When business people demand that accountants should be more corporate they sometimes mean that they should be less principled. Being told you are now part of the team is often code for telling you to swallow your scruples and turn a blind eye. At its best, corporate responsibility means that you have to stand by the management team’s decisions, whether you like them or not.
Of course, no-one would argue that accountants are not key corporate players. But the business world needs to remember that accountability is the core of good accountancy. And, in most cases, that means the accountants are the awkward squad. Who else will tell the chief executive that the figures from sales are bogus? Who, but the accountant, can tell the client that, financially speaking, the wheels are coming off her business plan?
Which is why the profession should welcome the announcement of a wide-ranging new law to protect whistleblowers. Instead of seeing them as dangerous mavericks, companies need to value whistleblowers as part of their system of business assurance. If staff are given a safe route to raise concerns, whistleblowing can benefit everyone. Of course, this will increase the pressure on financial managers to stick to the rules and on auditors to make sure they have spotted wrongdoing. But that is a price worth paying for a powerful new tool in the fight against fraud and irregularity.
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