A multidimensional investigation into the effect of different ethical lenses on decision-making by the CA (SA) professional

Silberman, Tammy
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Purpose: The purpose of this study is to investigate whether various characteristics looked at through different ethical lenses impact and influence ethical attitudes (see Appendix A) and decision-making of South African Chartered Accountants-in-training. Design/methodology/approach: This study uses a quantitative method. This research made use of Reidenbach and Robin's (1990) multidimensional ethics scale to determine whether ethical judgements differ when based on a relativist, moral equity or deontological lens. Findings: The results indicated that different characteristics do have an impact on ethical attitudes and decision-making. The characteristics that have the most influence are: experience and qualifications followed by religion and gender. Gender had a significant influence on ethical attitudes but only played a role in ethical decision-making when the ethical scenarios were ambiguous. Age did not influence ethical attitudes and decision-making. Research limitations/implications: Inherent time and cost constraints meant that the sample selection was motivated by convenience. As a result, there is a risk that the results are not representative of the entire population. The use of a case study is a limitation as case studies set out specific scenarios. The research only focused on three ethical lenses. Other lenses for explaining ethical decision-making were not addressed. Contribution: Given the recent scandals that have plagued the accountancy profession, this research would enable organisations and professional bodies to have a greater understanding of the driving forces influencing ethical attitudes and decision-making.
A research report submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Commerce to the faculty of Commerce, Law and Management, School of Economic and Business Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2020