Sample: Opinion Editorial
Global economic developments and changes in the accounting profession are vital in ensuring respect for human dignity and common good in our societies. The economy and accounting profession form dimensions of human activities and can be occasions of encounter, dialogue and cooperation with adherence to human dignity and the common good in the society. Accountants throughout their professional training and practice are required to be ethically responsible in their dealings and relationship with not only their colleagues and seniors, but also the juniors and the common people they engage.
However, in this modern societies where individualism, consumerism, and materialism are encouraged, human dignity and the common goods are in scarce thus leading to inequities in the society. The feeling that success is individual based rather than group or society based affects the way we treat and associate with others in the society.
According to Low, Darvey and Hooper (2008), ethics is concerned with what the society considers as right or wrong. It therefore relates to standards of behavior of the business and its handlers. Looking back historically in business, there have been several high-profile corporate scandals that have all involved the human ethical failings to some degree. They include Enron and WorldCom in the US, Parmalat in Italy and Maxwell Communications, Polly Peck and Barings Bank in the UK.
Pope Francis during his maiden address to participants of the world congress of accountants 2014 called on accountants to be involved in the common good of the society and human dignity at large. “The present socio-economic context poses in a pressing way the question of work. From your professional observation, you are well aware of the dramatic reality of so many persons who have precarious occupations, or have lost them; of so many families that pay the consequences; … Required of all, therefore, especially those who exercise a profession that has to do with the good functioning of the economic life of a country, is to play a positive, constructive role in the daily unfolding of their work, knowing that behind every charter, there is a history, there are faces …. to “go beyond,” which means to go to meet the person in difficulty, to exercise that creativity that enables one to find solutions in blocked situations, to apply the reasons of human dignity in face of the rigidities of bureaucracy,” (Vatican Newspaper 2014).
Armstrong, Keitz and Oswen, (2003) said that when money takes over as the reason for every professional activity and initiative we partake, then the utilitarian view prevails and the wild logic of profit, that lacks respect for persons and human dignity, with the consequent widespread fall of the values of solidarity and respect of the human person. It thus calls for service beyond the monetary value with honesty, integrity and privacy whenever dealing with clients since they expect just that from us.
Codes of conduct issued by professional and business organizations define responsibilities in terms of duties, and may provide guidance on the more common exceptions that apply. The codes serve as sets of minimum standards that rely on the inherent willingness of practitioners to deduce what is right or wrong and supplement human interaction.
According to Armstrong, Keitz and Oswen (2003), utilitarians view the right course of action as that which will benefit the majority, or serve the greater good and by so doing; the ethical decision disregards dire effects on the minority, believing that they should defer to the greater needs and influence of the majority. On the other hand, pluralists pursue consensus in order to accommodate the needs of both the majority and the minority. Finally, egoists favor courses of action that are right for them. This last, seemingly selfish approach to right and wrong was supported by Adam Smith, the 18th century UK economist, who said that pursuit of self-interest is often a catalyst for the creation of prosperity through entrepreneurial innovation and risk taking (Armstrong, Keitz and Oswen 2003).
The accountancy profession considers ethical issues globally in all its dealings. Professions are characterized by delivering expertise services based on their qualifications and standards. Unfortunately, although ethics is taught in Bachelor of Commerce-Accounting class, this does not directly result in ethically qualified accounting professionals hence professional bodies set ethical standards for adherence by members. Failure to do so may result in censure or even removal from membership.
The concern for common good and human dignity at large forms the heart for this article and as the number of human interactions in business is infinite, it follows that professional accountants are faced with conflicts of interest and ethical dilemmas in dealing with clients that they have to address. Accountants should evaluate the threats arising from conflicts and apply relevant safeguards against such threats. If in doubt, the accountant should disclose the conflict to relevant parties.
Accountants are called upon to be ethically considerate in all their dealings and ethics is not an easy subject but one that is critically important in a business environment. Ethics calls upon accountants to adhere strongly when dealing with customers, investors, suppliers, employees and the society in general. Finally, professional accountants must constantly reaffirm their commitment to ethical values and high standards of moral behavior to ensure they work towards a common good and conserve human dignity at large.
Armstrong M., Keitz E. & Oswen D., 2003 Moving towards ethical motivation and ethical behavior, Journal of accounting education, Vol. 21 No.1 pp1-16
Low M., Darvey H. & Hooper K., 2008, Accounting scandals, ethical dilemmas and educational challenges, Critical Perspectives On Accounting Journal, Vol. 19 No. 2 Pp 222–254.
Vatican Newspaper, 2014, Pope Francis Speeches, Pope to accountants: Work for a globalization of solidarity, 14th November.