Two junior associates at a large pharmaceutical company are dumbfounded with disbelief, when their CFO, acclaimed as ‘the smartest financial wizard’, asks them to fudge the company’s accounts.
They baulk at the idea, but give in to his request, when they learn the CFO is under pressure to “hit the numbers”. He has had a “directive” from the CEO.
In the end, the entire company is trapped in this web of deceit — it gets raided.
With three back-to-back plays, a theatrical presentation on the topic of business ethics threw up situations where “employees” find themselves on the horns of a dilemma.
The plays were laced with humour, but managed to highlight the nature of financial frauds that are increasing in the digital world.
The multi-city theatrical performance is being organised by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), a global body for professional accountants, and staged by Yuki Ellias and group, for members and affiliates of ACCA.
At the Bengaluru event, the evening was made engaging with moderator Gaurav Kapur asking the audience to put themselves in the shoes of the characters on stage. A few members shared anecdotes from their lives.
After the first play — ‘Shall we cook the books?’ — a senior member said professional intimidation was common in the field, but they had to be faithful to their mandate, which is being the gatekeepers of the organisation.
Finance is a function that brings discipline to the organisation, remarked a member. Another member spoke about the need to nip the problem in the bud. “Start signalling out” and “Raise it at the right forum” were among the suggestions. The Whistlerblower Protection Act was discussed briefly.
Another play dealt with how vulnerable people have become in the digital world. A travel company fails to upgrade its digital systems as the CFO does not see a ROI, causing hackers to access the personal and professional information of its clients.
The play informed people on how an organisation was breaching the trust of its stakeholders by not investing in new technologies. Should finance professionals be up to date with technology? was one of the questions raised by this play. ‘Social environment and value creation’ was the theme of the third play.
The plays were aimed at exploring the vital role finance professionals play and the need to ensure young professionals see ethics as an integral part of business.
Md. Sajid Khan, head of international development, ACCA, said it’s often debated if ethics can be taught?
To ensure ethics is put into effective practice, learning must be engaging and interesting.
“For professional accountants, it comes with specific expectations,” said Khan, adding that leaders played a crucial role.
In 2007, ACCA introduced Ethics and Professional Skills module to impart those skills to students that are much in demand.
Raymond Jack, executive director, finance and operations , ACCA, spoke about the challenge in maintaining trust in a world where work is increasingly being delegated to machines.
The plays have already toured Mumbai and Delhi, and will be next staged in Kochi (December 14) and Chennai (December 15).