3/07/2011 11:34:05 PM
Paul Meredith -
Last year I had the pleasure of attending an Institute discussion group, on that occasion involving members in commerce. The topic under discussion was the Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants, and during the course of the discussion I commented that members sometimes ask the Professional Standards Team the question "Where does it say that I can't do that?", in relation to some course of action - or inaction - that they are considering.
I was interested in the responses I got from several discussion group members. They commented that a distinguishing feature of a Chartered Accountant is the exercise of professional judgement. In their view, a member asking the question above is essentially failing to meet their responsibility to act professionally.
Although the Code of Ethics is not a piece of legislation, and is not written as legislation, members sometimes want to read it as such, particularly where they are being challenged about their ethical decision-making. The Code is described as a principles-based document, rather than a rules-based one. It is a statement of broad principles that are intended to be applied across a variety of situations, often through the exercise of professional judgement, rather than a list of detailed rules that must be followed in all circumstances. The Code establishes a conceptual framework approach to ethical matters that is specifically intended to "deter a member from concluding that a situation is permitted if it is not specifically prohibited" (paragraph 100.6).
Members in practice may be familiar with the 'Where does it say that I can't do that?' question because they have heard it from their clients. Compliance engagements often involve determining whether something is in accordance with the strict letter of the law, so it is not surprising that a member may bring the same mindset to the principles espoused in the Code of Ethics. However, the nature of ethical concerns, which are rarely reducible to a black and white interpretation, would suggest that a different mindset should apply. If you're asking yourself this question in the face of an ethical dilemma, consider whether this is the right question to ask.
Paul Meredith (Member since: 4/07/2010 12:05:45 AM)
I am the Head of Professional Standards at the Institute, a chartered accountant and a former suburban practitioner.
View Paul Meredith 's profile
to post a comment
© Copyright The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia 2010. All rights reserved.