Actions count, not words

In the words of the Tax Ombudsman, Judge Bernard Makgabo Ngoepe “We will be judged by what we do here and now…and not necessarily by what we ought to have done.”

We have all heard the saying “actions speak louder than words”, and this rings true even in the accounting and auditing profession. We are judged by what we do and not by what we say. Yes, we make promises and create expectations with our words, but in the end the final impressions are created by what we do, and how we do it.

As part of the planning of the audit we must determine if there is any reason why we should not continue with an engagement, and one of the factors to consider is the ethical behavior of management. Has anything come to our attention to question management’s integrity? This question seems so simple and straight-forward, but most of the time it is probably answered without really considering what exactly it means. Management sets the tone for ethical behavior, any behavior in fact, at the top. We all think we act ethical, but do we really? Unfortunately ethical behavior is judged subjectively, and even the smallest gesture that seems so insignificant, might be judged as unethical by some.

For example, do you accept a reconciliation difference, no matter how small, on your petty cash? Do you investigate the reason for the difference? Do you verify the validity of re-imbursive travel claims, or personal use of company petrol cards? What about excessive use of office stationary or cleaning materials? If you don’t do anything about it, how will your employees perceive your behavior?

The best way to try to ensure that all employees know exactly what behavior is expected of them is to have well documented policies and procedures, and to communicate this to the employees through your own actions.

Remember the age-old saying “to lead by example” and make your actions count this year.