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As councils embark on more entrepreneurial and therefore potentially more risky initiatives in an attempt to mitigate funding cuts, officers may find themselves faced with ethical dilemmas. A faster paced environment often lends itself to more freedom and delegation of authorisation and situations can arise where if decisions are not taken, then opportunities can be lost. Who would want that on their watch, especially when fixed term or invest to save job contracts are at stake?
But what if auditors (and officers) encounter their own ethical dilemmas whereby they do become party to such information that puts them at risk of being scapegoated or they report something unpopular and find themselves structured out at a later date. Where can they look to for support and advice?
CIPFA’s ethics working group have been updating and revising the Statements of Professional Practice (SOPP) in line with the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA) Code of Ethics, which it fully adopts. The group’s remit is to raise awareness and expectations of what members can and should do when faced with ethical dilemmas and to give members confidence in the SOPP and supporting guidance. The publication ‘Ethics and You’ is also in the process of being updated. Internal auditors also have to follow the code of ethics in the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards.
As CIPFA Members no matter how much of a good deal something looks or how busy we are with other things, we have a duty to ensure the appropriate due diligence and governance processes are in place. We are bound by the SOPP and to have it fall by the wayside has dire consequences. Sure the risk of being scapegoated or having your post deleted is extremely worrying but not to uphold ethical standards for fear of these is worse and carries with it a niggling conscience.