Towards the development of an integrated ethical decision-making framework for Sri Lankan accountants: A developing country context
Liyanapathirana, N. S. (2018). Towards the development of an integrated ethical decision-making framework for Sri Lankan accountants: A developing country context (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/11918
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/11918
The rash of corporate collapses, fraud, and corrupt activities seen all around the world in recent years has not only provoked criticism of accountants, but also prompted researchers world-wide to increasingly turn their attention to the ethical decision-making process. Sri Lanka, the focus of this thesis, has a unique culture; on the one hand, it flourishes within Buddhism, while, on the other, it is one of the world’s most corrupt nations. Given that setting, the overarching research objective guiding this study is to develop an integrated ethical decision-making framework for the accounting profession in Sri Lanka, a developing country. Drawing from Rest’s (1986) four-component model, the study attempts to understand the ethical decision-making process of Sri Lankan accountants. A number of other extant models/frameworks and ethical philosophies were used as theoretical lenses in conjunction with Rest’s model to interpret the findings. The study took a mixed methods approach to create a research framework. Written and video vignettes developed specifically for the study, data collected through 40 semistructured interviews, and a questionnaire survey completed by 315 accountants formed the foundation of this framework. In the process of developing an integrated ethical decision-making framework for Sri Lankan accountants, the study achieved three subobjectives and addressed seven research questions. The study’s first research subobjective is achieved by exploring the nature of ethics and the ethical decision-making of Sri Lankan accountants. While the accountants who participated in this study have different opinions about ethics and ethical decision-making, the majority agree on three key points: ethics is a complex topic; it plays a crucial role in their decision-making; and, the accountant’s role is challenging, given the corrupt environment in Sri Lanka. The aim of the second research subobjective is to examine the association between ethical philosophies and the decisions of Sri Lankan accountants. The rationales accountants offered for the decisions they made were interpreted using a number of ethical philosophies which were included in the study’s framework of analysis. The finding that Sri Lankan accountants’ decision-making centres primarily, not only on various rules, rights, justice, and deontological principles, but also on religious ethics, represents a unique finding. The third research subobjective is accomplished by contributing to the literature on the impact individual, organisational, professional, and moral intensity factors exert on the ethical decision-making of Sri Lankan accountants. As have prior studies, this study also finds that the role of these factors is mixed and inconclusive in the context of Sri Lanka, a developing country. This thesis’ overarching research objective of developing an integrated ethical decision-making framework for the Sri Lankan accounting profession is achieved in three ways: through the framework of analysis; the ethical decision-making checklist; and, the recommendations that accompany the framework of analysis. This study makes both methodological and theoretical contributions. At a methodological level, the study developed customised vignettes in written and video form to stimulate the participants’ responses to the issue of ethical decision-making. In addition, the incorporation of video vignettes into the interview process marks one of the study’s distinctive and innovative contributions to methodological knowledge. At the theoretical level, the findings contribute to the literature by offering an integrated ethical decision-making framework for Sri Lankan accountants. In making that contribution, this thesis argues that ethical decision-making constitutes a “wicked problem” in Sri Lanka, a context in which corruption is pervasive.
The University of Waikato
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