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Conference on Corruption, Keynote Remarks by Dr. Stavros Thomadakis

Event hosted by IFAC, ANAN and PAFA

Dr. Stavros Thomadakis | Chairman, International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants
Mar 1, 2021 | English

Madame Minister of Finance, Mr. President of the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria, esteemed representatives and colleagues, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a pleasure and a privilege to address you today at this ANAN-PAFA-IFAC conference. I congratulate the organizers and thank the hosts for holding this very timely and useful event.

The fight against illicit behavior and corrupt practice is a worldwide undertaking pursued by international organizations, public and private sector entities, civil society and organized professions.

Accountants around the world are very important - I would say central - actors at the very heart of economic decisions, transactions and strategies. They can therefore play an enormous role in combatting all aspects of illegality and noncompliance with laws and regulations, and in freeing economies from the burdens caused by malfeasance. 

The International Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants is a valuable instrument in that combat. It also is one of the most explicit and broadly accepted Ethical Codes in the world, recognized also by other international professions.

We at IESBA are working to maintain, enhance and promote The International Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants (including international independence standards). The Code is, as I said, a powerful instrument at the disposal of the global accounting profession.

Promotion of faithful adherence to ethical behavior builds up a solid barrier against corrupt practice. Implementation of the Code’s provisions fortifies the international profession in resisting and  battling corruption.

The Fundamental Principles of the Code - integrity, objectivity, due care and competence, professional behavior – provide a comprehensive armory in opposition both to corrupt intent and to illicit practice.

The body of the provisions of the Code strongly encourages PAs to respond to illicit behaviors and corruption when they encounter them in the course of their duties. My colleague, Saadiya Adam, will expand on this theme and the Code’s more specific provisions in her presentation to follow.

We are going through a difficult time because of the Covid pandemic and its dire health and economic consequences in all countries. We are witnessing universal efforts by governments around the world to boost the resilience of economies and societies as they are faced with this calamity.

In this environment of pandemic, as in any crisis, it is unfortunate but true that opportunities and incentives for corruption, illicit, unethical practices are heightened. For example, many organizations, including governments, corporations and accounting firms had to pivot to virtual platforms very quickly, among other adjustments. This may have exposed their IT systems and infrastructures to more sophisticated corruption activities including cybercrime.

Besides this, as many companies have to face unexpected and difficult financial challenges and as they seek government support, accountants offering their services in those activities must be very alert, diligent and vigilant that these arrangements are carried out within laws, regulations and the duty of due care.

In response to all these heightened risks, IESBA has formed a CV-19 working group with a mandate to provide guidance to accountants on compliance with Code provisions in the current difficult circumstances. We have reached out for collaborations in this task and the results have already appeared.

Let me mention for example two very recent and relevant staff publications that have been circulated by IESBA in collaboration with other stakeholder organizations:

  1. Issued jointly by the Staffs of the South African Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors, (IRBA) the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA) and the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB), the paper titled, Navigating the Heightened Risks of Fraud and Other Illicit Activities During the COVID-19 Pandemic, including Considerations for Auditing Financial Statements
  2. Issued jointly by the Staffs of Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada) and IESBA, the paper titled COVID-19 and Evolving Risks for Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Cybercrime.

Hoping that the pandemic will quickly come under control, we have to look forward to opportunities and responsibilities as we return to normalcy. The IESBA, as a global standard setter will continue and enhance its work of engagement with stakeholders around the globe as a major strategic imperative.

This engagement is a two-pronged activity. On one hand we engage to promote adoption and implementation of the Code, its revisions and its enhancements. This work has brought us into contacts with many stakeholders, such as yourselves, and we look forward to continued two-way communication and mutual awareness. 

On the other hand, we seek close engagement with global stakeholders through our consultations processes which bring out contributions to our current standard-setting projects.

We issue exposure drafts of proposed standards, we organize roundtables and present webinars on current work and, in short, we use all available means for eliciting stakeholder opinions and advices for our work.

The success of all this is critical to an important strategic dimension that we espouse at IESBA: our standards must be “principle-based”, clear and globally applicable. This is something we cannot achieve on our own. We absolutely need stakeholder engagement in order to fulfill that objective.

But this is not the only stricture for good standards. International standards, when implemented in national environments have to work well with local laws and cultures. The accountants implementing those standards may be more successful if they can depend on the work of others, for example, local standard setters, regulators, corporate governance officials, public and private sector managers etc. Ethical behavior of a single profession can multiply its effectiveness if surrounding professions also espouse and apply ethical goals.

Let me close by saying again how pleased I am to be with you and that I consider today’s event as the start of a new series of fruitful contacts of IESBA with ANAN, PAFA members and other African stakeholders.

Thank you very much, good health and best wishes to your endeavors.

Dr. Stavros Thomadakis

Chairman, International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants