The oversight responsibilities of audit committees : the problems facing the development of audit committees in Egypt
An increasing number of earnings restatements by publicly traded companies in the USA coupled with allegations of financial statement fraud and lack of responsible corporate governance have sharpened the ever increasing attention on corporate governance in general and the audit committee in particular. Over the past three decades, the value of audit committees as a means of enhancing external financial reporting and ensuring the independence of external auditors has been recognised and these committees have become widely established in many parts of the world. In Egypt, the implementation of an economic reform programme has resulted in an active effort by people in authority and those who work-in accounting and the auditing profession to enhance the quality of financial reporting which is considered to be one of the factors necessary to increase the effectiveness of economic performance in Egypt. Through these efforts, evolved the idea of implementing audit committees in Egyptian firms. In this study, old institutional economics is the underpinning methodology. It was selected on the grounds that it has the ability to offer a better understanding of the comparative audit committee practices in Egypt, the USA, and the UK. Also, it is used to explain the interplay between the institutions and actions in the economy, society, and culture which cover the problem of the transference of Anglo Saxon management and accounting theories and concepts such as audit committees to developing countries, such as Egypt. Old institutional economics aims to explain that, the transference between cultures is possible, but the process of transference has to be culturally sensitive. This study aims to measure audit committees effectiveness in order to have indicators about its oversight responsibilities in general and its development in Egypt in particular. The study involves both theoretical and empirical analysis. It begins with a review of the available literature which provides a basis for constructing the framework of this study. Survey and case study methodologies were the main instruments for the empirical investigation. The surveys were used to gather data from the UK and Egyptian audit committee member samples in order to examine audit committee oversight responsibilities from the internal perspective of audit committee members in both countries to draw comparison with the DeZoort (1997) study in the USA. Scenarios were developed regarding the oversight responsibilities of audit committees on the basis of, literature, CPA professional examinations, current recommendations in the USA, and the UK, and current issues which faced the public banking sector in Egypt. These were used to gather data from audit committee members in the public banking sector in Egypt in order to measure the effectiveness of audit committees and examine the effect of audit committee members' independence and experience on audit committee effectiveness. In this study, the effectiveness of the audit committee is measured, in particular, on the extent to which audit committee members carry out their oversight responsibilities regarding financial reporting, external auditing, and internal auditing. The results, in general, assert the low effectiveness of audit committee members in carrying out their oversight responsibilities. In this case, the results highlight the important role of the audit committee charter which define the committee's oversight responsibilities. Also, the results indicate that audit committee effectiveness is significantly and positively related to the independence and experience of audit committee members.