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An Investigation of Audit Committees' Oversight Responsibilities

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Audit committee performance has come under close scrutiny in recent years from a variety of policy-makers, interest groups and researchers. In particular, the adequacy of audit committee oversight has been challenged. At the same time, audit committees are under pressure to increase the scope of their oversight work. This study examines audit committee oversight from the internal perspective of active U.S. audit committee members. A two-part survey used Wolnizer's (1995) list of seventeen prescribed audit committee objectives related to accounting and reporting, auditors and auditing, and corporate governance in general as a basis to assess audit committee members' abilities to recognize their assigned objectives and explore their perceptions of the key tasks and issues currently addressed by audit committees. The results indicate that audit committee members appreciate the importance of all audit committee members having sufficient expertise in oversight areas related to accounting, auditing and the law. However, some respondents agreed they lacked sufficient expertise in many or all of these areas. In addition, the findings indicate that audit committee members tend not to recognize their assigned responsibilities, but agree with the proposed expansion of committee responsibilities. Using a multimethod approach, internal control evaluation was consistently listed and ranked as the most important oversight responsibility. These findings provide insight into the priority perceived by audit committee members as to their oversight responsibilities, and the adequacy of U.S. reporting disclosures as signals of audit committee work.
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Keywords: Audit committees; Objectives; Responsibilities; Surveys

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Accounting, College of Business Administration, University of South Carolina

Publication date: 1997-09-01

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