Many people are know that I am an accounting professional. And there was a time not so long ago that I was proud to possess a certified professional accountant designation. But when your governing body doesn’t act on behalf of the remaining well respected members there is an issue. Allow me to explain.
I live in Quebec and, as many Quebeckers (and Canadians) know, our province is now the poster child for entrenched corruption. And when I say entrenched I am saying not simply organized crime but organized crime that is fully “in bed”with just about every level of government, civil service, and a variety of profit and nonprofit organizations.
Like anyone who has grown up or lived here for many years, we recognize that this unfortunate situation is something that has been silently accepted only because the public was (and possibly still is) powerless to changing any of it. You have to either laugh at it or simply shrug it off knowing that if you spend any time in the Olympic Stadium, drive under any of our chicken-wired overpasses, or even drive on any of the precarious bridges you literally (yes. I am using it correctly) that you are taking your life in your hands.
Ok, so I went on a tangent but it was a relevant one. This is not supposed to be a rant about something that we all know about or live with consistently. Supposedly, they (the powers we elect) are “taking action” or at least providing the illusion that things are being addressed. But are they really?
While corruption investigators are attempting to prosecute those that took advantage of the “free-for-all” trotting around one big name after another including mobsters, Presidents of major corporations, and recently (a few days ago) the former President of Quebec’s largest construction union (FTQ), it remains somewhat empty.
Stop yelling, “Ajay, they’re actually doing something about the corruption! You should be thrilled!” at me. Here’s where it falls apart. The situation and position of CPA Quebec has preoccupied me for some time but motivated me to publicly question it.
Jocelyn Dupuis, the former FTQ union boss (by the way, FTQ is the Fond de Travailleurs Quebec) was found guilty and convicted of fraud among other things. While he does deserve this conviction this rant is more about all of the accountants who were responsible for authorizing Mr. Dupuis’ claims.
Even the presiding judge and crown attorney admitted that the accounting was “sloppy”. Mr. Dupuis’ defense went as far as claiming that he believed that the receipts submitted (on napkins) to the accounting department were acceptable since the FTQ controllers approved them without justification. And herein lies the issue.
What the public fails to realize is that accountants are legal professionals. Like all professionals (lawyers, doctors, and engineers), accountants are held to a public trust and accountability. All accountants, around the world are bound by legal and legislative rules passed by governments and accounting bodies. And if that wasn’t sufficient, all CPAs are strictly held to a professional code of conduct and ethics. This code incorporates what is often accountants refer to as the “sniff” test. If an accountant even slightly suspects (the sniff) an irregular or fraudulent accounting issue or treatment they are bound, possibly legally, to report it.
So, while it is good news to see some criminal paying the price through conviction, I am more concerned with fact that not one Quebec accountant has been held accountable to their role in all of these fiasco’s. when it comes to dealing with financial concerns it is the accountants that are the first and last line of defense for inappropriate behavior and conduct.
It is interesting that the Quebec order of Engineers made a public statement on the issue of infrastructure and contractor corruption but the Certified Professional Accountants of Quebec have been noticeably silent on the conduct of their members.
If accounting professionals have a public trust, where is it? And why, or rather, when will the CPA take action? Make the respected members proud to be part of a respected profession.
It’s time for the accounting profession to act and make members accountable since the word itself encompasses the word, “Accounting”.