Member | Established: 1961 | Member since 1977
The WPK was established by the Wirtschaftsprüferordnung (Public Accountant Act (WPO)) 1961 and its amendments. Membership of the institute is mandatory for all Wirtschaftsprüfer. The WPK operates under the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy in addition to the oversight of the Auditor Oversight Body. The chamber is responsible, in particular, for the following: (i) licensing of Wirtschaftsprüfer and audit firms; (ii) revocation of licenses; (iii) registration of public accountants and audit firms; (iv) conducting examinations for the Wirtschaftsprüfer designation; (v) setting ethical requirements; (vi) establishing CPD requirements; and (vii) carrying out quality assurance reviews and (viii) disciplinary procedures for auditors of non-public interest entities.
WPK is a founding member of IFAC.
Statements of Membership Obligation (SMO)
The Statements of Membership Obligations form the basis of the IFAC Member Compliance Program. They serve as a framework for credible and high-quality professional accountancy organizations focused on serving the public interest by adopting, or otherwise incorporating, and supporting implementation of international standards and maintaining adequate enforcement mechanisms to ensure the professional behavior of their individual members.
SMO 1: Quality Assurance
Under the Wirtschaftsprüferordnung (Public Accountant Act (WPO)) 1961 and its amendments the Wirtschaftsprüferkammer (Chamber of Public Accountants – WPK) is responsible for the quality assurance (QA) reviews of audits of non-public interest entities (PIEs) subject to the oversight of the Abschlussprüferaufsichtsstelle (APAS—Auditor Oversight Body (AOB)) and the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy. Effective June 2016, QA reviews of the audits of PIEs are undertaken by the AOB which was established as a result of the EU Audit Reform and transposed into national law by the Abschlussprüferaufsichtsreformgesetz (APAReG; Auditor Oversight Reform Act) and amending the WPO. The WPK states that its QA procedures are in line with the requirements of SMO 1 (revised 2012) while further clarification has been requested regarding the AOB’s QA review procedures.
To carry out its QA function, the WPK has established a Commission on Quality Assurance which is responsible for: determining the cycle of QA reviews based on a risk analysis; evaluating the capabilities and independence of the QA reviewers; evaluating QA review reports; and deciding on appropriate measures to remedy deficiencies found through the inspections. The Commission issues annual reports on its activities, dating back to 2001. While the QA reviews are risk-based, the WPK reports that QA reviews are done at least every six years. Recent enhancements to the QA review procedures include the ability to initiate disciplinary proceedings based on the identified deficiencies in the QA review results. Prior to June 2016, deficiencies could only lead to corrective actions.
In order to support the effective implementation of the QA review system, the WPK offers its members several means of technical guidance and support. For example, the chamber answers frequently asked questions related to QA reviews, publishes examples of common deficiencies found during QA reviews, and holds continuing professional education for both auditors and QA examiners. The chamber reports that it held eight training sessions throughout 2017 for members and QA reviewers.
The chamber states that it also makes annual presentations to members regarding any changes to the QA review system and will periodically publish decisions that lead to sanctions and legal proceedings along with explanatory articles in the WPK’s member journal.
SMO 2: International Education Standards
The Wirtschaftsprüferordnung (Public Accountant Act (WPO)) 1961 sets forth different routes for admission to the Wirtschaftsprüfer profession.
Before receiving the designation of Wirtschaftsprüfer, individuals must complete a university degree. Candidates must then complete a minimum of three years’ practical experience, with at least two years being in audit practice. Subsequently, candidates may sit for examinations (content: see § 4 of the Wirtschaftsprüfer Examination Regulation and the Referenzrahmen [reference framework]). After passing the examinations applicants are appointed as Wirtschaftsprüfer whereupon they receive a certificate issued by the Wirtschaftsprüferkammer (Chamber of Public Accountants – WPK). The WPO and the Wirtschaftsprüfer Examination Regulation (WiPrPrüfV) regulate the specifics of the practical experience and the content of the examinations.
The WPK has been responsible for carrying out the examination procedures since 2004 and has established an Examination Unit to carry out this work nationwide. The exam consists of a written and oral component and the papers in the written section are selected by a Task Commission, comprised of a representative of a federal state, the head of the WPK’s Examination Unit, and representatives from the profession, academia, the business world, fiscal administration and lawyers. The chamber provides further information in its guide “Information Guide of the Examination Unit for the Auditor Exam at the Wirtschaftsprüferkammer for the Examination as Wirtschaftsprüfer" (in German).” Moreover, the WPK offers several other supplementary materials to support candidates toward earning their qualification. The chamber maintains a list of initial professional development training providers and study programs, an internship database, and a summary of exam topics from previous years.
In addition, the WPK also coordinates the procedures for an Aptitude Test for statutory auditors approved in a member state of the European Union (EU) or the European Economic Area (EEA) or in Switzerland.
Furthermore, the WPK stipulates continuing professional development requirements (CPD) within its bylaws for its members, which are a minimum of 40 CPD hours per year. This is in line with the 2015 IES requirements. The chamber offers its own training events each year to help members meet their obligations and also lists other training from approved providers on its website.
Finally, both the IDW and WPK are part of the Common Content Project which is designed to harmonize the professional qualifications and education and training outcomes for auditors across Europe.
- SMO 3: International Standards on Auditing
SMO 4: Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants
The Wirtschaftsprüferordnung (Public Accountant Act (WPO)) 1961 and the German Commercial Code (Handelsgesetzbuch) establish ethical requirements for the Wirtschaftsprüfer profession. Both laws form the legal basis on which the Wirtschaftsprüferkammer (Chamber of Public Accountants – WPK) is legally authorized to develop ethical requirements in more detail in the form of by-laws for the profession (WPK’s Professional Charter). The WPK states it has a process to eliminate differences and address new developments between its ethical requirements and the IESBA Code of Ethics, which is overseen by the Abschlussprüferaufsichtsstelle (APAS—Auditor Oversight Body (AOB)) and the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy. It appears that the last comparison of the WPK’s ethical requirements was conducted against the 2014 IESBA Code of Ethics. The WPK is currently in the process of reviewing the 2018 version of the IESBA Code to identify any differences that may result from amendments to the Code in the meantime and that need to be addressed.
The WPK reports that it proactively raises awareness around the IESBA Code of Ethics by publishing annotations on terms and concepts on the ethical requirements within the WPK’s Professional Charter (bylaws) and pronouncements and revisions to the IESBA Code are disseminated amongst members. The chamber is an active participant in the IESBA’s meetings and the standard-setting process, having jointly nominated an IESBA member with the IDW and having its Senior Manager in its Professional Law Division serve as Technical Advisor. The WPK also notes that it will submit comments to IESBA-issued exposure drafts. Meanwhile at the national level, the WPK reports that it engages in dialogue with several Ministries, such as the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy and the Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection to communicate the importance and spirit of the Code of Ethics and adding the technical expertise of the profession to legislative processes.
In supporting the application of ethical standards amongst its members, the chamber offers a variety of technical support. For example, the chamber will respond to members’ oral and written inquiries on technical matters in relation to ethics (including a telephone service); produce case studies and explanatory materials regarding specific issues of ethical and professional conduct and publish these in its member journal; translate the IESBA Code of Ethics into German; and hold annual seminars to discuss professional duties and conduct.
Most recently, the chamber outlines how it has been involved in raising awareness around the NOCLAR standard within the 2016 IESBA Code of Ethics. The WPK has published articles on the NOCLAR standard and its impact on the German profession; coordinate the publication of the IESBA Chair on NOCLAR within German news sources; and provided input into the NOCLAR Q&A produced by the IESBA Task Force. In addition, the WPK reports that it is in the process of reviewing the 2018 version of the IESBA Code to identify any differences to be addressed.
- SMO 5: International Public Sector Accounting Standards
SMO 6: Investigation and Discipline
Under the Wirtschaftsprüferordnung (Public Accountant Act (WPO)) 1961 and its amendments the Wirtschaftsprüferkammer (Chamber of Public Accountants – WPK) is responsible for the investigation and discipline (I&D) of the Wirtschaftsprüfer profession subject to the oversight of the Abschlussprüferaufsichtsstelle (APAS—Auditor Oversight Body (AOB)) and the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy. The WPK is responsible for investigating and disciplining all violations, i.e. criminal activity, intentional or severe breaches of professional duties and acts likely to bring the audit profession into considerable disrepute; however, breaches of professional duties in the course of statutory audits of public interest entities are within the scope of the AOB’s responsibilities. WPK states it has reviewed the revised SMO 6 and concluded that its system addresses the requirements of the revised SMO.
To carry out its mandated I&D functions, the WPK maintains a Disciplinary Oversight Department which encompasses the following areas: revocation proceedings; financial statement reviews; and disciplinary proceedings. Further details of the Disciplinary Oversight is outlined on the WPK’s website and within the WPO.
The WPK publishes an annual report on its disciplinary oversight cases and sanctions (in German) dating back to 2001. Court decisions on professional matters as well as further issues of interest relating to disciplinary oversight, such as sanctions imposed, are made available for general information in the WPK Magazine and the WPK website although no personal information of individuals may be published.
With the implementation of the EU Audit Reform in June 2016, WPK’s I&D procedures have been enhanced to further link unsatisfactory quality assurance reviews with the I&D system and disciplinary proceedings may now be initiated based on the findings of quality assurance reviews.
- SMO 7: International Financial Reporting Standards
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