Our government, like many other systems or organisations, must have standards of conduct and internal controls reasonably capable of reducing the likelihood of criminal and other improper conduct.
It is unarguable to stress the need for a good code of ethics in all organisations. The foundation of these controls should be a code of conduct. The code should contain an overall description of the programme and address in a practical manner the compliance risks that are relevant to the organisation.
It should identify clearly those who are responsible for administering the programme, the role of the governing authority, and provide general guidance on the behaviour expected of all employees.
The code should also identify clear channels for reporting misconduct or violations, and make clear that disciplinary action will be taken if an employee violates the code.
These more detailed policies and procedures should address legal and regulatory risks relevant to the organisation’s business.
These can be policies that address areas such as conflicts of interest, political contributions, agent and vendor due diligence, anti-corruption expectations and government funded projects.
Depending on the industry, guidance manuals which attempt to explain the types of areas that should be addressed can be developed.
Besides, leaders should keep in constant touch with subordinates about ethical policies and expectations.
They are responsible for minimising opportunities for wrongdoing and for exerting the controls needed to enforce company policies. They should also think of themselves as role models. Subordinates look to their leaders to communicate policies and practices, and as a rule, actions speak more loudly than words: If managers behave ethically, subordinates will probably do the same.
Though, in response to the recent barrage of corporate indignity, many government departments have taken additional steps to encourage employees to behave according to specific standards and to report wrongdoing, more efforts need to be done.
A high-performing compliance and ethics programme can be set to enhance the ethical conduct of the employees. This can best be organised as an integrated capability assigned to operational departments while managed and overseen by individuals with overall responsibility and accountability.
This individual, popularly called chief ethics and compliance officer (CECO), designs, maintains, and manages the ethics and compliance programme. Besides, she/he provides functional guidance to the network of business-based ethics and compliance among the managers. The CECO will establish the base parameters of a particular departmental or ministerial ethics awareness and legal compliance training programme designed to assure that all employees understand the government values and standards of conduct.
Though, the compliance programme can be challenging, it is also an opportunity to establish and promote operational excellence throughout the entire system.
In addition, corporate compliance committees (“CCC”) must be set. These will be responsible for periodic assessment and prioritisation of legal risk areas, sharing best practices and monitoring processes, and developing enterprise-wide tools.
The significance of ethics in business operations will rebuild reputation of the government service, and will be a hook for investors and other development partners. This will also restore confidence and trust among potential and already established government employees. They will all be willing to work for the betterment of the service delivery in the public sector.
Proper ethics enforcement will definitely promote appropriate use of public resources. n