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Chartered accountants abide by code of ethics

Update: April, 16/2014 - 09:21

Martin Turner
Martin Turner, president of the Association of Chartered Certified Account-ants Global, shares his views with Viet Nam News on the code of ethics and standards in accounting as well as career orientation and professional development in the fields of accounting and auditing.

The Code of Ethics is a sensitive concept for any profession in our society, especially for occupations closely related to economic activities such as accounting and auditing. How would you define professional ethical standards in an accounting practice?

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) believes that accountancy is one of the most respected professions in the world, and employing ethics in accounting is of the utmost importance to uphold and maintain this highly valued reputation.

As a member body of the International Federation of Accountants, the ACCA is required to apply ethical standards that are as stringent as those mandated by the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants' Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants, called the IESBA Code.

These standards should be understood in order to maintain the strong reputation of the profession and those who practise it. For example, it is important that confidential information acquired as a result of professional and business relationships is not used to the personal advantage of ACCA members or third parties. The following five fundamental principles must be used to establish the obligations placed on all members, regardless of whether they are practising their profession.

Integrity – Members shall be "straightforward and honest in all professional and business relationships." The ACCA Rulebook (and the IESBA Code) states that integrity implies not merely honesty but also fair dealing and truthfulness.

Objectivity – Members shall not allow bias, conflicts of interest or the undue influence of others to compromise their professional or business judgment.

Professional competence and due care – Members have a continuing duty "to maintain professional knowledge and skill at a level required to ensure that clients or employers receive competent professional service." Members shall "act diligently in accordance with applicable technical and professional standards when providing professional services."

Confidentiality – Members shall respect the confidentiality of information "acquired as a result of professional and business relationships" and shall not disclose any such information to third parties "without proper and specific authority or unless there is a legal or professional right or duty to disclose."

Professional behaviour – Members shall comply with relevant laws and regulations and shall avoid any action that may discredit the profession. The ACCA Rulebook further states that members shall "behave with courtesy and consideration" towards everyone they come into contact with in a professional capacity.

The ACCA works hard to ensure its members adopt the highest standards of practice and ethical conduct. This comprises the following six areas of activity:

-standards and ethics

-licensing of practitioners

-regulation and monitoring of statutorily reserved areas of practice

-quality assurance of firms and the global quality assurance initiative

-investigation of complaints

-discipline with respect to standards or rule breaches.

The Vietnamese accounting and auditing industry is facing a shortage of inter-nationally qualified human resources. What is the main reason for this, and how can this issue be resolved?

Shortages of accounting and finance skills will always have a negative impact on business and on service delivery within the public sector at large. Business, government and civil society need accounting skills. All projects need strong financial manage-ment skills.

Education in any country is always part of the equation, and I understand this is something Viet nam has been addressing, as reported in The Economist recently.

To provide a steady supply of students who meet the admission criteria of universities, a system is required that can train, support and sustain these future finance professionals. It is also important to recognise that not all aspiring accountants can afford to study full time for 6–7 years through traditional acad-emic routes.

The ACCA is working in close collaboration with the State Audit Office of Viet Nam to develop and complete the legal framework and professional standards required. Only through collaboration can we ensure that the needs of the country are addressed when it comes to finance professionals.

We are also working with Viet Nam's universities and professional organisations to train, update knowledge and provide enriching experiences for the country's accounting personnel.

The ACCA has been allocated a World Bank-funded project to support the Con-federation of Asian and Pacific Accountants (CAPA) in its work to improve the capacity of the accounting profession through the Viet Nam Association of Certified Public Accountants, which will contribute to meeting the shortage.

What benefits does an international qualification from the ACCA bring to the Vietnamese accounting and auditing system?

The ACCA qualification is not only globally portable, but it is also genuinely flexible. It allows its members to step into careers in any business sector. ACCA also understands the importance of supporting its members in their career ambitions. ACCA has been a strong supporter of adopting international accounting standards, with IFRS being the best of these, in our opinion.

ACCA members who are well versed with IFRS can help improve the functioning of the capital markets by using a common basis for financial information or a common accountancy language. They are able to facilitate cross-border trade on the same basis. They are also able to streamline accounting for business operations in several countries.

Viet Nam will require more accountants who understand IFRS for support in ensuring compliance among listed companies. These are the skills that can be obtained through qualifications such as ACCA.

Please comment on career orientation and professional development in the fields of accounting ... and auditing in the future. Future finance chiefs will need deeper business acumen and a core understanding of finance gained from a broader financial and business career.

Nearly 750 CFOs from across the world were surveyed for the Future Pathways to Finance Leadership report from the ACCA and IMA.

Many of the present CFOs had chosen classical finance career paths and the usual finance stepping stones to the CFO role, but they believe new experiences should be gained by future CFOs to meet the changing needs of business. Consequently, the career experiences of most valued professions will change.

The survey revealed that the "classic" career path of current CFOs was largely domestic in nature, but the ACCA is already seeing a change in the trend, with 27 per cent of the CFOs having spent some time in an international role and 25 per cent having worked in an emerging market. In the next 10 or 15 years, we will see some significant factors shaping the business landscape: faster business change, rebal-anced growth across markets, new finance function models, the proliferation of information and the advent of social, mobile and cloud technologies.

These developments will have an impact on how and where business is done and how the finance function operates.

Also, this means that the skills a finance leader requires will evolve too, such as being skilled in leadership in a changing environment, being adept with technology, working successfully cross-culturally and having a deeper understanding of the industry and sector.

Leaders will have to build all these leadership and business skills on the platform of finance expertise, which means they will need different, broader career exper-iences that will help build those skills. — VNS

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