Thursday, 21 February 2013

The spectrum of personal accountability

Given the allegations regarding the sale of helicopters to India, corruption is quite topical at the minute. Corruption distorts the procurement process, paradoxically switches power away from the buyer and leads to additional cost. I am sure we agree it is a very bad thing. However, what if the cost of being guilty of corruption led to the ultimate cost, the cost of the perpetrators life? Would that bring corruption to an end? No, this isn't some grotesque and sick joke, it is real life; or perhaps, real death.

Hanging is the price which has just been meted out to four people in Iran found guilty of corruption - it appears an unprecedented judgement. The corruption relates to "disrupting the economic system" through forging letters of credit from a partially state-owned bank which in turn enabled the funding of 40 companies. There were 39 defendants of which 25 have been convicted. Four are staring at the hangman's noose. Two deputy ministers, two director generals, and several government officials escape the noose but face 10 years in prison. There are suggestions of a political objective being behind the sentencing.  

I think most of us would be absolutely horrified, yet personal accountability is what this is about. We want personal accountability to mean something when bankers disrupt the West's economic system. We want personal accountability when the NHS fails individuals. We seem to get a bit lost though when it comes to food supply chain accountability.

If the death sentence is abhorrent (I assume you share my view that it is) and it is at one end of the spectrum, and walking away with a bonus (reward) is at the other end of the spectrum; what is an acceptable level of personal accountability? Personally, I don't have an answer but I do think we need to start thinking about what 'appropriate' looks like in terms of procurement personal accountability.

Now, what if you were asked, during a job interview: "What level of personal accountability are you prepared to accept?" How would you answer? 

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