Anna Amselle, CAE
Anna Amselle, CPA, MBA, CAE, is chief financial officer for the National Association of Counties in Washington, DC, and a member of ASAE’s Finance and Business Operations Professionals Advisory Council.
It’s important for associations to periodically evaluate whether they need a new auditor. Here are several steps to follow if you decide a change is needed.
The time will come when your association needs to evaluate your current independent auditing firm and assess if it is still the right fit. Whether your current auditing firm has been with the organization for more than a dozen years or a shorter time span, there are several steps to take before transitioning to a new audit firm.
Determine if a need really exists. No matter how long you have been with your current auditing firm, a periodic re-evaluation is a good idea, but a change isn’t necessarily required. While some board members may say that Sarbanes Oxley requires you to change firms every three to five years, this simply isn’t true: the timeframe can be different for each association. For some, a partner rotation may provide a fresh perspective. For others, the association may have changed substantially over the last decade, so it makes sense to get a new group to review your operations. If you are planning on sending out a request for proposal, make sure you have a conversation with your current audit firm. Let them know the reasons for seeking RFPs and whether they are eligible to rebid.
Develop an RFP. The American Institute of CPAs has a great sample for submitting an RFP. Don’t merely take the sample and put your organization’s name on it. Tailor it to your association by using it as a framework to cover the most critical pieces that need to be included.
Make sure you allot sufficient time for the auditors to respond to your RFP and the audit committee to review the proposals. Develop clear timelines for submitting, reviewing, and evaluating the proposals.
Select candidates. Perform some market analysis to see which firms are focused on association clients in your market range. Only send RFPs to three to six firms that are qualified to do the job. Don’t blanket every firm with your RFP. Auditing firms must spend a significant amount of time responding to your proposal. Make sure they are someone you would like to work with. It needs to be a good fit for both sides, so don’t be surprised if some firms chose not to respond.
Set clear timelines. Make sure you allot sufficient time for the auditors to respond to your RFP and the audit committee to review the proposals. Develop clear timelines for submitting, reviewing, and evaluating the proposals. Depending upon the size of your organization, you should allow several weeks for each step in the process.
Evaluate the RFPs. Have clear evaluation criteria prior to receiving the proposals back. If your audit committee is reviewing the proposals, give them a rubric that includes the key important items to consider. For example, is cost going to be a significant factor? Do you have a special need for your organization? For example, many associations have a for-profit subsidiary. Do you have unusual tax considerations that require knowledge with corporate tax rules? Are you concerned about the timing of the audit?
Manage the transition. If a new auditor is selected, start working on the transition immediately. The new auditors will want to talk with the previous auditors and look through their work papers. They also will need to set up permanent files. It is best to start the RFP process about six months after the close of your year end. This will allow plenty of time to make a smooth transition and onboard the new group before the extra work of closing out your fiscal year.