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Ethics and Trust
by Gary Pflugrath, Director, Public Policy & Regulation, IFAC | June 2, 2014 | 3
At the recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Forum, Resilient Economies for Inclusive Societies, one of the three key themes was Trust. So what does trust mean for the accountancy profession?
In one of the concurrent sessions at the Forum, an eminent speaker suggested that one problem we have in the world today is that many of our institutional arrangements—including many pieces of regulation and legislation—are founded on the notion of “mistrust,” rather than “trust.”
And that raises an interesting question: does the accountancy profession benefit from, or is it disadvantaged by, the focus on mistrust?
The most obvious example for the accountancy profession is the mandated audit. That is, if society trusted companies to furnish appropriate and materially accurate financial information, there would be no need for mandated audits. Indeed, those companies that voluntarily complied would be signaling to the market that they have nothing to hide.
But the notion of trust for the profession brings to the fore the importance of the Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants (the Code)—both its very existence and the obligation imposed on professional accountants to comply with it. What better way to signal to the rest of the world that the accountancy profession is serious about its responsibilities, and that professional accountants can be trusted, than through the Code.
The Code says to the world that professional accountants are competent to do what they say they will do, and that they will behave professionally, and with due care, integrity, and objectivity. Then, who other than professional accountants are as well placed to assess, review, report, and assure the critical information that provides the basis of important economic decision making? Indeed, they have a critical role to play in promoting the resilient economies and inclusive societies for which the OECD is striving.
If this is true, then the Code is fundamental to addressing some of the notions of mistrust in society.
But can more be done? What more do you think the profession should be doing to promote trust?
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