“Regardless of the intention of the heart, as long as we comply with moral principles, then we are still considered ethical.” This is the perceived reality of ethics in the accounting profession.
How is ethics perceived? – An elaboration
Ethics across disciplines has become obliged compliance rather than an inherent responsibility. Accounting professionals admit forced adherence to standards as they expect grave punishment otherwise. We rarely hear the principles of justice, fairness, integrity, public interest, and progress as crisp reasons. What we often hear is, “we comply because we must”. The free will does not resonate in the very core of actions. As a result, we have to restore the true essence of ethics as heartfelt dealing with moral principles in the conduct of activities. The foregoing (as a whole thought) is the epicenter of ethics – in reality, and the ideal. Still, we have to admit the fact that perfection is beyond human capacity.
With the above, I would like to center on why ethics cannot dwell in accounting departments. The questions are the following: a. What limits the ethical behavior of accounting departments? b. How can we increase the value of ethics in the accounting profession?
What limits the ethical behavior of accounting departments?
In this regard, we try to see the sides of the management and the accounting professionals. They equally share in the observance of corporate ethics.
In this era of constant corporate malfeasance, the respect for accounting professionals is dwindling. People see them as front liners of deception and corruption. They cannot see that they (the accounting professionals) are under management – the top of the food chain. In all organizations, the accounting department responds to the management’s demands. They are merely presenters, not creators of results. In short, they deliver what the management wants. In this vein, the management is the stimulus to fraudulent reports. Put in other words, the management determines the ethical behavior of accounting folks.
The accounting professionals
On the other hand, we do not discount the fact that greed is part of human nature. For some, it slumbers and for others, it is wide awake. Some people can still create illegal actions even without the interference of the management. This is evident in the recent scandals where those in accounting departments secretly conducted fraudulent transactions the management is unaware of.
The main point is that there are always two sides of a coin; if the other is not flipped, the other is.
How can we increase the value of ethics in the accounting profession?
Ethics is an intangible possession. It is too hard to be responsible for and easy to neglect. The present time witnesses stiff business competition as a result of uncertain economic conditions and increasing desires. As such, businesses represented by accounting professionals aim to maximize wealth at the expense of ethics. Ethics, undeniably, then needs stringent measures on the part of the standard-setting body, the organizations, and the people involved. Let us say that this must be a collective effort among the aforementioned; the standard-setting bodies must make sure that the rules are properly in place; the organizations must pave their ways to maximized internal controls; and for the people involved to respect their dignity, not just as professionals, but also as humans.
The final say
Ethics indeed is a trick that takes its toll silently to all those who disrespect it. It does not tell when it strikes its rod but it does, secretly and gravely. Therefore, it has to be a necessary commodity and not obliged compliance – this should be the reality of ethics in the accounting profession.