If we look at probity as being the evidence of ethical behaviour, then does ethical behaviour automatically make me get it right?
As probity advisors, we know this isnt always. Here is why:
Probity can be seen as a process to ensure the required steps are completed. By following the steps and the process, what you are really doing is an audit of your ethical behaviour and the outcomes you are trying to achieve. The completion of a checklist does not automatically make it the right way to do something. It is not the process of ticking a box and saying we’ve done every step in our framework or process as per the documentation, it is evaluating the what-ifs and being able to confidently move through the process.
Experience would suggest that the act of following a process doesn’t guarantee the outcome we want, and it doesn’t always mean we get it right. With some organisations, the fallback position is often to implement a ridged probity process, whereby the ‘can’t go wrong’ attitude kicks in to ensure a robust approach to delivering an outcome. This is often considered just before the start of a procurement or project and usually takes the form of legal entities providing a probity briefing. More often than not, the mere presence of lawyers at a brief can be intimidating and can often stymie projects or outcomes.
An alternate approach is to consider probity training as opposed to probity briefings.
By knowing what to look for and knowing how to deal with probity head on, a training course will look at what you’re doing, how you are doing it, and how you can achieve the results in a better way. Being proactive will allow the team to gain knowledge on how best to deal with Probity as opposed to seeking probity advice when something happens. When the wrong thing does happen, it can be detrimental to the organisation and to its reputation.
The results of a training approach will ensure that probity becomes part of the procurement process, and a common-sense approach becomes the norm when questions are considered at every stage of the process to protect the organisation from public criticism and scrutiny.
What should you look for in a Probity Advisor?
The common response to this question is a lawyer, however that is not always the best approach.
The best person to provide advice on probity is someone with a solid understanding of the procurement environment, the processes that are involved, and has the battle scars that only experience can provide.This person should also be a trusted person, someone that can be trusted to share confidential information with and someone whom you can have full and frank discussions with without fear that you will be judged. It is important to know that the probity advisor can only advise on the information they have been given, and if information is held back out of fear or confidentiality constraints, then advice given may be incorrect.