the audit engagement
- A person in academia might obtain the necessary competencies to perform accounting, auditing or attestation engagements by (a) obtaining specialized knowledge through teaching or authorship of research projects or similar papers, and (b) a rigorous self-study program or by engaging a consultant to assist on such engagements.
Regardless of the manner in which a particular competency is gained, a firm's quality control policies and procedures should be adequate to provide reasonable assurance that a practitioner-in-charge of an engagement possesses the competencies necessary to fulfill his or her engagement responsibilities.
The nature and extent of competencies established by a firm that are expected of the practitioner-in-charge of an engagement should be based on the characteristics of a particular client, industry, and the kind of service being provided. For example, the following should be considered.
- The competencies expected of a practitioner-in-charge of an engagement to compile financial statements would be different than those expected of a practitioner engaged to review or audit financial statements.
- Supervising engagements and signing or authorizing others to sign reports for clients in certain industries or engagements, such as financial services, governmental, or employee benefit plan engagements, would require different competencies than what would be expected in performing attest services for clients in other industries.
- The practitioner-in-charge of an engagement to audit the financial statements of a public company would be expected to have certain technical proficiency in SEC reporting requirements, while a practitioner-in-charge who is not assigned to the audits of public companies would not need to be proficient in this area. This would include, for example, experience in the industry and appropriate knowledge of SEC and ISB rules and regulations, including accounting and independence standards.
- The practitioner-in-charge of an attestation engagement to examine management's assertion about the effectiveness of an entity's internal control over financial reporting would be expected to have certain technical proficiency in understanding and evaluating the effectiveness of controls, while a practitioner-in-charge of an attestation engagement to examine investment performance statistics would be expected to have different competencies, including an understanding of the subject matter of the underlying assertion.
Competencies Expected in Performing Accounting, Auditing, and Attestation Engagements
In practice, the kinds of competency requirements that a firm should establish for the practitioner-in-charge of an engagement are necessarily broad and varied in both their nature and number. However, the firm's quality control policies and procedures should ordinarily address the following competencies for the practitioner-in-charge of an engagement. Firms policies and procedures should also address other competencies as necessary in the circumstances.
- Understanding of the Role of a System of Quality Control and the Code of Professional Conduct—Practitioners-in-charge of an engagement should possess an understanding of the role of a firm's system of quality control and the AICPA's Code of Professional Conduct, both of which play critical roles in assuring the integrity of the various kinds of accountant's reports.
- Understanding of the Service to be Performed—Practitioners-in-charge of an engagement should possess an understanding of the performance, supervision, and reporting aspects of the engagement, which is normally gained through actual participation in that kind of engagement under appropriate supervision.
- Technical Proficiency—Practitioners-in-charge of an engagement should possess an understanding of the applicable accounting, auditing, and attest professional standards including those standards directly related to the industry in which a client operates and the kinds of transactions in which a client engages.
- Familiarity with the Industry—To the extent required by professional standards applicable to the kind of service being performed, practitioners-in-charge of an engagement should possess an understanding of the industry in which a client operates. In performing an audit or review of financial statements, this understanding would include an industry's organization and operating characteristics sufficient to identify areas of high or unusual risk associated with an engagement and to evaluate the reasonableness of industry specific estimates.
- Professional Judgment—Practitioners-in-charge of an engagement should possess skills that indicate sound professional judgment. In performing an audit or review of financial statements, such skills would typically include the ability to exercise professional skepticism and identify areas requiring special consideration including, for example, the evaluation of the reasonableness of estimates and representations made by management and the determination of the kind of report necessary in the circumstances.
- Understanding the Organization's Information Technology Systems—Practitioners-in-charge of an audit engagement should have an understanding of how the organization is dependent on or enabled by information technologies; and the manner in which information systems are used to record and maintain financial information.
Interrelationship of Competencies and Other Elements of a Firm's System of Quality Control
The competencies listed above are interrelated and gaining one particular competency may be related to achieving another. For example, familiarity with the client's industry interrelates with a practitioner's ability to make professional judgments relating to the client.
In establishing policies and procedures related to the nature of competencies needed by the practitioner-in-charge of an engagement, a firm may need to consider the requirements of policies and procedures established for other elements of quality control. For example, a firm would consider its requirements related to engagement performance in determining the nature of any competency requirements that assess the degree of technical proficiency necessary in a given set of circumstances.
The Relationship of the Competency Requirement of the Uniform Accountancy Act to the Personnel Management Element of Quality Control
The Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA) is a model legislative statute and related administrative rules that the AICPA and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) designed to provide a uniform approach to the regulation of the accounting profession. CPAs are not required to follow the provisions of the UAA itself but rather the accountancy laws of the individual licensing jurisdictions in the United States governing the practice of public accounting, which may have adopted the UAA in whole or in part. The UAA provides that "any individual licensee who is responsible for supervising attest or compilation services and signs or authorizes someone to sign the accountant's report on the financial statements on behalf of the firm shall meet the competency requirements set out in the professional standards for such services." A firm's compliance with this section is intended to enable a practitioner who performs the services described in the preceding sentence on the firm's behalf to meet this competency requirement; however, this section's applicability is broader than what is required by the UAA since the definition of an accounting and auditing practice in quality control standards encompasses a wider range of attest engagements.
The provisions of this section are applicable to a CPA firm's system of quality control for its accounting and auditing practice as of June 30, 2000. Earlier implementation is encouraged