UNETHICAL practices are still deeply embedded in the accountancy profession, according to a survey of global accountants.
The research – by global job board CareersinAudit.com – quizzed 1696 accountants around the planet, including 400 in the UK, showed that 48% had either been pressurised (or knew of someone that had) by a manager or partner to ignore an adjustment that should have been made to a set of accounts.
And four in ten accountants said they were aware of a senior staff member within their organisation making a decision that deliberately chose a commercial result for the company or client, even though the decision could be unethical.
The majority (53%) believe that senior staff members within their organisation do not appear to act independently from the commercial pressures faced by the business.
Some 66% believe that between five and 10% of those in the profession have helped their clients create a set of accounts that are deliberately misleading, while a tenth thought it was a high as a quarter (25%).
Over half (54%) of respondents said they don’t think industry bodies are doing enough to promote awareness of ethical standards.
Simon Wright, operations director at CareersinAudit.com, said: “Over the last decade, different industry bodies and the government have been proactively looking at ways to mitigate risk against ‘another Enron’ happening. In the UK, there has been a spate of legislative measures including the Companies Act 2006 requiring each director ‘to exercise reasonable care, skill and diligence’, The Bribery Act 2010 and more recently the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 introduced the whistleblowing legislation.
“Meanwhile member associations and institutes, have been identified certain ethical principles as being of crucial importance to the profession. However, ethics tokenism (simply identifying and articulating them) is not enough. In order to put them into practice, organisations need to adopt values that will adhere to the principles and maintain the confidence of stakeholders.”
The survey also revealed that professionals may not wish to whistleblow as they are not being protected. Some three quarters of accountants believe that if an employee reports the conduct of a colleague, the organisation does not do enough to ensure the whistleblower is protected against victimisation or dismissal.
Furthermore, nearly two thirds of accountants do not believe that employees are protected from victimisation or dismissal if they report the wrongdoing of a client.
The survey was conducted between July-September 2015.