Forging an ethics-empowered profession, this Global Ethics Day

South Africa was dealt a major blow when the country was greylisted in February this year. While the move was surprising to many, the justifications were clear. From government corruption scandals to explosive reports of fraud in the private sector, financial misconduct is unfortunately rife throughout our society. These crimes are often linked to factors like weak oversight or easily bypassed controls, but at the core of this issue is a glaring lack of ethics. As the world commemorates Global Ethics Day on 18 October, themed ‘Ethics Empowered’, South Africans have the opportunity to consider the possibility of an ethics-centred society and what it will take to get there.

In the spheres of business and government, there is no greater custodian of the financial integrity of an institution than accountants. Where you find a culture of sound, principle-based financial management, you will find an ethics-empowered accountant.

A key challenge then emerges – how do we forge a culture of ethics and integrity throughout the public and private sphere?

Shahied Daniels, SAIPA Chief Executive, asserts that making an ethics-centred society a reality is well within the capability of accountancy professionals. “At first glance, it may appear that South Africa is facing a crisis of ethics. However, encouragingly, from challenge comes opportunity. Professional Accountants (SA) hold a unique position at the intersection of ethics and finance. As such, they are well-placed to drive a culture shift founded on integrity and accountability,” he says.

These are the top three actionable ways Professional Accountants (SA) can lead the charge in creating an ethics-centred society:

  • Emphasise transparency: ensure that financial and non-financial information is reported accurately, rooting out deceptive practices.
  • Promote accountability: advocate for robust accountability mechanisms that centre people, planet, and profit.
  • Support ethical decision-making: engage in – and encourage – ethical decision-making processes, always considering the long-term impact of decisions on stakeholders and society at large.

Ethical practice has a much wider role to play than merely ensuring the bottom line. Ethics-empowered Professional Accountants safeguard economies, enable socio-economic development, and secure sustainable futures for all,” concludes Daniels.