Prem Sikka and the media: using the media to hold accountants to account

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to understand why a professor of accounting uses the media to expose the failure/shortcomings of the accounting profession. Using Prem Sikka's writings, the paper argues that accounting communications have become distorted thereby failing to live up to their potential to contribute to the enhancement of social well-being. The intention is to go beyond the media exposes and appreciate the underlying pursuit of fairness and justice in society. Design/methodology/approach – The approach taken was journalistic in that it sought lots of direct quotations. Such quotations, both from the professor and the responses of his audience, are available through web sites. A telephone interview was conducted with the professor. The paper attempts to place his work in a social context by providing some personal background information. Findings – Prem Sikka's media “blogs” bring forth strong reactions. He tends to polarise people. The purpose of his media releases is to generate opposing reactions in the pursuit of an open and democratic process. By focusing on the darker side of accounting practices, Prem Sikka highlights the political aspects of accounting as accounting language that may be considered as a language of fiction. He writes from the perspective of those who least benefit from current practices and against the powerful elites who benefit from current societal arrangements. His media articles have significant potential in facilitating change for best practices in accounting services to society in a manner that truly reflects the “public interest” that accountants as a professional group ascribe to. Whether this is realised depends on how counter accounts and critiques disseminated connect with common sense of people. Originality/value – The originality is a derivative of Prem Sikka's work. The paper simply tries to understand and explain how Prem Sikka uses the media to hold accountants to account. It illustrates his unique ability to identify and confront the important issues surrounding accounting practice. It adds support to his challenge to accountants to engage with issues of fairness and justice in society. Analysis bringing out accounting's ambiguous and conflict-enhancing functioning for the socio-political order has been especially scarce. Such writings of Sikka challenges the status quo of accountants where their charters indicate that they are a professional group that have “public interest” as their key priority but which have been illustrated otherwise by Sikka's media accounts as “dark and secretive practices” that benefit only the privileged few.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Lawrence, S.R., Low, M. & Sharma, U. (2010). Prem Sikka and the media: using the media to hold accountants to account. Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, 7(3), 249-269.
Emerald Group
Publisher version