Accounting ethics in the accounting profession: a sample stakeholder survey in Bloemfontein
Makhabane, Frank Thebe
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Recent years have witnessed an increase in the emphasis on accountability and transparency in both private and public sectors, largely because of a need to optimize efficiencies and productivity. Accompanying this trend has been an increasing appreciation of the centrality of ethics in public life. A key profession in meeting these demands is the accounting profession. An often-understated aspect of the accounting profession that strives to ensure adherence to ethics by accounting professionals is accounting ethics, which is defined as an example of professional ethics and, in particular, the study and practice of moral values and judgments in the field of applied ethics as they apply to accountancy. Against this background and with a specific focus on Bloemfontein, this study sought answers from the following research question: (i) Why are accounting ethics important/critical to the accounting profession? To answer the above, the secondary objectives of the study were: (a) To identify the development of accounting ethics in accounting as a profession. (b) To assess the importance of accounting ethics in the accounting profession in Bloemfontein. (c) To evaluate the role of accounting ethics education in the accounting profession among stakeholders in Bloemfontein and thereafter map the range of these stakeholder perceptions. The research methods used was a quantitative approach through the use of questionnaires. Questionnaires were coded and analysed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) software. Results from questionnaire data show a high percentage of the sampled population being aware of accounting ethics and that they chose to be ethical in their business decisions. Further, the overwhelming majority (85%) of the sampled population indicated that ethics should be integral to all modules that form the basis of accountancy training. It is for this reason that the study recommends that (accounting) ethics should not be a stand-alone module or subject but one that is integrated vertically (in a succession of study years, i.e. first, second and third years of study as the case may be) and horizontally (in different modules/subjects in a particular year of study). Other recommendations of the study include continuous development and support in the form of workshops and other forms of in-service training and development programmes for accounting professionals and corporate leaders, aimed at engendering accounting ethics in the workplace and as an integral part of personal values. Additionally, these recommendations include professional bodies in the accounting profession that should enforce registration by accounting professionals so as to be in a position to enforce their codes of conduct. Another recommendation is that there is a need for close cooperation in all aspects of accountancy training (from curriculum design through to curriculum delivery) between educational institutions and professional and regulatory bodies in the accounting profession so as to guarantee organic development of training in alignment with the changing demands of the profession.
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