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This accounting research topic is to examines the relevance of accounting ethics in accounting education.The accounting profession is being threatened because of high expectations from the public and their beliefs that embezzlement, bribery and corruption have become prominent in our society including the accounting profession. The broad objective of the study is to find out the significant relationship between accounting ethics and accounting education and also to find out if the moral principles contained in accountant membership handbook influence members’ behavior positively. The survey research design is used in this study and a sample size of 50 was used which was chosen from the population of accountants working in accounting firms in Edo State. The chi-square statistical tool was used to test the stipulated hypotheses and the findings revealed that there is significant relationship between accounting ethics and accounting education and that the moral principles contained in accountant membership handbook influence members’ behavior positively. It is recommended amongst others that building a robust ethic infrastructure that is self-sustaining will go a long way in strengthening accounting education.
Keywords: Ethics, Accounting ethics, Accounting education, code of ethics
1.1 Background to the Study
The issue of what is right or wrong, particularly in relation to human conduct, behaviour and attitude is the focus of what is known as ethics: There are basically two ways to determine the meaning of ethics. Etymologically, ethics is derived from a Latin word that means customary. While ethics is derived from the Greek word which means customary behavuiour, moral and character (Inegbenebor, 2012). But the focal point of this work is to relate the word ethics to the accounting profession, and to carry out a form of appraisal on the performance of accountants as concern ethical behaviour, whether accountants actually complies or not, and to the extent of their compliance.
Historically, ethics actually was unconsciously practiced in the field of accounting right from the stewardship era of accounting (i.e. bookkeeping data), where owners of organization expect their bookkeeper(s) or steward(s) to be truthful, objective, honest and have courtesy in both recording and reporting of information that concerns the business and stewards at that time, to a large extent greatly complied (Anibaba, 2002). But with the advent of various professional bodies that now formally guide the accounting profession all over the world, a formulized ethical conduct is now established to guide the behaviour of professional accountant(s).
Walker (2010) noted that ethics in business is not just a slogan to please customers, it is also the tools to maximize profits and to strengthen the brand, because the reputations of firms which originally comes from their ethical behaviour, brings about higher customers recognition. In particular link to the accounting profession, ethical practices can be beneficial to all market participants and stakeholders which will lead to rise in investors’ confidence in the global capital markets. According to Smith (2003), ethics has always been a sensitive concept of any profession in society, especially for career that is closely associated with economic activities such as accounting. If there is no professional ethics, the quality of accounting services provided to the society will not measure up to its value, for accountants, the professional ethics are “intangible asset”
Clarke, Dean and Oliver (2003) noted that accounting ethics will always instill a public trust in the fairness of markets, allowing it to function efficiently. In fact, the accountant is also faced with many issues as relating to competition, outstanding figures, good financial statement, commissions etc. where the pressure of the accountant has always been time restriction and cost control. Each customer has different requirement and purpose on its financial condition. As a result, accountants can create the dilemmas of ethical issues when firms encounter financial problem.
1.2 Statement of Problem
The accounting profession is being threatened because of high expectations from the public and their beliefs that embezzlement, bribery and corruption as perverse our society include the accounting profession. However, the professional code of ethics provides for above the board conduct of an accountant if the accountant is not keeping to them it means the accounting profession will suffer so much in the near future, and this will come in form of shortage in patronage. Questions like do we really need the services of an accountant? Are accountant not part of this corrupt practice?
1.3 Research Questions
The following are the research questions of the study:
i. What is the significant relationship between accounting ethics and accounting education?
ii. How do the moral principles contained in accountant membership handbook influence members’ behavior?
iii. Is there significant relationship between the code of ethics for accountants and audit practice in Nigeria?
1.4 Objective of the Study
The objectives of the study are:
i. To find out the significant relationship between accounting ethics and accounting education.
ii. To find out if the moral principles contained in accountant membership handbook influence members’ behavior positively.
iii. To ascertain the significant relationship between the code of ethics for accountants and audit practice in Nigeria.
1.5 Statements of Hypotheses
To establish the fact in regards to this study, the following hypotheses have been formulated:
HO: There is no significant relationship between accounting ethics and accounting education.
HI: There is significant relationship between accounting ethics and accounting education.
HO: The moral principles contained in accountant membership handbook do not influence members’ behavour positively.
HI: The moral principles contained in accountant membership handbook influence members’ behavior positively.
HO: There is no significant relationship between the code of ethics for accountants and audit practice in Nigeria.
HI: There is significant relationship between the code of ethics for accountants and audit practice in Nigeria.
1.6 Significance of the Study
Thestudy of ethics will be of utmost significance to the following:
Economic: The study is economically relevant to companies, firms and industries that require the services of an accountant.
Social: It will socialize other professional on the roles and functions of the accounting profession as well as enlighten them on the moral conduct of accountant and punishment melted out for misconduct.
Academic: This study will be a starting point for further research work.
1.7 Scope of the Study
The scope of the study deals accounting ethics and accounting education. To be specific, the study did not cover all ramifications of ethics as relates accounting profession in Nigeria. Geographical region of the study is Edo State using a time frame of 5 years (2012 – 2016). A sample size of 50 was used.
1.8 Limitations of the Study
The limitation of this study includes lack of co-operation from respondents as some questions were not answered. The study is mostly indigenous in and nature so information elicited from the Internet was grossly inadequate. Also during the cause of this study, the cost of transportation on sourcing for valuable literature was also one limiting factor. The study was limited to five audit firms in Edo State. Complete random sampling was not possible.
1.9 Definition of Terms:
Accounting: The American Accounting Association sees as systematic process of recording, classifying, interpreting, analyzing, communicating and summarizing the financial data of an organization to enable the user make decision.
Relevance: It is something that is importance or significant in that situation or to a person.
Ethics: It refers to the science of morals, that
branch of philosophy which is concerned with human character and
conduct, a system of morals, rules of behaviour, a treatise or morals.
It is an adherence to once professional code.
Accounting Ethics: Accounting ethics actually was unconsciously practice in the field of accounting right from the stewardship era of accounting (i.e. bookkeeping
data), where owners of organization expect their bookkeeper(s) or steward(s) to be truthful, objective, honest and have courtesy in both recording and reporting of information that concerns the business and stewards at that time, to a large extent greatly complied.
Education: It is an institution of learning that helps to build up an individual or to expand the knowledge of the people.
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