Ethics for all

Mark Allison By Mark Allison, Executive Director, Education

18 November 2015

In the first of a series of articles on ethics and the CA profession, Mark Allison, ICAS Executive Director, Education takes a closer look at the ICAS Code of Ethics.

As a CA Student Member, you are bound to observe and uphold the ethical and professional standards of ICAS, but what does this actually mean?

Ethics matter

ICAS applies the Code of Ethics throughout the CA Education process. You’ll find there is lots of ethical content across many of your individual subjects, as well as in your achievement log.  You are expected to know about the Code from your first day at ICAS through to when you qualify and beyond. At the ICAS admission ceremony, you will take what we call an ‘Ethical oath.’

This same Code of Ethics applies to all our members. Throughout your professional career, you’ll have the opportunity to apply the principles and detailed guidance in the projects and organisations you work with.

About the ICAS Code of Ethics

The ICAS Code of Ethics has recently been updated and revised and applies from 1 January 2014.  The Code of Ethics which is followed by accountancy bodies in the UK is based upon on the International Federation of Accountants Code of Ethics developed by the International Ethical Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA). However, the ICAS Code of Ethics takes things a step further. Additional information is included within our code to deal with situations which we believe require further guidance.  For example, ICAS has a section of its code devoted to insolvency practitioners.

Many of the differences between the ICAS Code of Ethics and the IESBA International Code of Ethics relate to arrangements which the UK professional accounting bodies have agreed.  This can be because of development of best practice within the UK, such as the recommendations of the Joint Insolvency Committee or because of a change to UK Law or Regulation; such as changes from the Financial Conduct Authority.

The Fundamental Principles, however, are common between the UK accountancy body codes (including ICAS) and the IESBA.  Typically in the context of ICAS Education and Assessment, it is these following five principles that lie at the heart of the code, and which we always come back to:

  1. Integrity
  2. Objectivity
  3. Professional Competence and Due Care
  4. Confidentiality
  5. Professional Behaviour

These principles provide a framework for professional accountants to follow. We’ll be looking at each of these areas in upcoming articles as they apply to accountants and in situations where they apply to others.

Taking ethics forward

The five ethical principles that form the basis of the ICAS Ethical Code don’t exist in isolation. They are not the only principles which can exist in Codes of Ethics, and indeed they are not the only principles which could be developed and applied by an accountancy body.  The development of new thinking on Ethical principles and guidance is the responsibility of the ICAS Ethics Committee. It is important for students to realise that this is quite distinct from the investigation and disciplinary activities. Although many of the activities of this division do always refer back to the fundamental principles and ICAS Code of Ethics.

The role of the ICAS Ethics Committee is one of research and development, with a focus on providing relevant thinking and services to the ICAS students and members.

Ethics in other organisations

In another well-known organisation, the Ethics Committee sits as an independent regulatory function.  It has set five principles which members must follow.  These principles are neutrality (objectivity), loyalty, confidentiality, forgery and disclosure.  It is interesting to consider that persons bound by this code shall show commitment to an Ethical attitude.  They shall behave in a dignified manner and act with complete credibility and integrity.

This organisation sets out the breaches of the Code within the Ethical Code and lists punishments to include warning, reprimand, fine and perhaps more of a clue, banned from dressing rooms and/or substitute’s bench!

You have probably guessed that this Code of Conduct is the one written by the FIFA Ethics Committee.  It is expected to be applied by all those signed up to play professional football.  Even if you’re not interested in football, the FIFA Ethics Committee and alleged falsifications around the awarding of future World Cups has been in the media spotlight over the last few weeks and months.  We’ll be looking at this in a future article.

In the meantime, it’s important for you to be aware that ICAS too has a range of sanctions for any CA Student Members or members who are found to be in breach of the Ethical Code. I am pleased to say that we do not, as yet, seek to punish students or members by banning them from the benches in the garden of CA House.


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