The International Federation of Accountants has released a new study on how accountants can play a big role in reducing corruption around the world.

The IFAC study, The Accountancy Profession—Playing a Positive Role in Tackling Corruption, found that a higher percentage of accountants in the workforce strongly correlates with better outcomes on Transparency International’s global Corruption Perceptions Index. The index has annually ranked countries since 1995 according to their perceived levels of corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys, with corruption defined as “the misuse of public power for private benefit.”

In countries with stronger governance structures, the correlation of accountants with better outcomes on the index was significantly greater in G-20 countries and member nations of the Financial Action Task Force.

IFAC CEO Fayez Choudhury at a regulatory roundtable in Hong Kong
IFAC CEO Fayez Choudhury at a regulatory roundtable in Hong Kong Courtesy of IFAC

When professional accounting organizations are present in an economy and have adopted the global profession’s ethical, educational, and investigation and discipline requirements, the positive correlation with Transparency International’s index ascends even further.

“Corruption is an economic cancer that disproportionately impacts those least able to absorb its malignancy,” said IFAC CEO Fayez Choudhury in a statement. “This study shows that the accountancy profession—acting in the public interest—is an important part of the cure. The study confirms that the accountancy profession is a crucial part of strong national governance architectures that confront corruption, in partnership with good government and strong businesses. And vitally, the study shows professional ethics, education, and oversight—at the core of the global accountancy profession—are key to our positive impact in tackling corruption.”

He believes meaningful progress will depend on three factors: continued strong cross-sector collaboration; reinvigorated international interest in public financial management; and greater adoption of high-quality international standards on financial reporting, auditing, and ethics.

The study was conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, a consulting firm based in London, and builds on two earlier reports: Nexus 1: The Accountancy Profession, Behind the Numbers and Nexus 2: The Accountancy Profession, A Global Value Add, which examine the size of the global accounting profession and its contribution to the global economy.

IFAC offices
Courtesy of IFAC

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Michael Cohn

Michael Cohn

Michael Cohn, editor-in-chief of AccountingToday.com, has been covering business and technology for a variety of publications since 1985.