Goodbye A-133, Hello Uniform Guidance: What You Need to Know

 – October 14, 2016
Goodbye A-133, Hello Uniform Guidance: What You Need to Know

The investment of time and resources necessary to perform high-quality single audits of federal funds can be substantial and daunting for many CPA firms. Add the implementation of new single audit rules to the mix, and the challenges increase exponentially. The good news is that through the Enhancing Audit Quality initiative, the AICPA and the New Jersey Society of CPAs provide education, tools and resources that continue to support firms in driving improved single audit quality. 

Audit quality is always important, and data gathered through Peer Review and ethics investigations indicate that firms performing single audits should pay particular attention to these specialized engagements. Additionally, the AICPA Peer Review Program recently engaged experts in public practice to review a statistical sample of “must-select” engagements, including single audits. These reviews revealed that 44 percent of the engagements reviewed did not conform to applicable professional standards in all material respects. Issues identified in the reviews included missed major programs and failure to test internal controls over compliance. Maintaining and driving high audit quality for these engagements is a key focus for the profession.  

Now Is a Great Time to Revisit Your Processes

Effective for fiscal years beginning on or after December 26, 2014 (generally December 31, 2015, calendar year ends and beyond), single audits that were formerly performed under U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-133 must now be performed under the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (Uniform Guidance). The Uniform Guidance presents both opportunities and challenges for CPA firms practicing in this area.  

In brief, the Uniform Guidance consolidates federal grants administration requirements into one regulatory location and makes significant revisions to the requirements that had been previously contained in numerous OMB circulars. The new regulation addresses grant management policy for federal agencies administering federal programs, recipients of federal funds and auditors. 

Among the changes for auditors are revisions to the major program determination process, threshold changes and modifications to the compliance requirements subject to audit. To achieve high-quality engagements, auditors should carefully review the new requirements to make sure they clearly understand how to implement the guidance. 

Changes to client requirements under the new regulations may also present an audit quality challenge. Clients may make changes to their internal control in response to the Uniform Guidance that auditors need to understand and test. Further, the criteria that auditors test compliance against may have changed. 

Finally, the Uniform Guidance emphasizes the importance of audit quality by requiring a government-wide audit quality study once every six years. The first study will likely occur in 2019 or 2020 as determined by OMB, and will include single audits submitted to the Federal Audit Clearinghouse as early as 2018 (meaning certain 2017 year-end single audits could be included in the scope of the study). Given the need for firms to retool their single audit procedures to implement the Uniform Guidance, there is a unique opportunity to reexamine existing processes and tap into best practices.  

Steps to Success for Firms

Since the release of the Uniform Guidance, the NJCPA has been working with the AICPA to help firms prepare for implementing the Uniform Guidance. Now that the implementation is underway, we will continue to collaborate to provide educational resources and tools to assist practitioners. Here are some steps you can take now to be successful in your single audit engagements: 

A Commitment to Excellence

The CPA profession has a long history of transforming challenges into opportunities. “As a forward-looking profession, we have a long-standing commitment to quality and must always look for ways to improve,” says NJCPA CEO & Executive Director Ralph Albert Thomas, CGMA. “We must preserve the reputation we have worked very hard to earn; that reputation is what enables the public to rely on our services.” 

Successful adoption of the Uniform Guidance is yet another opportunity to show an unrelenting dedication to audit quality.