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Recovering in Latin America: Accountability and Ethical Decision Making Will Lead the Way

Manuel Arias  | 

The amount of funds being disbursed by governments and other organizations to help mitigate the damage of COVID-19 and spur recovery is unprecedented. Correspondingly, there is a critical need for accountability, transparency, ethical decision making, and the skills, competence, and expertise of professional accountants to ensure funds are used as intended. Professional accountants have essential roles within the larger financial ecosystem by oftentimes serving as members of a board or audit committee, organizational leaders, preparers, or auditors and need to be attuned to the heightened risks of the economic effects of the health crisis. It is a public interest responsibility that concerns professional accountants worldwide.

In Latin America, the pandemic has spurred a greater need to disseminate and raise awareness of the International Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants (the Code). This led IFAC, the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA) and the Interamerican Accounting Association (AIC) to host a virtual conference to highlight the practical ethics and independence challenges that are impacting the accountancy profession in Latin American due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Featured speakers, including IFAC Board Member Idésio S. Coelho, AIC President Maria Clara Bugarim, IESBA Consultative Advisory Group member Daniel Sarmiento Pavas, all agreed that adoption—first and foremost—and, subsequently, implementation support and knowledge of the latest Code, is imperative for professional accountants. Particularly in the Latin American region, universities urgently need to include the Code in their accountancy curricula and professional accountancy organizations should offer continuing education programs that cover ethical matters on an ongoing basis.

Compliance with the five fundamental principles outlined in the Code—integrity, objectivity, confidentiality, professional competence, and due care and professional behavior—are necessary irrespective of the disruption and practical challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, and perhaps even more so. While it is not necessarily possible for professional accountants to prevent corporate failures, they are essential in providing fair and reliable financial reporting and disclosures that appropriately incorporate best judgments, estimates, and assessments. Confidence and trust in financial information during a crisis will contribute to a quicker recovery.

IFAC, IESBA, and AIC will continue to collaborate during the pandemic to share guidance and advice. A video recording of this conference is available in Spanish on the AIC YouTube Channel, and readers can regularly refer to the IESBA support and resources web page and register and subscribe to the IESBA for updates.

Manuel Arias
Manuel Arias

Principal, IFAC

Manuel Arias serves as a Principal at the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), where he plays a pivotal role in enhancing membership engagement, shaping policy, and organizing data collection within the financial regulatory landscape. Manuel coordinates with diverse stakeholders across Latin America, North America, and select European regions. His collaborations extend to professional accountancy organizations, regulatory bodies, public authorities, professional firms, development banks, and various non-accountancy entities, fostering robust partnerships and advancing the profession's objectives.

Manuel started his career in the Colombian Red Cross before transitioning into the accountancy profession with the Colombian National Institute of Public Accountants, leading the strategy and public policy before joining IFAC in 2014, where he has helped to drive the organization's strategic initiatives.

Manuel has a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the Universidad de Los Andes—Colombia and a degree in Economics from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia.