Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Basics of Business - Ethics part 1

It was widely reported in Yorkshire that a senior manager at Leeds City Council was also the owner of an events management organisation that had won contracts from Leeds City Council.
The manager involved had declared their interest, and took no part in awarding the contracts to her business. However it still ended up as front page news and a leading item on the regional television news- see here.

This highlights an important element of business ethics - it is not enough to be clear of influence, you have to be seen to be clear of any possible influence. Of course in other countries, Italy comes to mind as their Prime Minister goes to trial today, things are different. However it is a good rule for all people involved in business, particularly those in procurement roles, to consider how their decisions would look if published on the front page of a newspaper.

Perfectly legitimate and legal activities can be viewed as potentially corrupt, and that corrodes confidence in both the individual and the public sector as a whole.

It may well be the case in this situation that no influence was brought to bear on the decision making process - which may well have been a tender. One of the major reasons for running a tender process is because they are seen as more ethically "clean" than negotiated routes, and are harder for people to influence. The price we pay for that is that they are not always the route to best value.

In the middle east I have met course delegates who run businesses that supply their employer. In many cases they are able to demonstrate that this is beneficial for both sides, and that they are able to demonstrate both improved quality and lower prices.
However the question will always linger - who are you really working for?

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