A recent article in Information Management refers with ambiguous remorse that in the world of ethics and legal liability “It’s the Wild West!” And with some commitment we add, the world seems to be bent to ambiguous messages for accountants, lawyers, doctors, politicians and all who would claim to be professionals who expect professional courtesies in every aspect of their lives.
The public accepts fuzzy standards when clear improprieties impact the them. And, Louisiana has a clear record for public displays of (apparent) criminal conduct by licensed professionals whose behavior law enforcement ignores or even lends support. The article in Information Week is actually entitled “It’s the Wild West for Today’s Accountants’” addresses the standards in the managerial accounting world, particularly those for CPAs (Certified Public Accountants). And if certification remains a valid criteria for awarding a seal of acceptability in the industry, it must stand for more than a piece of paper and a plaque on the door in all areas of accounting.
And, as the article relates, “… in managerial accounting there are few if any standards to follow. On the financial accounting side of external compliance accounting there are many rules, including the USA’s standards established by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) or the emerging International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). And tax authorities have thousands of rules.” However, if management and leadership rules are lacking, it truly is a “Wild West” out there.
Without contrasting the varying legal methods of accounting or reporting, it’s enough to relate that the public ends up on the short side of the ledge whenever the opportunity arises to enrich the favored lobbyist or the entrenched contractor in many situations. And as far as varying approaches to methods, here is how it’s related in the article: “There are accounting camps that have almost come to blows if their fists could penetrate through an Internet conduit line. For example, some of the zealots from the lean accounting and theory-of-constraints throughput accounting communities, believe that any calculated cost is useless and a waste of time to calculate. They despise the activity-based costing community.”
In short, even the professional community is divided as to how assets should be valued and the process of disclosing potential conflict information. The public should have no conflicts in demanding greater transparency and protection for public assets. From public records to meetings of public and private citizens, there is no room for back-room deals and using public assets to enrich private companies or citizens with influence. The Wild West should be part of the movies, and any citizens who play the villain should find a new home in jail!