A new global survey by the International Federation of Accountants revealed that its members acted as advocates for small and midsize businesses, and for corporate governance and accounting reform, during the financial crisis.

“Our members took action to assist their jurisdictions during the crisis, lending their expertise to governments and businesses,” said IFAC chief executive Ian Ball in a statement. “Through a variety of outreach programs, they also let the public know what a valuable role the professional accountant plays in all the sectors we serve, especially in a time of crisis.”

Because the financial crisis led to many governments’ assuming an interventionist role in their economies through providing a range of guarantees and undertaking bailouts of major banks and other institutions, among other actions, the survey sought information on efforts to improve the transparency and accountability of governments for public sector finance. Many respondents reported their countries were in the process of adopting the International Public Sector Accounting Standards, which can provide the reliable information about government finances that is so important in the context of the crisis.

When survey participants were asked whether there had been enhancements to corporate governance in their jurisdictions, the majority reported that there had either been improvements, that actions were in process, or that such changes were being considered. In particular, they reported the adoption of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s good governance principles, but there was an extensive range of responses, from making it mandatory for companies of a certain size to create an audit committee, to introducing codes specific to small businesses.

IFAC’s survey also asked about the demand for accountants throughout the broad spectrum of sectors in which they work, and found that the profession remains attractive to students and those already in the field. According to survey responses, the demand for accountants remains high, worldwide, with growing interest in the government and academic sectors. Participants believe the demand for accountancy professionals will grow in the coming years.

Finally, respondents believe in the importance of maintaining the unity of the accountancy profession, in order to play a role in the changing regulation of the financial sector internationally. They said that they believe that IFAC should continue in its roles as a voice of the global profession—such as its memoranda to the G-20 leaders on reform of the global financial system, including special consideration for the needs of small and midsize entities—and as a global standard-setter for auditing and public sector accounting, and professional ethics and education.

The full report is available in the Policy Position Papers and Reports section of IFAC’s Publications and Resources site.

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