Directional gateway to help new GovLoop members decide what procurement, acquisition & contract related groups to join. The group interacts with the related groups to facilitate sharing of innovative ideas, best practices, etc.
Ethical public procurement starts at the top!
August 19, 2010 at 7:36 pm #108677
Ethical public procurement requires more than the simple act of adopting a Code of Ethics. And there is no lack of available codes. Every major procurement association publishes one.
If the adoption of a code were the only requirement for ethical public procurement, then we would have 'arrived' decades ago. There would be no scandals nor indictments.
It's like publishing a rule such as 'thou shalt not steal'. It takes more than just knowing the rule, the organization must provide a climate which educates its members and facilitates compliance, and rewards behavior.
And if all it required was the agreement of the procurement director, then we would have 'arrived' by
Procurement directors and their staff are not the problem. The problem is senior management and their bosses. Now there are tools (strategies and tactics) that once implemented promote and reward ethical public procurement.
I'd like to discuss how an organization builds ethical public procurement into its culture.
FYI...I'm a consultant specializing in public procurement and I have a lot of on-th-ground experience related to this topic.
I invite your comments.
August 19, 2010 at 8:47 pm #108687
Transparency and accountability enabled by software that provide reporting are key to avoid learning about ethical violations prior to an audit, when it's too late.
August 19, 2010 at 10:03 pm #108685
Hi.... software only gets you so far..there are lots of procurement practices which will not be detected by software for example: the RFP incorporates unduly restrictive specifications; the evaluation committee is influenced by sr. mgmt; the weights for different evaluation factors unfairly favor one vendor; one vendor contributed to the development of the RFP and was not disqualified; one of the evaluators had a conflict of interest;
Each of these issues would not necessarily be determined by software and transparency but would be obvious to a procurement person aware of the ethics/practices related to fair, open and transparent procurement.
August 23, 2010 at 3:01 pm #108683
Perhaps one problem is that we focus on ethics, which, by definition, is the philosophical study of morality (good vs. evil; right vs. wrong) and is codified. Many people understand this, at least intuitively, and will act in a way that meets the "code of ethics" but would never withstand a basic morality "test". Let's face it: many adults will act in ways that their children would know are wrong, and they do it because they're acting to the letter of the ethical code and not to the spirit of it.
The problem, of course, is that morality is not black and white. Life rarely hands us dichotomies. And when one is balancing public interest and fair treatment of suppliers, the "right" path may not always be clear.
August 24, 2010 at 4:58 pm #108681
Michael, yes software is a tool for an ideally ethical human decision maker but, good decisions are enabled by good information available to everyone in the process; a practice made much easier by software that allows for the exposure of the challenges you mentioned and enforces fair and open procurement with the record of the process available to everyone. web-based procurement tools are coming of age right now to enable procurement officers to enforce ethics like never before--as well as reducing the effort required to live up to ethical practices.
August 24, 2010 at 5:36 pm #108679
I've been dealing with professional procurement people for more than 20 years. In that time, rarely was there a situation that was ambiguous in terms of the ethics related to 'fair, open and transparent' procurement. Seems to me, at least based on my experience, that the ethical dilemmas and ambiguities arise primarily with senior officials and the elected people. And often the ambiguity is by choice. For most of the situations that I've come across the transgressors' children would have the 'right' answer. I believe that self interest and greed, not our inability to identify the 'right choice', often clouds our judgment related to ethical public procurement.
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