The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) serves as a forum for the 55 state boards of accountancy.  One of the primary purposes of NASBA is to provide the framework for the development, presentation, measurement, and reporting of continuing professional education (CPE) programs.  This framework is detailed out in The Statement on Standards for Continuing Professional Education Programs (The Standards), which was jointly issued by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and NASBA.   Further, NASBA is responsible for monitoring the CPE course sponsors and  their programs that are approved by NASBA for CPE credit.  This post will explore how NASBA actively monitors the many CPE courses available to ensure they are meeting the criteria detailed in The Standards.

Basic Skills Courses

These courses focus on introductory Excel skills that make the program easier to use.  The types of courses, perfect for a new user or to refresh a prior user, include:

  • How to format amounts in a spreadsheet
  • How to manipulate the columns and rows to work best, including freezing panes
  • How to copy and paste formulas
  • How to use keyboard shortcuts

Building Efficiencies Through Shortcuts

These courses focus on building efficiencies. The types of courses, perfect for a new user or to refresh a prior user, include:

  • Creating user-specific keyboard shortcuts
  • Learning how to sort and total data effectively
  • Customizing workbooks for the user
  • Using the Quick Access Toolbar to streamline tasks
  • Applying must-know tips, tricks and tools

Entering Data Quickly

These courses focus on learning how to enter data quickly by establishing a data entry model. The types of courses, perfect for a new user or to refresh a prior user, include:

  • How to build a summary model for the data
  • How to validate and audit the data for errors

NASBA Compliance Desk Audits

NASBA uses a compliance desk audit program to monitor CPE programs and their sponsors.  NASBA follows an annual cycle for desk audits, which typically starts in April, although the current cycle did not start until September due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The process begins when NASBA notifies a program sponsor, via email, that it has been selected for a desk audit.  The sponsor is then responsible for acknowledging receipt of the notification and returning a list of the CPE programs it offers during the current period.  From the list of courses offered, NASBA will select one program for each approved delivery method.  The delivery methods are group live, group internet based, QAS self study, independent study, nano learning and blended learning.  An audit form will be emailed to the sponsor, along with a list of each program selected for audit, and the form will provide the detailed instructions on how to submit the necessary information for the audit.

Audit Results and Findings

NASBA sends out a report with the audit results once it is completed.  The findings of the report, along with the deficiencies noted, will be communicated.  Any minor deficiencies will require correction in future CPE programs, without any additional resolution needed.  However, if one or more significant deficiencies are found during the desk audit, there are penalties for the plan sponsor.  There is a financial penalty which is calculated at 25% of the sponsor’s NASBA National Registry renewal fee, with the likely penalty being a minimum of $200.  A sponsor must also submit a written corrective action plan within 30 days of receiving the audit report.  There will also be a follow-up audit to ensure the corrective action plan has been put into operation.

Most Common Deficiencies

To assist program sponsors in making sure that their courses are meeting the required standards, NASBA has released a list of the most common causes of audit failures.  The number one reason for failure is inadequate attendance monitoring policies.  Furthermore, there are (1) insufficient attendance monitoring documentation and (2) incomplete or inaccurate information listed on certificates of completion.   NASBA is directing sponsors to refer to Standard No. 16 in The Standards to understand the monitoring responsibilities and the correct required documentation for monitoring a CPE program.

Look for Sponsor Agreements

NASBA is now requiring sponsors to complete a Sponsor Agreement, acknowledging compliance with The Standards and NASBA requirements, in hopes of minimizing the number of deficiencies noted in desk audits. Find out more in our related post.