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April 10, 2019

IESBA addresses technological ethical questions in five-year plan

By Joe Pickard

The International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA) has launched its five-year plan, outlining the board’s strategy and priorities for ethics standards to be adopted globally and its approach to ethical questions which arise from emerging technologies.

In the plan’s foreword, IESBA chairman Stavros Thomadakis said: “We believe that principles-based ethics standards must be sustainable long-term constructs. We also recognise that new requirements or application material should be brought out quickly to market to respond to changing technological circumstances and public expectations.”

The plan acknowledges the growing significance of developments in technology, highlighting some of the ethical questions that emerge from these developments such as the ethical implications of relying on technologies such as AI, data analytics and RPA to shape professional judgements.

While noting that it is important to respond rapidly to these developments, IESBA expressed caution in regards to developing ineffective responses without an informed strategy.

To mitigate this issue, IESBA established a working group to gather an understanding of the transformative effects of these technological trends and developments on the assurance, accounting and finance functions, and explore their ethical implications.

The five-year plan has built on the revised International Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants which comes into effect in June.

Thomadakis said: “This new Strategy and Work Plan embodies our clear determination to pursue global public interest objectives and outcomes, underpinned by our firm belief in the centrality of Ethics and in a unified Code for all professional accountants.

“The priorities and actions in the SWP have been calibrated to safeguard the relevance of the Code in an era of changing technologies, business methods and public expectations, and to reinforce its role as a linchpin of public trust in the profession.”

The development of the plan was informed by stakeholder input over the last two years, including a survey of stakeholders and a public consultation paper.

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