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The AICPA has become the first professional membership association in the U.S. to earn ISO 9001 certification by the International Organization of Standards, a global federation of standards-setting bodies representing 91 countries.

ISO 9000 is a certification system for organizations based on a series of international standards for quality management and assurance. ISO 9001 is the specific certification for organizations that design and service their own products.

Earning ISO 9001 certification is the culmination of a three-year strategic plan to maximize efficiencies and institutionalize them with a goal of continuous improvement, according to Charles M. Peck, AICPA senior vice president of marketing, product, and organizational development, who initiated both an extensive process improvement program and the ISO 9000 certification effort at the institute.

AICPA President Barry Melancon points out that the process improvement program, in conjunction with the ISO 9001 certification process, resulted in a significant improvement in gross margin during the past fiscal year, enabling the institute to better allocate its resources on its members' behalf. Melancon says that the reallocation of resources allowed for the funding of major initiatives without a dues increase for the fourth consecutive year. Such programs included the CPA Vision Project, launching CPA WebTrust and other upcoming assurance services, and expanding the national image advertising campaign. The resource allocation resulting from the AICPA's commitment to quality came primarily from cost savings in publications, editorial, and production as well as general streamlining across the institute.

The ISO audit was conducted by Kemper Registrar Services. The immediate question was why the AICPA had not selected a CPA firm to conduct the audit, particularly with all the buzz generated about ISO 9000 as a practice growth area among CPA firms. According to Chuck Mitman, vice president of Alamo Learning Systems, the consulting firm contracted by the AICPA to help prepare them for the ISO audit, there were no CPA firms in a position to do the ISO 9000 audit. An AICPA spokesperson said that KPMG Peat Marwick was in the initial running for the assignment but withdrew itself from consideration, citing a conflict of interest since the firm has members on the AICPA Board of Directors and Council.

Given CPAs' knowledge and audit background, ISO 9000 consulting and certification clearly presents potential opportunities for public accounting firms, particularly as the movement gains more momentum in the U.S. The AICPA, the Foundation for Accounting Education, and other organizations offer training programs on the issue. See, also, an article on ISO 9000 opportunities in the January 1998 issue of The CPA Journal. For more information on training opportunities, contact the AICPA at (800) 862-4272 or www.aicpa.org and the Foundation for Accounting Education at (800) 537-3635 or www.luca.com/fae.htm.*

The CPA Journal is broadly recognized as an outstanding, technical-refereed publication aimed at public practitioners, management, educators, and other accounting professionals. It is edited by CPAs for CPAs. Our goal is to provide CPAs and other accounting professionals with the information and news to enable them to be successful accountants, managers, and executives in today's practice environments.

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