It’s worse than you may think

A de­cline in ethics would ul­ti­mately have a rip­ple ef­fect into the econ­omy with the poor the most likely col­lat­eral dam­age

Financial Mail - - ETHICS - Ann Crotty crottya@bdfm.co.za

Opin­ion sur­veys are tricky things. They may re­veal more about the peo­ple be­ing sur­veyed than the is­sues be­ing in­ter­ro­gated. Per­haps the rea­son SA does so badly in sur­veys is be­cause

South Africans are so tough on them­selves.

Hold that com­fort­ing thought as you pe­ruse the re­sults of yet another sur­vey re­veal­ing the con­tin­ued slide in the stan­dards of gov­er­nance and ethics within SA or­gan­i­sa­tions.

The lat­est sur­vey comes cour­tesy of the In­sti­tute of In­ter­nal Au­di­tors (IIA). Its cor­po­rate gov­er­nance in­dex 2017, which sur­veyed chief au­dit ex­ec­u­tives (CAES) in the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors, points to a con­tin­ued de­cline in ethics.

In 2017 only 53% of the 281 CAES who re­sponded strongly agreed that ethics is an im­por­tant part of their or­gan­i­sa­tion’s cul­ture. This is down from 66% in the in­au­gu­ral in­dex in 2013.

“This down­ward trend does not bode well for SA as a de­cline in ethics would ul­ti­mately have a rip­ple ef­fect into the econ­omy with the poor the most likely col­lat­eral dam­age,” says Claudelle von Eck, CEO of the IIA.

The IIA re­sults are in line with the find­ings of the in­au­gu­ral An­ti­in­tim­i­da­tion & Eth­i­cal Prac­tices Fo­rum (AEPF) sur­vey re­leased in Septem­ber. That sur­vey found only 9% of pro­fes­sion­als work­ing in the pub­lic sec­tor be­lieve their lead­ers are eth­i­cal, though a sub­stan­tial 66% of pri­vate sec­tor pro­fes­sion­als be­lieve theirs are.

CAES in the pub­lic sec­tor were far less op­ti­mistic than their coun­ter­parts in the pri­vate sec­tor.

There were some puz­zling shafts of light in the grim pic­ture with 60% of CAES in metro mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, up from 33% in 2016, agree­ing that ethics is an im­por­tant part of their or­gan­i­sa­tion’s cul­ture and 57% of CAES in non­profit com­pa­nies agree­ing, up from 33%.

Though Von Eck ac­knowl­edges that re­sponses could be in­flu­enced by the wall-to-wall me­dia cov­er­age of cor­rup­tion, she says a lot of that in­flu­ence is fil­tered out by the way ques­tions are asked.

But she fears that re­spon­dents may have a too nar­row in­ter­pre­ta­tion of ethics with a fo­cus on just fraud and cor­rup­tion.

“A nar­row view of ethics ex­cludes prac­tices that in­crease in­equal­ity, per­pet­u­ate re­pres­sion of women and peo­ple of colour and harms the en­vi­ron­ment, for ex­am­ple,” said Von Eck.

It’s likely a more ap­pro­pri­ate view would have gen­er­ated an even grim­mer re­sponse. “Ex­ec­u­tives think they’re eth­i­cal as long as they don’t com­mit fraud and cor­rup­tion; the is­sue is much broader than that.”

Un­sur­pris­ingly, gov­ern­men­tre­lated or­gan­i­sa­tions in­clud­ing state en­ter­prises recorded the stark­est de­clines in rank­ing. On the ques­tion of whether the or­gan­i­sa­tion has suit­able hu­man re­source cap­i­tal to ex­e­cute its strat­egy ef­fec­tively and op­ti­mally, only 8% of CAES in the na­tional gov­ern­ment said they strongly agreed.

Of course the re­ally trou­bling thought is that South Africans may not be tough enough on them­selves.

123RF/LE Moal Olivier

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.