3 November 2015

Accountants and public interest

Accountants and managers of financial information are professionals within national and international organizations whose statutes and strict codes of ethics point out the public interest of their functions. In Spanish accountants' case, gathered into the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Spain, we are part of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), composed by almost three million professionals worldwide. IFAC code of ethics establishes principles of professional ethics in the public interest that affects both auditors and accounting professionals in business or in the public sector.

Why reliable financial information is a public good that must be protected? Because prevents to give confidence to whom should not have it; because the consequences of mistakes or bad practices can lead to damage to workers, other companies or society in general. Besides this, it facilitates reliable information to managers, partners and other stakeholders, enabling them to make a decision for a good development of the economy.

One of the main principles of the accountant's performance is their independence. Therefore it responds to the public interest of their role, to think objectively whether the financial statements reflect a faithful view of the financial situation and results of the company. Not surprisingly, the accountant profession is one of the most regulated. Furthermore, aware of our responsibilities, accountants drive self-regulation, added to national and international organizations could establish.

The responsibilities we face are enormous. If there is bad practice we can suffer demands which are hardly comparable to any other profession amounts, excluding penalties or disqualification by regulators. For this reason we ask for separating between mistakes or punctual unfulfilments and different points of view, as a result of professional judgment which is different from those that can reach different competent professionals.

Because we are aware of the importance of our actions, and that many people and organizations rely on our opinions, we claim that a large majority of our profession does its work honestly and aware of their responsibility.

As in any other area they may be isolated cases that can confirm the recognition of the majority of accountants, we act quite correctly, assuming, regardless of who pays us, our responsibility of public interest of services we offer, and whose recipients go beyond the entity that hires us.

As guarantors of the quality of business information, accountants are challenged to respond to the growing demands regarding non-financial information. Society requires transparency to economic operators and refers to financial and non-financial information.

While non-financial information is increasingly relevant to the sustainability of organizations, accountants advance in improving the clarity and appropriateness of our reports and participate in initiatives such as the Integrated Report, which aims to provide accurate information of accounts but also the social and environmental impacts, and governance of organizations.

By the way, the obsessive self-regulation of the profession proves that many of the international standards that are collected by national legislation, professionals accountants had already established as a principles of our activities. It is legitimate to claim it.

Antoni Gómez Valverde, international chair of Auren and IFAC SMP Committee Member

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