By Okechukwu Onwuka
This piece which started last week continues. We started with the more obvious conflict of interest scenarios which involve acts of stealing from company or country.
These typically play-out through invoice inflation, creation of dubious projects, work scope manipulation and sometimes outright stealing of funds through ‘clever’ accounting processes. Because of the difficulty of getting adults to change ingrained habits, the challenge becomes really daunting regarding how to achieve ethical compliance in the workplace and at various political leadership levels in the country.
As previously discussed, reward systems are not as effective as punitive and disciplinary controls. But how can the nation’s leaders be disciplined? How can company top hierarchy be made to practise ethical corporate governance? Because it is not a risk that exists at senior levels alone, how does the nation achieve widespread control on sharp practices from Mechanics, Plumbers, Carpenters, Tailors (sorry, fashion designers), School teachers, Engineers, Architects, Accountants, Doctors, sports administrators, technicians and all classes of workers and professionals? The associated losses are too high to be ignored.
Many who criticize the Government and corrupt leaders are also corrupt. No one can boast of being truly honest or ethical unless he or she has been presented with an opportunity to steal large sums (with low chance of being caught) but chose not to steal based on engrained principles. What bothers me has little to do with the fact that conflicts of interest practices go on almost everywhere in the country.
My worry is that we have gotten to the point where it has become accepted as a way of life. That is the point where our conscience no longer tells us that we should truly be ashamed of certain acts. Instead, we tend to justify ourselves through phrases or sayings such as “the end justifies the means”, “Na where person dey work e dey chop” “ Na who slow na im loss” “ The patient dog will starve”.
“Na turn by turn”, “the ogas are stealing so why should I be different? If I don’t steal it, someone else will”. One begins to wonder who the guardians of societal behavioural ethics are! Anytime I write a piece that somehow points out the fault in Government officials or one leadership body or another, I get high SMS traffic, encouraging me to write more or channel the piece to those bodies or institutions who should listen. But when the discussion zeroes in on our collective culpability in the mess, the number of SMS reduces; a clear manifestation that we’ll rather see the fault in others than on ourselves.
On the surface, the conflict of interest risk in the area of stealing stands out as what many will identify as true conflict of interest. The reality is that the spectrum of very harmful conflict of interest goes way beyond direct stealing of funds. A few of the many applicable cases are outlined below;
· Workers who use unauthorized company time to run private companies or studies and in the process also use company phones, printers, paper, electricity and internet are stealing from the company. Unauthorized use of official time, vehicles or others even for religious activities.
· Workers who divert company business to privately registered companies are no better than Government executives who award juicy contracts to their surrogate companies. They are no better than workers who inflate project costs or falsify invoices. Many Engineers, Architects, Lawyers, Accountants, Estate Surveyors, Medical Doctors are guilty.
· Workers who are consistently late comers at work are also guilty.
· Lazy workers who refuse to give their best at work but use political manoeuvrings to trick their way to promotion.
· Football coaches who select players based on highest bidder and ‘sorting’
· HR Managers who falsify recruitment strategies to hire on tribal basis or nepotism
· Politicians who engage in cult activities where human blood and sacrifice are used for power and election success rituals. How can one expect a leader who drinks the blood of the masses to turn around and render selfless service to give better life for the masses? How will such leaders respond to the agitation of the masses when they claim their votes put them in power?
· Judges and magistrates who deliver false judgements based on subjective interests.
· Journalists who publish un-researched stories to promote causes based on ‘settlements’.
If we run down the comprehensive list, we’ll find that at one point or another, we have erred. Of course to varying degrees but we cannot continue this way. The Pastors, General Overseers, Imams, have this great responsibility. Leadership from home and religious organizations must stand to be counted.
Even if only one family, church or mosque has their values intact, there is hope. And I know there a many out there with sound values. Religious leaders should announce boldly every Sunday or meeting events that offering and tithes from stolen wealth will not be received or accepted.
Prominent yet corrupt leaders should not be given warm receptions and special seats in the religious gatherings.
Religious leaders should encourage sharing of testimonies for breakthroughs in solving national problems instead of issues like new cars we cannot build. Leadership at all levels should reward community development acts. Religious leaders should continually educate the members that the love and worship of God does not call for Laziness, dereliction of duty or cheating employers or employees. Truly God fearing people are hardworking, respectful, visionary and community developers. Miracles are not meant to replace regular good, honest work for honest pay.
Miracles are there to lift us over obstacles when we have reached the limit of efforts, perseverance and commitment with our God given talents and skills. At least, no religion I know approves of corruption, stealing, laziness or cheating of any kind. That is enough motivation. When national leaders know they will be ostracised back home for corruption, a measure of control can be realized.