How Does One Maximize the Benefits in Conducting Audit Committee Meetings?

Audit committee meetings need to be well organized. The audit committee needs to participate in the agenda-setting process up front along with other appropriate individuals (e.g., external and internal auditors and management), and the audit committee chair needs to preside over these meetings to ensure adherence to this agenda. Agendas should focus on the following:

  • Risk management
  • Accounting judgment/estimates and disclosures
  • Information technology (IT) governance
  • Internal controls
  • Internal and external auditor effectiveness
  • Legal/regulatory compliance

Receiving and reviewing meeting materials prior to audit committee meetings is an effective and efficient way to ensure that the high-priority items get covered in the time allotted. A related best practice is to request highlighted materials in advance of meetings that focus on what has changed at a top level so that audit committee members do not get “lost in the details.” Supporting detail should also be provided, particularly with regard to complex areas, for review.

Holding audit committee “executive sessions” is another best practice. Executive sessions are one-on-one meetings held between the audit committee and separately with key members of management, the internal audit function and the external auditors. These sessions give the audit committee the opportunity to direct questions to individuals that may be awkward for the respondents to answer in the presence of others.

Within the Appendix, we have included Sample Audit Committee Questions to Ask of Auditors and Management, a suggested listing of common questions that the audit committee may pose to management and auditors during its periodic meetings. We have also included Other Questions an Audit Committee Should Ask which details some very specific questions that nonprofit audit committee members should ask that can identify signs of trouble in a nonprofit organization in the Appendix. In addition, within its Audit Committee Toolkit, the AICPA provides illustrative questions for audit committees to ask during executive sessions with management, the internal auditors, and the external auditors. The Toolkit is accessible from the AICPA’s Audit Committee Effectiveness Center.1

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(1) The AICPA’s Audit Committee Effectiveness website has numerous resources available for purchase, including its Audit Committee Toolkit for nonprofit organizations.