Understanding the public and private interest roles of professional accounting bodies’ disciplinary processes: a review of the Australian experience

Mah, S 2018, Understanding the public and private interest roles of professional accounting bodies’ disciplinary processes: a review of the Australian experience, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Accounting, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Understanding the public and private interest roles of professional accounting bodies’ disciplinary processes: a review of the Australian experience
Author(s) Mah, S
Year 2018
Abstract Since the emergence of professional ethical codes, researchers have been preoccupied with understanding their role and function together with the motives and rationale behind their creation and operation. Literature on the sociology of professions describes an ongoing and persistent debate between the functionalist (or public interest) perspective and critical-theorist (or private interest) perspective with respect to the role and function of professional ethical codes. The purpose of this research thesis is to decipher the underlying motivation and latent rationale that underpins the accounting profession¿s ethical codes and its disciplinary process by investigating how and to what extent professional ethical codes are enforced by professional accounting bodies¿ disciplinary processes in protecting the public interest as compared to protecting their private interest.

Data was retrieved from 1,547 disciplinary cases published by Certified Practicing Accountants (CPA) Australia and Chartered Accountants of Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ) over the period from 1988 to 2013 inclusive. The research findings indicate that, in the absence of perceived external threats, the Australian accounting profession operates its disciplinary process according to a predominantly private interest rationale, with emphasis on protecting its private interest at the expense of the public interest. However, in the face of an external threat to the Australian accounting profession¿s legitimacy and authority, disciplinary committee members become psychologically preoccupied and emotionally concerned with protecting both the private interest of the accounting profession and the public interest and respond by imposing greater severity of penalties on both private interest offences and public interest offences.

Additionally, the research findings suggest that, only when the external event is: (a) specific to Australia; (b) specific to the Australian accounting profession; (c) takes the form of government legislation that specifically applies to the Australian accounting profession; and (d) imposes onerous legislative requirements on the Australian accounting profession, does the Australian accounting profession perceive it to be of such a serious threat to its legitimacy and authority as to necessitate a change in the manner in which its ethical codes are enforced. Taken together, the research evidence does not bode well for the public interest. The private interest is so well-entrenched and pervasive within the accounting profession¿s disciplinary process such that even when its legitimacy and authority is threatened, the private interest of the accounting profession still features strongly in the operation of its disciplinary process.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Accounting
Subjects Accounting, Auditing and Accountability not elsewhere classified
Keyword(s) ethical codes
professional accounting bodies
disciplinary processes
professional ethics
public interest
private interest
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Created: Tue, 05 Feb 2019, 14:45:28 EST by Keely Chapman
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