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The first year of implementation was costly and onerous, far more so than companies had been led to expect.In the view of a few open-minded firms, however, the second year of compliance turned out to be not only less costly and less onerous (as doing something for the second time usually turns out to be), but a source of valuable insights into operations, which management has translated into improved efficiencies and cost savings.Perhaps SOX’s most burdensome element was Section 404, which says that it is management’s responsibility to maintain a sound internal-control structure for financial reporting and to assess its own effectiveness, and that it is the auditors’ responsibility to attest to the soundness of management’s assessment and report on the state of the overall financial control system.(See the sidebar “Taking Control of Controls.”) The phrase “internal control structure and procedures” features prominently in Section 404 of Sarbanes-Oxley.Sarbanes-Oxley was enacted to improve the reliability of financial reporting; therefore, most of the controls adopted pursuant to the Act concern themselves with the timeliness, integrity, and accuracy of financial data. are intended to eliminate lapses, either intentional or inadvertent.

An essential element of any Sarbanes-Oxley compliance program is the testing of controls.

Companies need to start viewing Sarbanes-Oxley as an ally in that effort.

When Congress hurriedly passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, it had in mind combating fraud, improving the reliability of financial reporting, and restoring investor confidence.

Some spoke of putting their planned initiatives in a “parking lot,’’ with the hope of pursuing them the following year.

As SOX went into effect, more and more executives began to see the need for internal reforms; indeed, many were startled by the weaknesses and gaps that compliance reviews and assessments had exposed, such as lack of enforcement of existing policies, unnecessary complexity, clogged communications, and a feeble compliance culture.

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