One mechanism that has been widely used in worldwide organizations to monitor the financial reporting process is the establishment of an audit committee comprising a majority of independent directors. The existence of an audit committee could improve the monitoring of financial reporting and internal control. This could be done by bridging the communication gap between the auditors and management and through strengthening the role of the internal auditors. Although audit committees have been in existence for decades, there are criticisms of the practices of audit committees and a large amount of research have been undertaken to identify an ideal audit committee that would act in the interest of shareholders (Abbott and Parker, 2000; Krishnan, 2005).
Audit committees serve as a bridge in the communication network between internal and external auditors and the board of directors, and their activities include review of nominated auditors, overall scope of the audit, results of the audit, internal financial controls and financial information for publication (FCCG, 1999). Indeed, the existence of an audit committee in a company would provide a critical oversight of the company‟s financial reporting and auditing processes (FCCG, 1999; Walker, 2004).
Audit committee could also enhance auditor independence. Knapp (1987) discovered that an audit committee is more likely to support the auditor rather than management in audit disputes and the level of support is consistent across members of the committee, regardless of whether the member is in a full-time or part-time position, such as managers, academicians and retired partners.
In addition, audit committees could play a role in selecting auditors, determining their remuneration and in the dismissal/retention of auditors. Goldman and Barlev (1974) pointed out that audit committees could observe the financial reporting process and provide recommendations in the selection of auditors, negotiation of fees and termination of external auditors, which would ultimately diminish management‟s power over the auditor. An audit committee is anticipated to ensure that a business organization has sufficient internal controls, proper accounting policies, and independent external auditors that will prevent the incidence of fraud and promote high quality and timely financial statements.