Audits in the post-greed is good era

Compliance auditors are about as popular as parking inspectors. But compliance isn't as simple as checking a few rudimentary road signs. The rules change.

We've travelled the road of "greed is good" before taking the "don't get caught" detour, arriving at today's corporate theme of "regulation rage".

If that's a harsh description, speak to a few IT execs in the financial services industry, a sector that is heavily regulated.

Consistency is a real issue as this IT exec explains: "Last year we were compliant, but the baseline changed this year and we only found out two weeks before the audit." He sits on a committee at his organization that meets fortnightly to tackle the vagaries of Basel II, Sarbanes Oxley and APRA (Australian Prudential Regulation Authority) compliance just to name a few.

He sees compliance as the cost of staying in business. But adds many of its clients, including credit providers, are dropping out of the game because of spiralling compliance costs.

Not only are organizations disappearing, some public companies are looking to go private because they are fed up with the Sarbanes Oxley burden.

An annual SOX study, undertaken by law firm Foley & Lardners and released last week, said 21 percent of companies are looking for a way out, with other respondents assessing whether to sell or merge. Is this really what the regulators planned? I don't think so.

At a Computerworld compliance roundtable held last week, the sentiment was the same. One participant described compliance as an "endless pot of money".

Audit fees ain't cheap. When all the expenses are tallied, the study found companies with less than $US1 billion in revenue spent an average $US2.9 million to comply with SOX in 2005, and companies with greater than a $US1 billion in revenue spent $US11.5 million.

Now that tally beats a lifetime of parking fines. So if you're not getting off at the next exit, do you know the direction you're heading? E-mails to Sandra_Rossi@idg.com.au

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