President’s Address: Ethics and Integrity
On 16 May 2017 the Institute gave special recognition to the respected past presidents of the Malta Institute of Accountants. It is thanks to all of them that we have been able to form and develop generations of accountants, working in the many branches of the profession, and expanding our institute from its humble beginnings to become the largest professional body on then island.
Indeed I urge all members of the profession to follow these past presidents’ example in upholding the highest standards for which they have always striven. That is where the challenge lies. We should never trade our values, professional scepticism and ethical behaviour for anything. We don’t need to. By maintaining our integrity we can achieve our professional and financial goals and enjoy the satisfaction of having made it by following the path of rectitude.
Accountants have become the role model for other professions and have been prime catalysts in every economy. As regulated gatekeepers of financial transactions, they have earned the reputation of being the most trusted business adviser, giving solid confidence to investors for the well-being of the economy. Accountants have acquired this trust by serving the public interest and demonstrating commitment to their profession.
Accountants have an interest in promoting high levels of ethical behaviour and independence, unfortunately, as individuals, some might be tempted to act with lower levels of integrity.
Sad media reports have been hitting the wires. We have all worked so hard to heighten the brand equity of the Institute and with these reports flying about, we face the worst threat ever in our history. The word ‘Accountant’ has been so badly abused with negative and damning adjectives. I felt a strong sense of responsibility and obligation to act with speed and thrust to defend our name. That said, just a handful of alleged failures out of 3,100 members should not drag the institute and profession into disrepute and discredit. But sadly, they are. This is an 8 on the Richter scale for us. I have pledged my energy to defend the institute, your institute, my institute, against all this negativity, to restore our reputation to where it belongs. At the time I am writing this address disciplinary procedures have been set in motion. Whilst I cannot know at this time how events will have unfolded when you are reading this, nevertheless, we will strive to act in the best interest of the members, the institute and the profession. We are accountants and we will walk tall as accountants and be seen the way we deserve to be seen – as professionals who transmit confidence to investors and the society, with the highest reputation possible. Nothing less!
The duty as professionals goes beyond regulations. Professional accountants of high integrity, value their profession, are honest, straightforward and do not compromise their professional or business judgement because of bias, conflict of interest or the undue influence of others. If these are followed the professional’s ethical decision-making will steer towards the greater good and away from self- interest motivated actions.
Professional accountants and auditors hold a position of trust by all stakeholders. Accountants have a higher standard that arguably separates a “profession” from a mere business enterprise. However, one must live up to that standard, perhaps even when it means declining lucrative engagements.