May 10, 2011

Specific Regulations Defining Best Practices | Implementing Audit Standards

Let's review the basic purpose of several major regulations (see Figure 1). These are predominantly U.S. regulations with worldwide compliance implications due to global outsourcing.

Figure 1: Sample of regulations defining best practices
Every regulation is designed to mandate the minimum acceptable requirements when conducting any form of business within that specific industry. The auditor must remain aware of two types of statements contained in all regulations:
Recommended (Discretionary) These are actions that usually contain statements with the word should—for example, suggested management responsibilities, staffing, control mechanisms, or technical attributes.
Required (Mandatory) These are actions that contain the word shall. Shall indicates the statement is a commandment of compliance. Shall is not optional. The auditor must remember that failing to meet a required Shall objective is a real concern. The regulations serve to protect the citizens at large.
Incredible justification would usually be required to prove the organization's actions do not fall under the jurisdiction of the regulation. The regulator will accept no excuses without a major battle, and on almost every occasion will win any potential disputes. Most juries are composed of individuals who will interpret claims by using a basic commonsense approach without detailed knowledge of a particular industry. Almost all excuses for violating the regulatory objective have failed in court battles.
Each organization in that market is required to meet the objective in spite of cost or revenue issues. In other words, the organization must comply even if it means that compliance will cause the organization to lose money. Failure to make a profit is not a valid exception from the law. The organization must strive to obtain compliance or can be forced to exit the industry with fines and sanctions. The auditor may need to consult a lawyer for advice upon discovery of significant violations.

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