As the House Legislative Oversight Committee continues its overview of the LLR, members of the South Carolina Association of CPAs visited the Blatt Building to offer testimony on Wednesday, May 8.

Members such as SCACPA Treasurer Ken Newhouse, CPA, and Past Chair Bob Baldwin, CPA, talked about how there is room for growth concerning the LLR’s oversight of the South Carolina Board of Accountancy.

In his testimony, SCACPA CEO Chris Jenkins touched on three core issues where the Board of Accountancy could focus its energies: resource management, communications and its ability to offer guidance.

“The public is best served when the profession is properly informed and educated, and all regulatory tasks are completed efficiently,” Jenkins said.

Resource Allocation Constraints Must be Reviewed and Addressed

For many years, SCACPA has urged legislators to stabilize BOA staffing in ways that maintain consistent service. It is unfortunate that the organizational structure calls for the administrator and staff to devote their attention to multiple boards. It is time to understand that these resource constraints can be minimized given the BOA’s current level of financial reserves.

We have seen marked improvement in staff capacity under the leadership of BOA Staff Administrator Susanna Sharpe. It remains unfair that she confronts a continuing cycle of frequent staff turnover. SCACPA supports the board staff in securing the resources needed to minimize lengthy job vacancies. This will lead to improved consistency in customer service and fewer delays in licensing and enforcement.

“Solutions that come at no cost to the state do exist that could significantly reduce the burden on staff,” Jenkins said.

When the board staff is effectively able to audit licensees’ CPE as well as review publicly available information, it is easier for us all to work toward preventing suspected bad actors from continuing to practice.

Communication Among the Board, LLR, Board Staff, and the Public is Strained

The need for government transparency is understood. Public business should be completed in public meetings. The pace of change will continue to increase, and as any profession evolves, statutes and regulations will need to be tested and often changed.

However, the current Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) policy implemented by the LLR makes discussions and compromise unattainable.

LLR policy regarding communication with the Board acts to block effective communication. SCACPA has made attempts to work within these policies, but what we see are CPAs who feel they are alienated from the system.

The Association is asking for a new path to success, and it begins with accountability.

Requesting for the Board to Offer Non-Binding Advisory Positions for Hypothetical Situations

SCACPA seeks to understand problems before they impact the public. A helpful option would be for the Board to offer guidance based on hypothetical situations.

In the past, SCACPA has requested for a system to be in place where the Board can offer short, non-binding advisory positions. While the Board is not specifically granted this authority, it is also not prohibited from such activities. But by not having the specific authority, the Board was counseled that the proper course is to wait for a case rather than give guidance.

The LLR’s position forces there to be an impact on the public before guidance is offered. This does not have to be the case.

SCACPA understands the importance of a regulated profession. The public and the profession deserve the support and protections that can come when the LLR better allocates its resources, is open with communication, and can be counted on for guidance to avoid preventable troubles.