رسوایی های حسابداری، معضلات اخلاقی و چالش های آموزشی
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|271||2008||33 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Critical Perspectives on Accounting, Volume 19, Issue 2, February 2008, Pages 222–254
Publicity over the role of accountants often accompanies major corporate collapses. It is argued that recent corporate scandals have set a new low for the accounting profession. It is, after all, the accountants who have assisted in financial management, prepared financial statements and audited these statements. As a corollary to this, it can be argued that accountants play a significant role in good corporate governance and ethical sustainable business practices. Increasingly there are calls for greater transparency and corporate governance as well as increased adoption of professional and ethical practices by businesses. Is this possible given our inherently materialistic nature of accumulating wealth? The question must therefore be asked, if new or additional legislation would not work, what will? It has also been argued that poor quality professional education is one of the problems contributing to these scandals. This paper identifies and explores five factors that seemingly influences and contributes to the perpetuation of accounting and corporate scandals because of their impact on ethical behaviour. Also discussed in this paper is the debate related to the inadequacy of university curricula particularly with regard to the influence of ethics education on accounting graduates. To investigate further these issues, we surveyed students to ascertain whether they believe education can influence ethical behaviour. The findings from the surveys could not conclusively indicate that students perceived ethics education to have a significant influence on their ethical behaviour but nonetheless they believed that it was still important to have ethics education in their programme of study. This finding, in itself, suggests that it is still possible to influence the ‘thinking’ of accounting graduates before they entered the complex world of business.
It is fitting that we start our paper with a quotation from Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States of America (1901–1909). Roosevelt was prescient in warning us a century ago, “To educate a person in mind but not in morals is to educate a menace to society” (Platt, 1989, website source, not paginated). Society continues to suffer from corporate and accounting scandals, despite the fact that people are now better educated. Why? Roosevelt may have been right in his warning. Contentiously, behind each scandal and crisis is a possible lack of morals in “educated people”. Crises in accounting are not new. Accounting scandals of firms (should not we really be saying “people”?) manipulating results continue to make news headlines. Where are things going wrong? Can blame be placed on perceived weaknesses of legislation and accounting standards? Or is it that education is not producing the type of accounting and business graduates needed to prevent such scandals? Applying Roosevelt's warning, one could regard lack of morals in “educated professionals” as the “accounting menace” to society. Year 2002 has been reported as a watershed period for the accounting profession because of significant American corporate collapses such as Enron, WorldCom and Tyco, to name a few. With the collapse of Arthur Andersen, the “Big Four” accounting firms of PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte & Touche, Ernst & Young and KPMG remain. Referring to the proposals to reform accounting, auditing, and corporate governance in the aftermath of the 2001 and 2002 collapses of large companies, Amernic and Craig (2004) assert: These have included strong calls from diverse quarters for the business community to commit determinedly to new ethical and moral values, to develop better mechanisms for corporate governance, and to exercise better corporate responsibility. (pp. 342–343) In America, there have been calls for tighter and tougher reforms in accounting standards and government regulations. Elsewhere in the world, discussion continues on the need for each country to take its own measures to avoid an “Enrongate” type crisis. The recent American cases of Enron and WorldCom have triggered legislation in America such as the Public Company Accounting Reform & Investor Protection Act of 2002 and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act 2002 that impose tougher sentences on corporate fraud. Professional bodies worldwide have also responded by issuing documents on corporate governance and transparency. For instance, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of New Zealand (now known as the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants (NZICA)) has issued a document titled “Corporate Transparency—Making Markets Work Better.” The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Australia, which is an inaugural member of ASX (Australian Stock Exchange), contributed to the development and release of the “ASX Corporate Governance Council Principles of Good Corporate Governance and Best Practice Recommendations.” The United Kingdom responded with the “Turnbull Report on Internal Control: Guidance for Directors of Listed Companies Incorporated in the UK” that was published by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. However, will the recommendations contained in these professional pronouncements stem the flow of corporate fraud and accounting scandals? Some would argue that these were typical institutional responses by the profession and authoritative bodies. Thomas (2002) writes: In a characteristic move, the SEC and the public accounting profession have been among the first to respond to the Enron crisis. Unfortunately, and sadly reminiscent of financial disasters in the 1970s and 1980s, this response will likely be viewed by investors, creditors, lawmakers and employees of Enron as “too little, too late.” (p. 7) Furthermore, the practice of issuing professional or legal edicts/standards by professional and authoritative bodies following accounting or business collapse-type scandals may be seen as attempts to placate society and thereby ensure that society maintains confidence in the credibility of the services being provided. The burning question is whether such reforms will address the crises that seem to erupt time and time again. Pitt (2004), a former chairman of the Securities & Exchange Commission in America, says that new laws will not prevent the next corporate scandals: And, no matter how many laws and regulations are passed, there’ll always be some who lie, cheat or steal on a grand scale, in the misguided belief that risks are outweighed by the potential gains. As Plato put it, “Good people don’t need laws to know they must act responsibly, while bad people will always search for ways around them.”(Pitt, 2004, p. 3) Smyth and Davis (2004) argue, “[c]ertainly the widespread nature of the recent publicized scandals suggests that there has been a deterioration of ethical standards in the corporate workplace and raises the question of whether regulatory or legislative actions alone will be sufficient to ensure that the next generation of workers will demonstrate ethical decision making” (p. 64). It has subsequently been argued that “one of the causes of the seemingly never-ending parade of accounting scandals and unexpected company collapses has been the inadequacy of university curricula and business education” (Amernic and Craig, 2004, p. 343). This paper will first examine the questions raised by recent accounting scandals and identify the underlying factors that arguably contribute to the recurrence of such crises, in spite of changes to legislation and accounting standards. In order to achieve a broader view than that presented in academic publications, we undertook a review of literature from a variety of sources, including academic, professional, business and media publications. By drawing on publications outside the academic arena, a broader view of the causes of corporate collapses and accounting scandals was obtained. The literature search identified a range of issues that writers argued were contributing factors in corporate scandals. For instance, documents released by professional and legislative bodies included discussion papers on the need to improve corporate transparency and audit independence. Five recurring themes drew our attention and we identified these as the key underlying factors that were to become the focus of this study. The frequent identification of these five factors in the literature suggests that they permeate and compound the problems that accountants face in the demanding and complex world of business and commerce, and that they may also contribute significantly to the recurring scandals. The five factors that we focus on are: issues of corporate transparency; corporate values and behaviour; money culture; vices of a capitalistic society; the prevalence of a legalistic culture. Arising from our literature search, we identify a major issue: the inadequacy of business/accounting education to provide graduates with the ability to cope with complex business ethical decision making. This important issue will be discussed as a prelude to two surveys that were conducted with accounting students. The paper will subsequently illustrate how the five factors might have an influence on the behaviour of accounting students. To achieve this objective, a simple questionnaire survey [Survey One] was conducted in a senior class to find out what their responses would be to situations that involve some of the five identified factors that contribute to the perpetuation of accounting scandals. Furthermore, we wanted to find out students’ opinions on whether education can influence ethical behaviour. A questionnaire survey [Survey Two] was conducted with third year accounting students. If our findings were to show that students had a strong belief that there is a linkage between education and its influence on ethical behaviour, then we might suggest that good corporate governance can happen in organisations. Good corporate governance could lead to the ethically sustainable business practices that are increasingly needed in a complex business world. In concluding this paper, we reflect on the findings of our investigation and stress that good ethical behaviour is fundamental to organisations; without it, good corporate governance and ethically sustainable business practices may not be sustained. Before proceeding further, it is important to note that our study has several research limitations. Firstly, our literature review, while broad in scope, was not a comprehensive or systematic review of corporate scandal issues. Secondly, the study is fragmentary in the sense that we chose to focus our discussion on five main themes as underlying factors that contribute to corporate scandals. There is obviously a much wider scope of issues we have not researched. Thirdly, the questionnaires conducted on the two survey groups were only very small studies and a more extensive study would yield more conclusive findings about the role that education can play in influencing ethical behaviour in accounting graduates.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
This paper explores the issue of corporate values and behaviour in relation to corporate transparency, the money culture, vices of a capitalistic society and the legalistic culture that prevails in our society in an attempt to provide some insights as to why we continue to have corporate and accounting scandals. It would appear that the calls for reforms to accounting and financial reporting standards will not address the underlying questions of why we continue to have such scandals. We live in a world that is dominated by money and legalistic cultures. Corporate values, behaviour and the vices of capitalism contribute to the persistence of scandals. The question is whether we can look to accounting and business education to make a difference. The nature versus nurture debate is unresolved. Our survey of students shows, most believe education can only have a moderate influence. To make the most of what our students consider to be of moderate influence, we need to provide an educational curriculum in accounting that is integrated with an ethics coverage that will influence our graduates’ thinking. It is their thinking which is important. Accounting educators cannot necessarily expect to instil mind altering beliefs in young adults, in the way that Jesuit educators once did when they proclaimed, “Give me the child until he is five and I will give you the man.” What can be done is to integrate ethics into accounting processes to show how different technical treatments may have different consequences which may entrain longer term ethical ramifications. The first survey indicated that students believed they were ethically superior to their peers in terms of how they perceived their peers would act in an ethically compromising situation. The rational paradox that these questions and their answers exposed showed much of what is wrong: short terminism and the desire to be seen immediately in the best possible light. Another paradox was exposed in the second survey which revealed that, while students perceived ethics education coverage in their programme of study as important, the majority only saw ethics education as having a moderate influence on their ethical behaviour. Making the most of a moderate influence is, therefore, vital. Ethics as a subject set aside from accounting courses is, we argue, as useful as the profession's code of ethics published but set aside from the main business of accounting standards. A stand-alone course on ethics may be useful to philosophy students but accounting students tend to be more vocationally focused, as are many of their educators. The latter pose a problem. The ability to integrate ethics smoothly into accounting teaching requires thought and the development of new pedagogical skills. The downside is that ethics might be treated by educators as a stand-alone topic within courses, which would defeat attempts at seamless integration. Technical education and technical competence are important but, without an education directed with thought to the consequences of accounting treatments which prefer a short term advantage, the latter may well have more appeal. Educating technically proficient but shallow graduates does a disservice to society. As a previous president, Theodore Roosevelt of the United States of America states: “To educate a person in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society”.