Accounting professor Prem Sikka received the Abraham Briloff award from The Accountant and International Accounting Bulletin at a conference and awards dinner in London on 4 October – The Digital Accountancy Forum & Awards 2017.
The award is named after Abraham Briloff (19 July 1917 –12 December 2013) who would have been 100 this year.
Abe was a professionally qualified USA accountant and accountancy professor who gained fame through his prolific writing and fierce criticism of malpractice within the profession (left).
He called upon the profession to act ethically and argued that in return for enormous social privileges and status, it must have a genuine commitment to society and be able to “see beyond the numbers” as he told The Accountant in an interview in 2013 a few months before his death.
Sikka is emeritus professor of accounting at the University of Essex, which he joined in 1996. Before that he worked at the University of East London between. He qualified with ACCA in 1977 and held various accounting positions in industry and commerce before committing to a career to academia.
Many of his articles may be read here. To get the real flavour of his outspoken assessment of the Big 4 accounting firms, listen to The Pin-Stripe Mafia: How Accountancy Firms Destroy Societies.
- In 2003, Sikka helped the launch of the Tax Justice Network and is now one of its senior advisers (unpaid).
- He has advised and given evidence to the EU and UK parliamentary committees.
- Most recently, he was an adviser to the UK House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee for its investigation into BHS and related pension matters.
- His research on accountancy, auditing, corporate governance, money laundering, insolvency and business affairs has been published in books, international journals, newspapers and magazines.
Sikka was given the award for his extraordinary contribution in promoting transparency and public accountability of businesses
This award recognises the work of an individual who has sought to improve transparency and accountability by asking the hard questions and questioning the dominant apparatus of truth, recognising that accountancy goes beyond debit and credit to subsume a broad canvas of disciplines involving the liberal arts and sciences. This recognises that accounting is a moral and political practice rather than a technical one.
The Accountant and International Accounting Bulletin editor Vincent Huck said: “No one other than Prem Sikka fits the bill better to receive an award named after Abraham Briloff. Not only do they share a common set of ideas, but they have the same insatiable drive and passion in promoting them. The accountancy profession and professionals often boast of occupying a moral high ground and claim that they act in the ‘public interest’, but such claims are now increasingly met with public scepticism. Rather than addressing the criticism, professionals have often been too quick to dismiss it, even when it comes from their own ranks. The profession needs to nurture its critics as, ultimately, a profession is only as good as its critics.”
The UK Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonnell presented the award to professor Prem Sikka. He said: “It’s an honour to be asked to present this for someone who I think will be long known for the work that he’s done and laying the foundation of a fair, just, open and transparent tax system.” He praised Sikka for his role in setting up the Tax Justice Network in 2003 at a time when people where not necessarily interested in tax avoidance and evasion and for his contribution as an advisor to the House of Commons select committees, various individual MPs, the Labour party as well as other parties.
“Many of the policies that we are advocating at the moment are based on the work that Prem has done over the years,” McDonnell said, including:
- The importance of opening up the books,
- the importance of having a register of beneficial interest and
- the importance of having an effective HMRC.
The Shadow Chancellor added that Sikka and his team have just undertaken a review of the HMRC and the resources that they need to ensure that there is an effective tax operation within this country, ending:
“And much of the legislation that you will see us promoting in parliament, often on all sides of the house, will be done as a result of the work that he’s done and the advice that he’s given us as to how we can establish fairness and transparency within the tax system.”