Legislature(2005 - 2006)SENATE FINANCE 532
03/08/2005 09:00 AM FINANCE
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE BILL NO. 64 "An Act extending the termination date for the Board of Public Accountancy; and providing for an effective date." This was the first hearing for this bill in the Senate Finance Committee. REPRESENTATIVE MIKE HAWKER testified this housekeeping legislation would extend the Board of Public Accountancy. This Board consists of five certified public accountants (CPA) and two public members, who adopt regulations, issue final licensing decisions and take action against violators of licensing laws. Upon completion of the sunset review, the auditor determined the Board was meeting its statutory requirements and that the occupational licensing fees are sufficient to cover the regulatory costs of this occupation. Representative Hawker noted the auditor made one recommendation relating to the Board's need to conform to recently adopted national professional testing standards. The previous legislative session, statutes were amended to provide for the new testing procedures. The Board has undertaken efforts to secure a second testing location in Fairbanks and must secure a third location in Juneau. Senator Olson asked the number of disciplinary actions the Board has taken. Representative Hawker deferred to the audit report or the Chair of the Board. He estimated the number was limited. Senator Olson asked the number of licensed certified public accountants in Alaska. Representative Hawker estimated the amount to be approximately 1,700. Co-Chair Wilken cited language on page 12 of the audit report, which reads as follows. In June 2004, 13, or just over half, of the complaints [filed during the period between July 2001 and May 2004] were still open. Six of those 13 complaints had been opened for longer than 120 days. We reviewed five of these six complaints in detail. Four of the five complaints had no evidence of having any investigative activity for the last 90 days. Based on our review, we concluded the public inquiries and complaints regarding BOPA activities were not being resolved efficiently. Co-Chair Wilken asked for an explanation of this and whether the delays are cause for concern. Representative Hawker replied that concern is warranted for all boards. The audit statement relates to the timing in which disputes are resolved. The Board of Public Accountancy is working to establish more comprehensive guidelines for resolving complaints. The Board may not have been timely in resolving complaints in the past, but is now aware of the need to address these matters more timely. None of the delays were of specific concern that arose to the attention of the Ombudsman. PAT DAVIDSON, Legislative Auditor, Division of Legislative Audit, informed the Committee that although audits are performed in accordance with General Accounting Procedures, these procedures require independence and because the professional staff of the Division is CPAs and the Division is statutorily required to perform these audits, this independence standard is not obtainable. Ms. Davidson stated the Division had overall concerns about the timeliness of investigations conducted by all boards and commissions. Historically, the audits have reviewed this matter on an individual board basis; this method does not require accurate information from which recommendations could be made. However, the audit did review the timeliness for this Board and made recommendations to the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. The Department concurred and changes were made to structure of the investigative process. Co-Chair Green asked if the complaints relate to the boards or the Department. Ms. Davidson explained that the Division of Occupational Licensing staff receives the complaints and "works" the investigations. The results of those investigations are brought before the boards for determination. The boards serve as administrative adjudication rather than detail investigative. Co-Chair Green concluded the complaint is directed to the Department. Ms. Davidson affirmed and pointed out that criterion for review is provided in statute. Delays would impact the licensing of CPAs, and is the concern of the Department and not the Board. Co-Chair Green referenced other language on page 12 of the audit, which reads as follows. Efficiency issues related to investigations are being evaluated in another audit report. This report addresses the history, and evaluates the effectiveness, of the State's overall sunset process. Co-Chair Green asked if this audit has been released. Ms. Davidson replied this report has been issued. Co-Chair Green members may want to review that report to determine if additional questions are warranted. Senator Olson asked if the investigator writes the Memorandum of Understanding to the applicable board. Ms. Davidson responded that the investigator makes a recommendation to the board of a Memorandum of Agreement, licensing action or fine. Co-Chair Green asked for an explanation of the examination and whether it is computerized. Representative Hawker answered that until recently the examination was administered as a paper test administered in multiple parts in three locations of the State. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants "guides" this testing process. A decision was made "outside of the State of Alaska" to conduct the examination using a professional testing agency as a computerized test. The legislature amended statute to allow for this change, as it became the only testing methodology available. The company administering the tests offered the CPA examinations four times annually although only offered in Anchorage. Previously, the tests were offered twice each year. It was discovered that the contractor provides unrelated testing services in Fairbanks and therefore the CPA examination could be administered at that location as well. Co-Chair Green was surprised at the difficulty in securing locations given the commonality of this type of testing. She expected that the tests should be available at any location with a proctor available once a pass code is provided to the examination administrator. Senator Olson asked if a person residing in Ketchikan would be required to travel to Anchorage to take this examination. Representative Hawker replied that the examination could be taken at many locations nationally. A university student could take the take the test at their school campus. He took the test at his college in Iowa before traveling to Alaska and was certified to practice in Alaska once reaching this state. Co-Chair Green ordered the bill HELD in Committee.