CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION 1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Ethics is a sensitive concept of any profession in the society, especially for career that is closely associated with economic activities such as accounting. If there is no professional ethics, the quality of accounting services provided to society with not express growth in accounting profession.
Ethics refers to a discipline in which matters of right and wrong, good and evil, virtue and vice, are systematically examined (Brinkmam, 2002) as cited by Aileen Pierce (2007:p44)
AAdvanced Learner Dictionary define ethics as the moral principle that control or influence a person’s behaviour, it goes on to affirm that ethics is the branch of philosophy that deals with moral principle. There could be business ethics and professional ethics. Ethics can relate to each particular profession such as accounting, medicine, engineering etc. other words which have been used to describe ethics are moral value, morality, rules of conduct, standards, conscience, moral code and philosophy.
Ethics as a branch of philosophy is concerned with the study of what is either good or bad and right or wrong for human beings. The essence of ethics is to ascertain and continuously review how human beings should behave so as lead a fulfilling life. Leading a fulfilling life will require considering others as well as oneself. It is not sufficient to think of what one considers as right or good, but the interests of others who may be affected by one’s behaviour. The development of these moral values is philosophically seen as dependent on the uniqueness of a man. It is possible for him to look for solution to the problems in his environment, in his quest for solution, some standards of morality is developed, consistently adhere to and they become acceptable on the whole group.
Thus what is ethically acceptable in one culture may not be ethical acceptable in other culture. Based on this postulation the philosophical approach to ethics is usually discussed from various viewpoints. These are sometime referred to as difference schools of thought and for each school of thought; ethical theorists will be pointing to different bases for the formulation of ethics.
Ethics are built on the foundation of “independence, integrity, objectivity, confidentiality, expertise and prudence, occupational status, compliance with professional standards. They indicate that the scope and the nature of accounting activities should be provided in an ethical way. However, in practice, accountants do not always follow the rules and apply them in every aspect. For instance how many manager of a company will raise wages for her employee’s if the employees comply with full ethical standards? It is a big and difficult question which has led to the boundary between “ethical” and “unethical” practices.
Nigeria economy is increasingly integrated with other part of the world. The financial institutions like banks, financial leasing companies, securities companies are appearing more and more. This also means that when demands increases, the quality of accountant are discussed in a position where activities and behaviour affect strongly the health of a nation.
It is necessary looking to the past and current research surrounding accounting ethics. This paper seeks to examine the relevancy of the role ethics in accounting practice. Since professional accounting has come under scrutiny after a large scale accounting scandal such as misusing or misdirecting funds, overstating revenue, understating expense, overstating the value of corporate assets or underreporting the existence of liabilities, misrepresentation or alteration of accounting records regarding sales, expenses and revenue etc.
A similar objective research is the need for such a course, as well as what professional accounting organisations have to say on the issue. Accounting ethics have measured increasingly to ascertain the abilities to analyze the moral implications of a situation Armstrong, (2003:p27).
Accounting ethics role also include descriptions that identified “practical issues”,
“Contemporary issues” or “ethics in the accounting workplace” as goals were acceptable as well. By developing a feel for what the top accounting programs in the nation are already doing to address accounting ethics, it is now possible to design an accounting ethical practice.
Wyatt (2003) as cited by Ken Mcphail and Diane Walter (2009:p86) Firms were known to stand up to clients where they disagreed on principle with a particular accounting treatment. Public accounting firms experienced a rapid boost in business over the course of time, due to an ever increasing need for professional accounting skills. This led to a major trend in consulting practices, which require accounting firms to rapidly hire new professionals to keep up. The increasing infusion of personnel not conversant with, or even appreciative of, the vital importance of delivering quality accounting and audit service will affect the internal firm mores, its top-level decisions, and the behavior patterns of impressionable staff personnel. Inexperienced and unprepared professionals were thrown into the workplace without the proper understanding of how ethical principles are integrated into a professional accountant’s responsibilities.
In the context of the public accounting profession, there is an assumption that accountants would act according to the rules promulgated by the profession as well as common ideas or goals regarding integrity, objectivity and competence. (Magill and Previts 1999) as cited by Ken Mcphail and Diane Walter (2009:p44)
Because of this, it is stressed that accountants have been described as “gatekeepers of the public’s trust in our institutions” in the context of their role of conveying credibility to financial statements (Fischer and Rosenzweig 1995) as noted by Aileen Pierce (2007:p8)
Good (1973) as cited by Barrisua A. (2012:p21), Professional ethics is the general principle of right and wrong conduct as applied to a special problem of a profession. In professional ethics, there is an evidence of a general acceptable rules that guides and direct individual behaviour of members of the profession. A general business ethics is required currently, but this is in the process of changing. However, it is seen that exposure to the Code of Professional Conduct will not have a significant influence on ethical orientation, which is defined as conformity to the Code of Conduct.
Professional accountants are required to observe the ethical standards of their professional body. In paragraph 5 of the introduction of ICAN’s code, it is stated that the guidance on professional conduct is not exhaustive as members are admonished to “be guided not merely by the terms, but also by the spirit of this guide and the fact that a particular conduct does not appear among a list of examples does not prevent it from amounting to misconduct.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
For an organization, ethics plays an important role in curbing accounting fraud. Like Nguyen Phuong Mai, chief of the representative office of the UK-based Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) said that expertise can train but training ethics is very difficult and the lack of ethical behaviour in the accounting profession causes extremely serious consequences. The collapse of companies in the banking sector of the economy of Nigeria is typical example such as Intercontinental Bank, Oceanic Bank etc.
The life of an accountant is fill with laws and figures which should be calculated accurately. Every day they have to face many problems such as competition, outstanding figures, the charges “not official” and commissions. Any deviation regarding accounting data also seriously affect the decision process. For instance, data is adjusted to suit the changing market, competitive effects, or “latency” in business cycles in the financial statements. Following business perspective, it is positive adjustment in order to reassure investors and encourage them to continue to pour capital. But shareholders may be deceived and feel there is instability in the operation of the business. It is a big problem that senior managers, the boards of directors, the accountants have to face in building a culture based on ethical values.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The primary purpose of this study is to ascertain the role of ethics in accounting practice in Nigeria. In order to accomplish the above purpose, the following objectives will be achieved
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTION
In order to accomplish the objective of the study the following research questions are drawn:
1.5 STATEMENT OF HYPOTHESIS
As guide to enable researcher to arrived at dependable and practical conclusion and recommendations the following hypothesis have been formulated
HO: There is no significant relationship between ethics and accounting practice in Nigeria.
HI: There is significant relationship between ethics and accounting practice in Nigeria.
1.6 LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
To be able to gain better access to relevant information that will aid the study, the researcher will focus on Nigeria environment for this research. As a student, the limitation of time and cost, of this study will not be commendable. Also the first limitation is the small sample size. The researcher distributed 70 questionnaires, and after filtering out the invalid response, only 64 of them have been used for the study. It is not sufficient to present all the view of accountants in Nigeria
Ethics of accounting has to do with those principles, rules, norms and values guiding the practice, activities and operations of accounting which are considered to be importance in the practice of accounting. Therefore the role ethics has played in the practice of Accounting in Nigeria cannot be over emphasized this is because the society places high expectation and confidence in the quality of services they render.
Finally Accountants as professionals should develop the culture of maintaining basic ethical principles, rules and conduct themselves in manner that goes in line with ethical principles.