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Ethics Is Mostly Based On Moral Values And Principles Accounting Essay

Data obtained from the survey is illustrated in this chapter according to the objectives of the dissertation. The data gathered were inputted in SPSS 16.0 and the descriptive statistics method was thus used to analyse and give a coherent presentation of the data obtained through pie charts, bar charts among others.

However out of the 100 participants in the sample, only 82 answered the questionnaire which represents a response rate of 82% which is deemed enough to justify the study.

For analysis purposes, the responses were divided into five sections:

Section 4.1 : Characteristics of the respondents

Section 4.2 : Awareness of Accounting Ethics

Section 4.3 : Importance of Accounting Ethics

Section 4.4 : Implementation of Accounting Ethics

Section 4.5 : The limitations of the study

4.1: Characteristics of Respondents

Questionnaires were administered to 50 different organisations and merely 44 of them responded positively. The number of questionnaires sent by email was 20, barely 7 replied and within the 80 questionnaires distributed personally only 75 handled it back.

For further analysis, the respondents were divided by their gender characteristics. Out of the 82 respondents, 44 are males and 38 females.

Figure 2 : Pie chart illustrating the gender characteristic of the 82 respondents

The external validity involves the extent to which the results obtained from a small sample group can be generalised to make predictions about the entire population. The most recent survey done by the Central Statistics Office(CSO) on gender statistics was in july 2009 and it had shown that there were 16700 women more than men. Out of 1,275,000 of the total population, there were 645,850 women against 629,150 men. Hence the sample seems to be misrepresentative of the population since there are more women than men in Mauritius. However there are a lesser proportion of women in the workforce than men i.e. 43% for women and 76% for men. Therefore based on these figures the sample is deemed representative of the working population, where number of men is greater than number of women.

Moreover male and female can be classified according to their age group. It is illustrated in the bar chart below where there is a higher response rate from people aged between 25 and 34 and lesser response rate from those aged 35 and above.

Figure 3: Bar Chart showing the number of respondents for each age group

4.2 : Awareness of Accounting Ethics

The purpose of questions 1 and 2 was to determine whether Mauritians were aware of the terms “ethics” in general and “Accounting ethics”. Most of them i.e. 45.12% of the respondents considered ethics as being based on principles and only 26.83% associated ethics to morality. This shows that according to them, Ethics is mostly based on moral values and principles about what is viewed as right or wrong beliefs with respect to fundamentals.

Moreover it was found that 79 respondents knew the term “Accounting Ethics” which represents a percentage of 96.3% which clearly indicates that accounting ethics forms part of the accounting world since the concept is known by more than half of the respondents. However the “No” response rate is of 3.7% , maybe it can be remedied through more dissemination of information about accounting ethics through seminars and workshops or more academic journals on the subject.

Table 3

Awareness of the term "Accounting Ethics" * Gender Cross tabulation

 

 

Gender

Total

Awareness of the

 

Male

Female

 

term "Accounting Ethics"

Yes

41

38

79

 

No

2

1

3

Total

 

43

39

82

Nevertheless the knowledge of accounting ethics was independent of gender or even age groups as shown in the tables since they were all aware of the term.

Table 4

Awareness of the term "Accounting Ethics" * Age group Cross tabulation

Age group

20-24

25-34

35-44

45-54

55 and above

Awareness of the term Accounting Ethics

Yes

20

35

15

8

1

No

1

2

0

0

0

Total

21

37

15

8

1

The main medium of awareness was at workplace (a percentage of 35.80%), the second most popular is through magazines and newspapers. On the other hand, some respondents mentioned that they came across the term accounting ethics and its major aspects through studies for example ACCA which implies that training and education regarding accounting ethics proved to be a beneficial means to sensitise accountants about its importance.

Overall it can be noted that the degree of awareness of Mauritian people about Accounting Ethics is sufficient for a developing country.

Section 4.3: Importance of Accounting Ethics

Questions 4 and 5 were set in order to find out the degree of importance that people attached to Ethics in accounting internationally as well as locally.

The respondents were asked how they consider accounting ethics in today’s world. About 49 respondents consider it as being very important and only 4 respondents consider it as having least importance. On the other, about 70.73 % of the respondents considered accounting ethics as a major concern in Mauritius.

But it shall be noted that accounting ethics has been prevalent since a long period of time but nobody got its importance up to the wake of major corporate scandals. It is worth pointing out that accounting practices should be conducted accurately and ethically as it promotes the flow of business. Moreover it is a fact that business and financial well-being of every organisation are at stake, therefore considerable integrity and ethical behaviour should be utilised in accounting. Corporate world is not just about making money, in consequence, accounting ethics helps to manage appropriate business accounts and help to prevent crossing the bottom line that do exists to secure clients and investors who put money in the company.

Hypothesis 1:

H0: Perception of respondents towards the importance of accounting ethics depends on gender

H1: Perception of respondents towards the importance of accounting ethics is independent of gender.

For this purpose the independent- sample T- test was used.

Table 5 Group Statistics

Gender

N

Mean

Std. Deviation

Std. Error Mean

Degree of Importance

Male

43

1.65

1.066

.163

Female

39

1.82

1.144

.183

Therefore the principle behind this test was to determine the significant difference between males (blue colour) and females (red colour)

Note

When testing for the difference between two population means, we have to test for equality of

Population variances first (by using the F-test) and moreover to have a look at the sig. Value under independent sample test

Table 5.1

 

Levene's Test for Equality of Variances

Degree of Importance of Acc Ethics:

F

Sig.

Equal variances assumed

0.54

0.465

Here the sig. Value under the levene’s Test for equality for variances is 0.465.

If p > 0.05, we assume that the population variances are equal.

If p < 0.05, we assume that the population variances are not equal.

Hence 0.465 is greater than 0.05, it implies that the population variances are equal

Table 5.2

Independent Samples Test

 

t

df

Sig.(2-tailed)

Mean difference

Degree of Importance :

 

 

 

 

Equality variances assumed

-0.694

80

0.49

-0.169

Equality variances not assumed

-0.691

77.784

0.491

-0.169

A similar rule applies however this time by considering the population means:

If p > 0.05, we conclude that the population means could be equal.

If p < 0.05, we assume that the population means are not equal.

From the above table it can be noted that the Sig.value is 0.49 which implies that the means for males and females is not significant. Therefore it can be assumed that males and females attach same importance towards ethics in accounting and it can be clearly observed in the table below.

Table 5.3 Degree of Importance * Gender Cross tabulation

Count

Gender

Total

Male

Female

Degree of Importance

Very Important

27

22

49

Important

9

7

16

Moderately Important

4

7

11

Of little importance

1

1

2

Least importance

2

2

4

Total

43

39

82

Furthermore respondents were interrogated about whether there is sufficient information about the significance of ethics for accountants, 45 respondents answered No to 37 who replied yes. Indeed it can be observed that in Mauritius apart from studies, accountants are not enough sensitise about the impact of ethics on their work. Even though big scandals arouse because of lack of professional ethics, anything has been put in place to really solve the problem. As a result respondents were questioned about what should be done to spread the information and sensitise accountants about the importance of ethics. Most of them replied through:

Talks/ Seminars/ Workshops

Newsletter/ Publications

Mauritius Institute for professional Accountants (MIPA) should organise training sessions for accountants on the subject matter.

In addition a list of fraud cases were given to respondents and they were asked to select the cases that they have ever heard about. It is to be noted that the two local cases i.e. MCB/NPF and Air Mauritius were the most indentified cases. Likewise they were asked their personal view about the motives behind these were fraudulent activities. Most of the respondents identified greed for money and lack of ethics as being the main causes of the mentioned fraud cases.

Figure 4: Bar chart showing the causes of fraud according to the respondents

Furthermore the questionnaire looked over what people think about the most essential character traits that a good accountant should possess to eventually point out whether ethics is an important aspects or not.

Figure 5

It can be seen from the diagram that being ethical and full of integrity followed by professional, precise and meticulous are the most essential character traits in the accounting profession. However some respondents also pointed out that maybe being cunning and smart at times is not that unethical.

With respect to the above figures, it can be viewed that ethical behaviour of accountants is not an optional extra; it is an important component of being professional and fundamental to the status and credibility of the accountancy profession. Therefore questions 9(a) to 10(b) were designed to obtain people’s opinion concerning gender and education having an impact or not on ethical reasoning.

Figure 6

As shown in the pie chart, 57 respondents(a percentage of 70%) answered yes when asked whether gender have an influence on ethical judgements However 56% of them considered female as having more ethical reasoning compared to male and (44%) the other way round. It can still be noted that there is no large disparity among the two seeing that in business world, organisation’s objective is to maximise profits while minimising costs and this creates a competitive atmosphere.Nowadays women have an increased desire to achieve competitive success and hence it provides the plausible reason why in the near future there would be probably any significant difference between males and females ethical reasoning.

Moreover the analysis has been extended to evaluate whether education has an impact on ethics. The figure below depicts how many respondents agree that human beings are not born with innate ethical reasoning.

Figure 7 : The number of respondents who agree that human beings are not born with innate ethical reasoning

As a results, 63 respondents agreed with the statement as opposed to 19 who do not. The second part of the question was designed to obtain respondents’ view on whether ethics can be learned. Out of the 82 respondents a percentage of 67.07% answered yes. For instance adding accounting ethics in University curriculum or any tertiary courses has been a means to make future accountants aware of what constitutes accounting ethics, their adherence to the code of ethics and the ethical dilemmas that they will later on face in the course of their duty. However one respondent who was against the fact that ethics can be learned, argued that “Being aware of it does not means that they will comply to it”. Therefore more emphasis should be placed on the fact that ethics first comes from the individual level, as in the end it is mainly a matter of choice i.e to be or not to be ethical.

Section 4.4: Implementation of Accounting Ethics

Section B of the questionnaire was mostly composed of questions based on the implementation of ethics in the accountancy profession.

Accountants have to observe and comply with the ethical requirements of the code set by their profession yet when asking the respondents if they comply to the code, 78% answered always, 20% yes but rarely and only 2% replied no which indicates that even if the code do exists there is still a minority that does not adhere to it .

Figure 8

On the other hand, of the 82 respondents, 79 considered having an internal code of ethics can help towards improving ethical conduct and they were also asked about what can be done to facilitate the implementation of accounting ethics in an organisation and to ensure their compliance. The respondents had considered including stipulations regarding the code in any agreements or hiring contracts is the most effective way. For example according to the Pricewaterhouse Coopers Mauritius transparency Report, 2010, PWC Management monitors compliance with these obligations by the same way. “Upon hiring or admittance all staffs and partners of PWC Mauritius are provided with a copy of the global PWC code of conduct. They are expected to live by the values expressed in the code in the course of their professional careers.”

Then they were asked if they know organisations having their own code of ethics. Most of them mentioned the “Big Five” companies such as PricewaterHouse Coopers and the other organisations mentioned were as follows:

Rogers Co. Ltd, Swan Insurance, MCB, MRA, IBL, Shell, Sicom and Air Mauritius.

They were also questioned on whether they had ever been confronted with an ethical dilemma at any time in their career and only 21.95% of the respondents answered yes. However ethical dilemmas in accounting are common and it is a mistake to assume that a professional may never face any ethical dilemma throughout its career. According to them the most important issues that might be faced by accountants in their work are the fraudulent activities of their organisation with a mean of 2.68 and earnings management (cooking the books exercise) with a mean of 2.63 followed by loss of objectivity, conflict of interests and management’s pressure.

Moreover they were asked if they consider corporate governance as an important issue with respects to management pressure or bad corporate governance which leads to corporate failure and 80 respondents (percentage of 97.56%) answered yes. Likewise there was a small scenario which was set to look at the respondents ‘ethical judgements, asking them how they would react whenever their boss requires from them to manipulate figures or hide suspicious dealings and pays for their silence. Most of them said that they will reject the offer, whistle blow and resign if there are no other options.

In fact in the IFAC code of ethics, there is a section which stipulates that whenever accountants face such ethical dilemmas, they should consider the qualitative as well as quantitative nature of the issue and to see whether it goes against the fundamental principles of the code and if the case therefore the accountant shall resign is. As a conclusion, the respondents would have apparently taken the right decision in they were in such situation and this proved their compliance with the Code.

Since it is often found that whenever there are fraud cases or corporate failures, accountants are pinpointed as being the culprits, a question was set to gather the opinion of the respondents about this issue and it was summarised as follows:

Someone has to wear the hat therefore accountants are considered as the scapegoats.

Totally disappointed and frustrated

Accountancy profession get defamed because of certain dishonest and unethical persons.

They should not be fully blamed since they might have been pressurised. Bearing in mind that accountants are the one performing financial reporting and being liable of misreporting or manipulating figures however it is the management who gives their sign off and therefore they should also be blamed.

Disagree since these cases of fraud may be due to weak internal control systems or management strategies or can comes from anywhere in the organisation.

Consequently having considered that corporate governance is an essential issue, the respondents were asked if they agree with this statement “The ethical climate of an organisation reflects the attitude that employees adopt”. From the sample 73 respondents answered “Yes” and only 9 answered “No”. The reasons were summarised as follows:

Those who answered “Yes” put forward these reasons:

The mindset (enterprise culture) of the organisation reflects the mindset of its employees i.e. what comes above flows through the organisation.

Company which place emphasis on ethics would find its employees much more concern about ethics and would encourage them to act in an ethical way.

If top management give the good example, subordinates will surely follow.

Employees will behave according to the climate that prevails in the work environment

Most employees act s requested by the organisation

Employees reflect the mission/vision of the organisation

Employees tend to follow the trend

Those who answered “No” argued that:

Any organisation may lack of ethics while its employees might not.

Even though the organisation plays an important role in maintaining the ethical values, employees may still be tempted to undertake unethical activities.

It is the employees which made up the organisation therefore it the employee’s moral values which determine the ethical climate of an organisation.

People also have a choice when it comes to ethical judgements.

Human beings are not like machines that once you give instructions it will follow.

Additionally Question 24 was intended to have the respondents’ perception on whether the implementation of more severe regulations can counteract fraud and 46 of them which represent a percentage of 56.10% replied no. According to them, there are other ways which might be more appropriate and effective to deter fraud since rules and regulations are there but people still go against it so what is the purpose of more severe regulations if it will result to the same thing. Therefore they were asked if the following listed initiatives might be beneficial and the means were tabulated as follows:

Other initiatives

Mean

Good Corporate Governance

1.63

High quality internal control

1.55

Proactive Audit Fraud

1.73

Implement an Internal code of ethics

1.79

Compulsory course for employees about ethics

1.85

Table 6: Showing the mean value of initiatives that respondents consider beneficial to deter fraud

It can be observed that compulsory course about ethics and implementing code of ethics yield higher means which indicates that the respondents found it as the most effective ways to deter fraud. As making people more aware of what constitutes ethics i.e. what is right or wrong might have an impact of their way of thinking.

Moreover such as the survey done by IFAC in 2007, the respondents were also asked to give their views by selecting whether they: “strongly disagreed”, “disagreed”, “agreed” or “strongly agreed” about possible statements which contribute to ethical failures. The results are shown in the table below

Factors leading to ethical failure

Mean

Self interest

1.84

Failure to maintain objectivity and independence

1.98

Inappropriate professional judgement

2.27

Lack of ethical sensitivity

2.05

Improper leadership and ill-culture

2.18

Failure to withstand advocacy threats

2.37

Lack of competence

2.55

Lack of organisational or peer support

2.68

Lack of professional body support

2.45

Table 7: Factors leading to ethical failure

As opposed to the survey done by IFAC where respondents viewed self-interest and failure to maintain objectivity most prone to cause ethical failure, Mauritian people consider lack of organisational support and lack of competence as being the main factors contributing to ethical failure. It can thus be suggested that other institutions such as MIPA or the local branch of ACCA should be established in order to provide greater support to the accountancy profession.


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