KPMG Launches Institute to Provide Help and Advice to Audit Committees

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Byline: Kit Bingham

Accounting firm KPMG has launched an Audit Committee Institute in the UK, a free resource and inquiry centre for audit committee members.Michael Hughes, chairman of assurance at KPMG, says: "Heightened regulatory oversight has, among other things, focused on the responsibilities of directors who serve on audit committees. More than ever before, audit committee members must be in a position to challenge management knowledgeably and provide increasingly specialised oversight."

The institute will open a website later in the autumn which will offer news, briefings and regulatory updates. In addition, KPMG will publish a quarterly newsletter, hold seminars and offer a hotline for inquiries and information.

Leading the institute will be Timothy Copnell, director of corporate governance at KPMG. He says the timing of the launch is not just conditioned by the increased attention being paid to audit committees and the UK government's call for their role to be strengthened.

Calling Enron "a bit of a red herring", he says that audit committees need extra support to help them cope with globalisation, the increasing complexity of business and the proliferation of accounting standards. Audit committees operate "in a very different environment compared to 10 years ago," he says.

Nor does he believe that UK audit committees should suffer the same credibility problems as their US counterparts. He says: "I don't think audit committees are in quite such a perilous state as some people have suggested. But they are in a difficult position and there are huge expectations on them as guardians of shareholders' interests. …