THE EFFECTS OF UNETHICAL ACCOUNTING PRACTICE ON FINANCIAL REPORTING QUALITY IN NIGERIA (A CASE STUDY OF AFRIBANK PLC, CADBURY PLC)
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
As Nigeria progresses in her vision to become one of the top 20 economies in the world by the year 2020, one prevailing issue that remains on the front flame is how to build investors’ confidence in the national economy through ethical accounting and auditing standards that enhances transparent financial reporting. The catastrophic failures and scandals of some corporate giant and the extensive corruption in the society highlights the critical need to focus on the anchors of sound professional ethics in the accounting & auditing profession both in developed and developing countries (Omoyele, 2010; Fodio, Ibikunle & Oba, 2013; Ogbonna & Ebimobowei, 2012).
Furthermore, it is an understanble phenomenon that, he accounting and auditing professionals who are responsible for the preparation of financial statements need to adhere strictly to the codes of ethical accounting and auditing standards to produce reliable, relevant, timely, accurate, understandable and comprehensive financial statements in a true and fair view of the firm financial position and performance. This is because such financial statements and reports form the basis upon which the stakeholder should have confidence to make an informed decision.
Recently, there has been growing concern about ethical and integrity issues in the accounting & auditing profession in public and private on questionable acts. As such, this era has been branded by series of corporate failures, ethical negligence, auditing and accounting scandals both in developed economies and developing economies. Damagum & Chima, (2014) posits that evidence in prior research shows that poor corporate governance also attributes to such failures, hence the need to keep vigil over corporate entities behaviors as well as need to control the behavior of managers and professional accountants through effective regulations. Broadcasted cases of the recent past, such as Ernon, Satyam, WorldCom, Global Crossing, paramalat, Xerox, Tell one and some firms from Nigeria (such as, Cadbury and NAMPAK, Afri-bank) of which one of the big four (4) auditing firm in Nigeria was indicted , these cases has drawn aggregate attention to the auditing profession.
However, the failures of these corporate entities have been attributed to accountants and auditors not adhering to the codes of professional ethics. This has had an adverse and cumulative effect on financial reporting and the auditing profession. All these happening around the globe has brought the question of trustworthiness and integrity of the auditing & accounting profession (Bakre, 2007;
Financial reporting is a key ingredient required for the corporate governance system to function successfully. The accountants and auditors who are the main providers of information to capital market participants are expected to exercise high degree of due care and exhibit professional competence in the accounts audited by them. The directors of the company will expect that management prepare the financial statements are in compliance with statutory and ethical obligations, and bank on auditors’ competence and creditability (Dignam & Lowry, 2006 Adeyemi & Fagbemi, 2011). Ogbonna (2010) debated that any society that lacks ethical thoughts may not survive for a long time to achieve its desired goals and objectives and that of its stakeholders.
As the world has now become a global market, the emphasis on the adoption of the International Financial Reporting Standards has increasingly receive attention towards common set of comprehensive financial statements across the globe and this is being anchor by The International Accounting Standards Board. In Nigeria, Companies and Allied Matters Act 2004 (as amended), Financial Reporting Council (FRC), Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN) and other industrial specific bodies in which auditors and accountants provide services usually issue guidelines relating to the ethical and professional standards to be observed. However, the effectiveness of this regulatory bodies in Nigeria in ensuring that ethical standards are maintained by corporate managers and professional accountants still remain questionable and in doubt.
Ethics is an important aspect of the accountant in business enterprise’s work and profession. Professional ethics in this context can be summed up as the commitment of the management accountant to provide a useful service for management. This commitment means that the management accountant has the competence, integrity, confidentiality and objectivity to serve management effectively (Blocher et al, 2005: 23-25).The standard of competence for example, requires the accountant to develop and maintain the skills necessary for his or her area of practice and to continually reassess the adequacy of those skills as the firm grows and become more complex, thought it can be purportedly concluded that that “greed and fear” ,the two most powerful forces in modern capitalism, are the major causes of unethical practices by professionals.
Moreover, the potential for individuals and organizations to behave unethically is limitless. Unfortunately, this potential is too frequently realized. Consider, for example, how greed overtook concerns about human welfare when the Manville Corporation suppressed evidence that asbestos inhalation was killing its employees, or when Cadbury has had its share price on the increase over the years and patronage has never declined. Despite its achievements, it was observed that Cadbury Nigeria has not had the interest of the public in the true sense of it.
This is because the company tries to influence public perception by overstating profits and understanding losses .In this case, the British confectionery giant expressed their embarrassments which led to the sack of the managing director and his finance director.
It is against this backdrop that this research study tends to study and analyze the effect of unethical accounting practices on financial reporting quality in Nigeria.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Despite the high premium of trust and expectation the society places on professional accountants and auditors, and need of the general public to have confidence in the financial reports being prepared/audited by them in making an informed decision, it is imperative therefore, that the information being provided by accountants and auditors should be meaningfully efficient, reliable, and realistic and unbiased, but yet this accountants, amongst others, who are knowledgeable of the world’s financial systems are the one who are involved in the manipulation of complex transactions which make it difficult to identify and trace the origins and the ultimate destiny of the illicit funds or, when acting as auditors, are reluctant to reveal and report such activity, thereby making it difficult to uphold good professional ethical standard.
Despite the accounting standards and ethical codes guiding the accounting profession, morality and ethics has gone down the drain based on the occurrence of scandals in Enron, World Com, Nigerian Cadbury and similar scandals that have surfaced. The above antisocial and fraudulent behaviour of the elite and multinational companies cannot be easily perpetrated in any nation or economy without the advice, collaboration, or at the very least, connivance of professional accountants, who, acting in violation of their statutory duties to the public, provide their professional services to wealthy individuals, the ruling elite, private and public companies and multinational companies by assisting them to transfer the illicit wealth gained to the licit sector, thereby removing any possible criminal links associated with the wealth acquired, which indirectly negatively affect the public perception of auditor’s independence and the audit expectation gap the society have towards their professional ethical standards.
For the past two decades, a wave of high profile accounting scandals have cast the profession into the limelight, for examples,the case of Aruwa & Atabs (2011) provided instances of creative accounting and fraudulent financial reporting in Nigeria to include Alpha Merchant Bank Plc (accounting problem and market manipulation) or the Lever Brothers Plc (exaggerated profit through the use of questionable accounting methods) and AP Petroleum Plc (false financial reporting) all these act were perpetrated in collaboration with the professionals (Accountants, Auditor).
In spite of the enabling IT audit tools and the various professional standards such as standards as Nigerian Accounting Standard Board (NASB) now Financial Reporting Council (FRC), American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), Auditing Practices Committee of the Institutes of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW) issued for guidance and efficient audit work, there are still reported cases of lapses and scandals, have been threatening the existence of some quoted companies and capital markets in Nigeria.
Scandals within the accountancy sector have threatened the reputation of accountants and in all this type of cases; As a result of non-extended audit tenure impair auditor’s independence and ability to employ professional skepticism on matters at their disposal, also it should be noted that Non adherence to the spirit and letter of corporate governance was also responsible for the corporate scandals,
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The Major Objectives of this study are:
1. Determine the effects of Unethical Accounting practices on financial reporting quality in Nigeria economy.
2. Explore the effects of Unethical Accounting practices on financial reporting quality in Nigeria capital Market.
3. Identify some common unethical practices by accountants, auditors, directors and company secretaries who are key players in the market economy.
4. Determine what motivates professional accountant to committing unethical accounting practices.
5. Examine the major causes of unethical practices by professionals, directors and market operators/participants when carrying out their financial activities.
6. Eliminate and suggest possible remedy for the problem of unethical accounting practices perpetrated by professional accountants.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The following research questions were asked in the project study, providing answers to them will help achieve the aim of this research study. These questions includes;
1. What are the effects of Unethical Accounting practices on financial reporting quality in Nigeria?
2. Are there any effect of unethical accounting practices on financial reporting quality in Nigeria capital Market?
3. Common unethical practices by accountants, auditors, directors and company secretaries who are key players in the market economy?
4. What are the major causes of unethical practices by professionals, directors and market operators/participants when carrying out their various activities?
5. What are the possible remedy in reducing the effect of unethical practice by professional accountants on financial reporting in Nigeria?
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY
Unethical accounting practices occur when a company does not follow the rules of generally accepted accounting principles or GAAP. The rules of GAAP are established by the federal government, though Unethical accounting practices motivated by bonus incentives, pressure to obtain financing or a desire to appear successful are not always illegal, but they almost always have an adverse effect on your business.
Furthermore, this research study will attempts to identify some common unethical accounting practices on financial reporting quality by accountants, auditors, directors and company secretaries who are key players in the market economy, and also suggest possible recommendation for them.
This study will also looked into the opinions of accounting lecturers on whether the teaching of ethics among student accountants can facilitate in instilling ethical behaviour in future accountants, it will also be of great benefit to the corporate world as the effective work of accountant and auditors in an organization who in turn helps to promote good ethical accounting practice and financial reporting quality.
This study will continue to be of interest to management of companies, auditors and other users of financial statements. It will enable a better understanding of common ethical and unethical accounting practices on financial reporting standard and quality.
The study will also be of importance to government agencies, companies, regulators and policy makers who are involved in regulating the ethical practice of accounting Standards and guidelines, it will also educate people on unethical accounting practices, why they occur, and how we as a nation can promote ethical behaviour.
Finally this study will be of great significance to schools and students, it will serve as a reference point for future researchers who will want to research more on the topic. Unethical Accounting Practice
1.6. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
To appreciate the effect of unethical accounting practice on financial reporting in Nigeria, this study has adopted a case studies approach as a research methodology. Hence, evidence from these sources was used to compile case studies. While this evidence may be inadequate and slightly biased, it nonetheless provides evidence of antisocial unethical practices. An examination of these documentary reports is principally valuable in this esteem in that, it aids to structure and contextualize the active role of professional accountants and auditors in facilitating unethical practices in Nigeria. Unethical Accounting Practice
1.7. SCOPE OF THE STUDY
Since the study focus on the effects of unethical accounting practices and financial reporting quality, For the purpose of carrying out a detailed analysis of the effect unethical practice by professional accountants could have on financial reporting, the research will be restricted to the two selected companies in Nigeria.
1.8. LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
The limitation of the study includes:
Financial Constraint: the success of every research work depends largely on finance availability, and this affected the researcher because there was little or average finance at his disposal to cover the research study and the ones available was not sufficient to carry out the research effectively.
2. Time:- this has to do with the time-frame given for the completion of the study and also other challenges; activities and engagements forcing me as a final year student reduced my time-frame.
Inability to generate required material from the secondary sources, such as textbooks and internets.
1.9 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Ethics: These are the moral principles that an individual uses in governing his or her behaviour. Ethics refers to a discipline in which matter of right and wrong, good and evil, virtue and vice are systematically examined (Brinkmann, 2002; Ogbonna & Appah, 2012).
Accountant: this is an individual whose work involves the application of accounting in performing some or all of the following: preparing financial statements; conducting financial investigations; preparing, reporting and advising on the purchase and sale of businesses, business combinations, obtaining capital for enterprises, changes in partnerships, fraud and insolvency, preparing tax returns; giving advice on tax administration and other services.
Objectivity: refers to the need to maintain impartial judgment (e.g. not developing analysis to support a decision that the accountant knows is not correct.
Auditor: this are individual, a partnership firm, or an organization carrying out an audit of an enterprise or an undertaking. Such persons are not usually employed by the accounting entity or by its managers and is, as far as possible, independent of the persons who manage the entity, hence they are often referred to as ‘external auditors’; or ‘accountants in practice, Unethical Accounting Practice
Directors: this is defined under section 244(1), CAMA 2004 as ‘persons duly appointed by limited liability company to direct and manage the business of the company. Every registered company must have at least two directors for private limited, and at least seven for public limited company. Unethical Accounting Practice
Confidentiality: A professional accountant should the information obtained in the course of professional services without explicit permission of the employer or the employer’s confidential anddisclose such information unless or without the professional legal duty exposing the information on be permitted.
Unethical accounting practices: this refers to a situation when a company does not follow the rules of generally accepted accounting principles or GAAP. Unethical Accounting Practice
Professional ethic refers to the professional behavior and characteristics that identifies professional accountants as members of a profession.