As a project or procurement manager working with funds that are tax or ratepayer derived, you have specific accountability that are bounded by procurement rules. This accountability is legislated to provide the necessary framework that governs how public money can be used ethically and responsibly.
Procurement Legislation sets the standards for ethical and responsible spending of public money.
In recent years, probity, or a lack of probity, has been the topic of discussion with many people getting themselves into some strife. From local Council to State Ministers and Federal Senators, there seems to be a certain cloudiness when it comes to transparency.
When a Senator resigned recently, it was due to the failure to uphold the standard by NOT DECLARING a personal interest. Whilst no law was broken, the reputation and credibility of the Australian Government however was tarnished. Her non-disclosure led all decisions pertaining to the distribution of taxpayer monies by the Senator to be called into question. Trust evaporated almost immediately when she is viewed as deceitful, calculating, and dishonest for withholding information that would potentially compromise the outcome of the government’s good work. As such, she was left with little else but to resign once the media got a hold of it. A similar incident occurred back in 2016 when a former minister was forced to step down for private travel and misusing political power.
There have been other notable cases of Mayors purchasing art at charity auctions, and questionable travel practices which have raised the eyebrows of the people funding it all – the taxpayer by way of the media.
Working outside of the rules is a very real risk, however project managers are adept at managing risk.
Ensure you know and understand the legislation and rules governing procurement from BOTH sides of the business relationship as a government official or supplier/contractor. If you work within an organisation that spends public money and are responsible for making decisions about purchases goods and services, then ensure you declare any personal interest that may be a perceived as personal gain – DECLARE IT before decisions are made. It is better to be proactive and perhaps be removed from the decision-making process than being questioned about it later….in court or worse, in the public arena!
Know what to look for, it might be as simple as having a coffee with someone you know. If that person can be a potential supplier, record the meeting and detail the discussion to protect yourself from any future conflicts. Ensure everyone is aware of and adheres to your department’s policies on managing gifts, benefits or hospitality. Understand the rules that apply to purchasing – know the fundamentals of government procurement or take it further and seek professional training to better understand procurement and contracting in a government context.
Transparency is linked to integrity, and integrity to trust. Having standards in place and ensuring those standards are upheld is the key to ethical and responsible actions.