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Pennsylvania Auditor General Candidate Manages to Offend Auditors Everywhere

On one hand, I completely get where PICPA President Cheri H. Freeh is coming from in the following letter, considering CPAs have been stereotyped and berated and portrayed poorly in movies and media for far too long. On the other, I think it's taking it a little too personally.

Let's catch you up. Frank Pinto is running for auditor general of Pennsylvania. And this actually happened:

And, you know, the leadership skills are crucial,” Pinto said. “You know, you have 67 CPA’s, 52 certified floor examiners [sic?], 400 auditors in that office already — so there are some skill sets, and you need to choreograph them to make sure that they get the job done right, and I’m not knocking CPA’s, but I don’t think it’s necessary for you to be a CPA to be a leader.”

Pinto mentioned that last point because he is not a CPA, and that lack of certification has been what  opponent State Representative John Maher (R-Allegheny County) has singled out, that Pinto’s lack of certification means Pinto  doesn’t have the required skills to be an attorney [sic] general.

Pinto vigorously disagrees with that idea.

If that office really needed [a CPA], it would have been articulated in the constitution,” Pinto said. “I think you need a manager: someone with the skill sets to motivate and manage an office of well over 600 people, and I don’t think another certification just makes you qualified.”

Listen, some may berate me for the fact that I'm not a CPA but I never set out to be one. I bow to anyone who chooses that as a career path and sees it through to partner or your own firm or CPA review company or a fulfilling life in public service (sure). This guy, however, doesn't quite seem to get it. AUDITOR general. There's a section on the CPA exam called AUDITing and Attestation. Get it now, Frank? This isn't the group whose feathers you want to ruffle, bro.

So Cheri apparently agreed with me that this dude was a tool and, as president of PICPA, she wrote this:

If Frank Pinto is trying to build a case for becoming the next auditor general, he should start by looking up the definition of "CPA."

His crass reference to the 67 current employees in the auditor general's office who are CPAs as "bean counters" demonstrates his lack of respect for the knowledge, experience, and training required to obtain and maintain a CPA license. The reference appeared in the April 2 edition of the Patriot News, but he has also used this term on PCN and in other interviews.

To earn a CPA license, one must graduate from an accredited college or university, pass a rigorous national CPA Exam, and meet a work experience requirement. The CPA Exam has four distinct categories: auditing and attestation, financial accounting and reporting, regulation, and business environments and concepts.

CPAs use the knowledge and experience needed to earn the CPA license to serve not only as auditors who provide valued and trusted information to the investing public, but also as business advisors for clients, CEOs and CFOs of major corporations, and managers at state-funded programs to insure that they are administered appropriately. CPAs are trained to look for waste and fraud, and to identify ways to create efficiencies.

Time after time, CPAs are found in studies to be the most trusted business advisors, recognized for their honesty, integrity, and objectivity.

CPAs are critical to the office of auditor general because they are the only professionals licensed to conduct audits. The auditor general does not have to be a CPA, but the effectiveness and leadership capabilities of auditor general would be greatly enhanced by possessing knowledge of the office's staff.

Pinto clearly does not understand the role a CPA can play in the auditor general's office. Through his trivializing of their experience, he has publicly insulted more than 20,000 members of the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants who have worked hard to earn and maintain their CPA license.

The audit function is essential to protect the public. CPAs and the general public should be appalled that Pinto would trivialize and insult the licensed professionals that perform this function.

Cheri H. Freeh, CPA

President, Pennsylvania Institute of CPAs

Integrity and protecting the public interest FTMFW!