Home > Leadership, The Monday Musings Column > Can we ever expect those that we elect to act ethically?

Can we ever expect those that we elect to act ethically?

It’s a few years ago now that I made an important decision about the way that I would live my life: I decided that I would try hard not to get angry. It is a wasteful emotion and it drains you, and so, taking the view that you have a choice as to whether or not to get angry, I decided that I would choose not to.

Largely this policy has worked for me, but my resolve does get tested from time to time and this last week has seen one of those trials of my resolve. I had started the week off by emailing in my next column for FM World where I have written about business ethics. I won’t pre-empt that here, but by the end of the week we had seen the seemingly scandalous issue of the Welfare to Work case erupt all over our news media. This has echoes of the National Bullying Helpline case that rattled around the UK from its base here in Swindon a year or so back where, again, a conflict of interest was apparently overlooked.

There are two aspects of these sort of cases that threaten to raise my bile levels; the first is that both of these issues are built on milking the hopes of the vulnerable and I find that utterly despicable; those who perpetrate such scandals are beneath even contempt, but it is a fact of life that these low life individuals get to live the high life at the expense of the rest of us.

The second issue is how on earth are they allowed to get the opportunity and then to exploit it? Surely someone should have seen these things and closed them down, but they patently didn’t and allowed it to carry on until the media blew the lid off for them. (Which is why, although I am appalled at how standards in the media have slipped I am still firmly in favour of the right to freedom of speech).

I am a businessman with a lot of experience in supply chains, so I look at these contracts with that experience shaping the way I see things. I work with the Public Procurement Regulations, from both sides, on a regular basis and, in my view, they are nothing but a Supplier’s Charter. In both of the cases that I have referred to above the regulations should have been applied to the letting of those contracts. The regulations are supposed to help deliver value for the public purse, but consistently fail to do so, and although they may not have been the only poor element of these two contracts, they will have played a part in the nonsense that has emerged.

But how on earth were these contracts allowed to go so far before being exposed? That has to be a leadership issue, because a good leader, even just a competent leader, would have seen things going wrong. I can’t believe that no-one saw the problems, so there has to be a chain of command issue whereby the bad news was being suppressed and, in that case, it is doubtful that we, Hoi Polloi, will ever get to know the truth, for just as there was a conflict of interest at the heart of the contracts, there will be a conflict of interest in allowing the truth to come out: Someone will have to take responsibility.

My anger is just about under control here, but can you see any of those happily pointing fingers at business bonuses taking responsibility for the Welfare to Work scandal? I can’t.

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