The consequences of corruption are significant and widespread, from direct costs to individuals and society, to encouraging criminal behavior and undermining trust in institutions. Grounded in a strong ethical code, professional accountants across the globe play a critical role in the fight against corruption, bringing essential transparency, relevance and integrity to the systems that underpin vibrant economies and making corruption less profitable and easier to prevent, detect and remedy. IFAC’s advocacy in this space reflects our strongly-held belief that serving the public interest by fighting corruption, including money laundering, is central to the accountancy profession’s activities.
1. G20’s Anti-Corruption Action Plan
IFAC supports the G20's Anti-Corruption Action Plan 2019-2021 (Action Plan), which we use as a framework for our anti-corruption advocacy.
- We agree with the Action Plan that preventing and fighting corruption is critical in building national and global economic prosperity, and that no country is immune.
- We also support UN SDG 16 Peace and Justice: Strong Institutions, with emphases on Target 16.5: substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms, and Target 16.6: develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels.
- We believe that the accountancy profession can and must advance the Action Plan and can have the greatest impact in the areas of anti-money laundering, whistleblowing, public sector transparency and private sector transparency.
- We welcome the G20’s intention to strengthen engagement with the business community in implementing the Action Plan, and IFAC is committed to engaging with the G20 to achieve these goals. We look to hold global policy makers accountable for progress on implementing their commitments and encourage our member Professional Accounting Organizations (PAOs) to do the same with respect to their domestic policy makers.
2. Anti-Money Laundering
Money laundering and corruption are intrinsically linked, but money laundering is also connected to a wide range of other underlying criminal activity. While the focus of anti-money laundering policy has historically been on financial institutions—and significant progress has been made—we agree that non-financial business and professions, including the accountancy profession, also face money laundering risks. The accountancy profession is critical in the fight against money laundering, and it is incumbent on the profession to mitigate these risks.
- We support efforts to combat money laundering at both the national and international levels, including the activities of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
- We support the pragmatic, proportionate, and outcomes-oriented inclusion of the accountancy profession within the money laundering legal and regulatory framework (e.g., the inclusion of the accountancy profession within the FATF Standards). International standards and national implementation should consider the realities of the risks presented, measures already in place (e.g., IESBA’s International Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants), and the costs and benefits of regulation. This is consistent with the IFAC Principles for Smart Regulation.
- We support initiatives to increase the transparency of beneficial ownership for entities and legal arrangements in a way that enables competent authorities to determine beneficial ownership in a timely manner. In developing domestic policy and initiatives on beneficial ownership transparency, national authorities should carefully consider the likely benefits in terms of fighting money laundering balanced against issues of privacy and operational burden, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises and accountancy practices, all within the context of the specific characteristics of their jurisdiction.
- We look to support further our membership by promoting information sharing between PAOs on money laundering risks and to assist PAOs in mitigating these risks through capacity building. We also encourage PAOs to consider enhanced engagement with law enforcement and other relevant stakeholders in their jurisdictions on money laundering issues.
- We encourage accounting firms and PAOs to consider the FATF Guidance for a Risk-Based Approach for the Accounting Profession when developing their own policies and processes. A number of PAOs and governments have also developed guidance for the profession, and for PAOs with supervisory responsibility, that are useful examples for other jurisdictions to consider.
Effectively protecting whistleblowers and handling protected disclosures are central to uncovering wrongdoing, promoting integrity and preventing corruption.
- We support the G20 High-Level Principles for the Effective Protection of Whistleblowers.
- We advocate for whistleblower protection legislation in all jurisdictions worldwide applicable to both the public sector and private sector, consistent with the G20 High Level Principles, the OECD’s Guiding Principles for Legislation and the International Bar Association’s Whistleblower Protection Guidance. We encourage our member PAOs to advocate for effective whistleblower protection frameworks in their jurisdictions.
- We encourage accounting firms, commercial enterprises and our member PAOs to implement effective internal whistleblower disclosure and protection frameworks, appropriate to their size, nature and jurisdiction consistent with Principle 17 of the G20 High Level Principles on Private Sector Transparency and Integrity. In instances where this is impractical, we support and encourage the development of other external mechanisms to facilitate and protect appropriate disclosure.
4. Public Sector Transparency
Government spending is vitally important and can be vulnerable to corruption. Public sector transparency is key to deterring and uncovering corruption. High-quality, global public sector accounting standards play a significant role in supporting public sector transparency and thereby combatting corruption.
- We support the work of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board (IPSASB) and advocate for the global adoption and effective implementation of accrual-based International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS).
- We encourage our members to advocate for adoption and effective implementation of IPSAS in their local jurisdictions.
- We play an important role in promoting and supporting the adoption and implementation of IPSAS, including advocacy, sharing best practice, developing guidance, and building capacity in professional accounting organizations.
- We believe that the combination of IPSAS, effective whistleblowing frameworks, and the strong ethical underpinnings of the accountancy profession, working together, act to minimize the opportunities for and profitability of corruption.
5. Private Sector Transparency
The private sector is an essential partner of governments in the fight against corruption, and its commitment to transparency plays an integral role in achieving anti-corruption goals. High-quality global standards for accounting and auditing, as well as ethics, play a significant role in supporting private sector transparency and thereby combatting corruption.
- We support the G20 Principles on High Level Private Sector Transparency and Integrity, as interpreted by the OECD/UNODC/World Bank Anti-Corruption Ethics and Compliance Handbook for Business.
- We support the work of the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB) and International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA) and advocate for the global adoption and effective implementation of the International Standards on Auditing (ISAs) and IESBA’s International Code of Ethics (“the Code”).
- We encourage our members to advocate for adoption and effective implementation of the ISAs and the Code in their local jurisdictions.
- We play an important role in promoting and supporting the adoption and implementation of ISAs and the Code, including advocacy, sharing best practice, developing guidance, and building capacity in professional accounting organizations.
- By enhancing corporate reporting, enterprises can increase transparency with respect to issues related to corruption and money laundering, contributing to the fight against them.