Audit Committees and Bank Governance: the Case of Tunisian Banks

Sana Ben Hassine

Abstract


This paper examines the impact of setting up new audit committees in Tunisian banks on their corporate governance. Specifically studied were the effects of the establishment of audit committees on boards of directors' effectiveness, internal auditor independence, external auditor effort, and internal control and financial reporting quality. The interview and survey methods were used to collect data from board members and the internal and external auditors of eight Tunisian banks shortly after they introduced audit committees on their boards. The main findings show that the establishment of new audit committees influences the breadth of the directors' discussions during board meetings. In some of the banks studied, the new audit committees improve the internal auditors' independence from top management, internal controls and financial reporting quality, and/or result in less effort by external auditors. Some of the interviewed external auditors view the new audit committees as a valuable governance mechanism, especially in cases of disagreement with management.

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