Professional Accountant

There have always been higher expectations on professional accountants and where such expectations are not met it creates expectation gap which may be costly for the profession since there will be a break of the existing social contract. This implies that a high level of ethical behaviour is imperative to the credibility and continuous existence of the accounting profession. Accountants tend to comply with the legality of ethical code rather than morality. Being professional requires one to uphold the moral principle of doing the right thing always and not just complying with the law. This is seen as a contributory factor to recent developments relating to corporate scandals ranging from Enron to the financial crisis which has made some accountants question as well as consider the level of professionalism among practising accountants. There are risks when it comes to making managers feel better about their decisions without having them challenged so long as they pursue what is enshrined in the code of ethics. In this way, the code of ethics ‘buy’ morality and relieve individuals of that most crucial ingredient of ethical behaviour personal responsibility. This in effect may lead to fraud. An accounting fraud creates a lack of confidence and uncertainty in financial reports and reduces the decision usefulness of that reports. Thus it affects the confidence of investors, the public perception of corporations and accounting. Lapses in personal and professional integrity can cause a crisis in corporate confidence and affect organizations and their corporate clients. The most frequent form of corporate fraud is by falsifying expense accounts or charging items of personal consumption to the company account. Another key contributor to fraud is the culture of money. There is no denial of the fact that money and values associated with money allow us to have things that other matters become secondary and make us become more active participants in the world. But there is a question about how the values and behaviour change when their sole purpose in life is devoted to acquiring money and its associated pleasures. The corporations take a narrow legalistic view when performing their business. Therefore, accounting fraud continues to flourish, despite the reforms by profession and authoritative bodies. Managers have adopted a permissive approach to accounting treatments and challenge auditors. In this regard, one wonders if ethical principles are still relevant to the professional accountant. The ability of the accountant to act in the best interest of the public will be underpinned by their understanding of ethical principles of egoism, utilitarianism, deontology and virtue. Better understanding and principle-based approach will improve the ethical culture and help accountants deal with dilemmas which are not specifically covered by the conceptual framework. This will enhance the ethical development of the accountant.

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