Whistleblowing intentions of accounting students. An application of the theory of planned behaviour

Author:Godfred Matthew Yaw Owusu, Rita Amoah Bekoe, Fred Kwasi Anokye, Festus Odotei Okoe
Position:Department of Accounting, University of Ghana Business School, Accra, Ghana
Pages:477-492
SUMMARY

Purpose This study aims to investigate the intentions of a section of Ghanaian university students towards whistleblowing and the factors that predict such intentions. Design/methodology/approach This study used the survey method of research, and data was gathered through the use of questionnaires. A total of 524 accounting students from the University of Ghana Business School... (see full summary)

 
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Whistleblowing intentions of
accounting students
An application of the theory of
planned behaviour
Godfred Matthew Yaw Owusu,Rita Amoah Bekoe,
Fred Kwasi Anokye and Festus Odotei Okoe
Department of Accounting, University of Ghana Business School, Accra, Ghana
Abstract
Purpose This study aims to investigate the intentions of a section of Ghanaian university students
towardswhistleblowing and the factors that predict such intentions.
Design/methodology/approach This study used the survey method of research, and data was
gathered through the use of questionnaires.A total of 524 accounting students from the University of Ghana
Business Schoolparticipated in the survey. The structural equationmodelling technique was used to analyse
the data.
Findings The ndings of this study show that the sampled students have greater intentions to report
wrongdoings when detected and that majority of the students would prefer to use internal mechanisms for
reporting purposes than using external means. Further, the study found studentsattitude towards
whistleblowing and subjective norm to be key predictors of internal whistleblowing intentions whereas perceived
behavioural control was found to have a positive inuence on the intention to blow the whistle externally.
Research limitations/implications Findings of this study have implications for policymakers who
have a keen interestin enhancing whistleblowing activitiesand whistleblower protection.
Originality/value This study provides someinsights into the whistleblowing intentions of students. An
understanding of the views of students towards whistleblowing and the factors driving their intentions
should be usefulto organisations that may use these students upongraduation.
Keywords Structural equation modelling, Whistleblowing, Fraud, Theory of planned behaviour,
Wrongdoing
Paper type Research paper
Introduction
Following the series of business scandals especially those involving accountants that led to
the collapse of many giant corporations including Enron and WorldCom, concerns over
fraud and organizational wrongdoings have heightened within the last decade (Alleyne
et al.,2017).Major stakeholders in the business community haveemphasized the need to pay
serious attention to the causes of these fraudulent practices within organizations and
develop appropriatemeasures to reduce their occurrences. Lessonslearnt from some of these
corporate failures, notably the Enron and WorldCom cases, clearly demonstrate that the
awareness of the employees and the commitment to report wrongdoings (whistleblowing)
remains one of the most potent tools to curb the menace. In the eld of accounting, in
particular, the importance of whistleblowing in detecting and preventing accounting fraud
and other forms of malpracticesis well acknowledged.
The Association of Certied Fraud Examiners (ACFE) (2012), for instance, consider
whistleblowing as the most common method of stopping internal accounting fraud.
Intentions of
accounting
students
477
Journalof Financial Crime
Vol.27 No. 2, 2020
pp. 477-492
© Emerald Publishing Limited
1359-0790
DOI 10.1108/JFC-01-2019-0007
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
https://www.emerald.com/insight/1359-0790.htm
Compared with other fraud detection mechanisms such as internal controls and auditing,
whistleblowing has been found to be relatively more effective in fraud detection
[Association of Certied Fraud Examiners (ACFE), 2010]. The Association of Certied
Fraud Examiners (ACFE) (2008) report on occupational fraud and abuse indicated that 46.2
per cent of organizational frauds are initially detected by tips provided by employees with
internal audit and internal controls detectingonly 19.4 and 23.3 per cent, respectively. More
recently, an analysis of over 2410cases of occupational fraud in more than 114 countries by
the ACFE revealed that close to 40 per cent of such cases were reported by whistleblowers
(ACFE, 2016). The above statistics clearly underscores the relevance of whistleblowing in
the ght against fraudulentpractices in organizations.
Tips from these whistleblowers, according to Smaili and Arroyo (2017), have proven to
be a more potent means ofuncovering fraud than internal and external audits.This explains
why studies (Alleyne et al.,2017;Alleyne et al., 2013;Miceli et al.,2008;Hwang et al., 2008;
Trevino and Victor, 1992) have highlighted the need to focus on whistleblowing as an
effective mechanism of exposing wrongdoings in organizations. Eaton and Akers (2007)
opine that encouraging the act of whistleblowing should be viewed as one of the ways
organizations exhibit good governance and has the potential to also improve corporate
governance. Indeed, Nayıret al. (2016) surmised that whistleblowing should be deemed as
the voice of conscience in an organization.
In reality, however, although a relatively large number of employees are exposed to
fraud, majority of them usually remain silent for reasons such as fear of retaliation,
harassment, reprisal attacks and the fear of being tagged as traitors or disloyal employees
(Alleyne, 2010;Varelius, 2009;Chiu, 2003;Liyanarachchi and Adler, 2011;Hauserman,
1986). The decision to either blow or not blow the whistle presents a difcult and complex
decision-making process for a potential whistleblower involving a careful analysis, much
deliberations and considerations (Alleyne et al.,2017). Consequently, studies investigating
the factors that drive the whistleblowing intentions of individuals have been on the
ascendency. Nonetheless, most research on whistleblowing have largely been conducted in
advanced economiesfocusing on different professionals such as auditors (Taylor and Curtis,
2010;Kaplan and Whitecotton, 2001), accountants (Liyanarachchi and Adler, 2011),
managers and executives (Nayıret al., 2016;Keenan, 2002), nurses (Jackson et al., 2011) and
police ofcers (Park and Blenkinsopp,2009;Rothwell and Baldwin, 2007).
The current study provides some evidencefrom an emerging economy characterized by
collectivist and family-focusedcultural norms. Unlike most existing studies that focused on
employees from a different professional background, this study takes a proactive approach
by focusing on the whistleblowing intentionsof university students who will be captains of
businesses in the future. An understandingof the disposition of the current crop of students
towards whistleblowing and the factors driving their intentions should be useful to
organizations thatmay employ these students upon graduation.
The remaining sections of the paper are structured as follows; the next section contains
the theoretical, literaturereview and hypotheses development, followed by the methodology
section. The subsequentsections discuss results followed by concluding remarks.
Literature review
The concept of whistleblowing
The term whistleblowing traces its roots from the world of sports where a referee usually
blows a whistle to signify and halt an illegal or unfair play exhibited by a player (Qusqas
and Kleiner, 2001). In the eld of accounting,whistleblowing has been dened as the:
JFC
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