Probity Matters: Because No One Wants to be Front Page News for the Wrong Reason

Probity Matters

You have an incredible idea, the concept has been approved by all channels, you put out the tender or negotiated the best deal, you’re following the correct procurement purchasing procedures and everything works out just as you intended with high moral standards and reputation intact.

We know it’s good business, but just why does probity matter?

The term probity comes from the Latin word probitas or probus, meaning ‘good’ and refers to the quality of having strong moral principles; honesty and decency, especially when dealing with financial matters. But apart from it simply being right, moral or good, why does probity matter?

In 2002 a Local Government Council in South West Sydney made the grand decision to build a $900 million precinct with a 35,000 seat sports stadium, a 24 hour club and 2,500 accompanying apartments, the project was fittingly called Oasis. What sounded like an ambitious dream ended with a $22.5 million (or half of the Council’s annual rates) concrete slab. The problem was, Council didn’t have the appropriate construction papers to build the project, there was talk of corruption and conflict of interest, with the developer (who happened to also sponsor the home team the stadium was being built for) receiving preference for the job and the bank threatening to sue all parties involved. As a result, after the investigation was complete, council was sacked and had to ride out the next four years under administration. Unfortunately for Council, perception was everything so even after explaining the situation (paperwork was in process and developer was chosen on merit), the community wasn’t buying it simply because the correct procedures were not maintained.

Maintaining transparency in all dealings especially acquisitions is good business practice and good procurement starts with good record keeping. Records should be maintained throughout the procurement process to enable independent review. Maintaining transparency can prevent the integrity of your business being called in to question, can reduce the likelihood of litigation and of course can prevent your organisation from being front page news for the wrong reason.

Transparency of operations should also extend out in to your professional relationships with your coworkers, or you could end up on the wrong end of a criminal investigation. Such was the case with RailCorp’s former head of train maintenance, Joseph Camilleri. Not only did Mr Camilleri receive substantial sums of money from his coworkers for fabricated family emergencies, he corruptly solicited money from contractors who were awarded lucrative maintenance contracts with RailCorp. Camilleri leveraged his position as a senior executive, and his hard-earned reputation after 30 years in the industry, to request personal loans from his subordinates and from many who could benefit from being in good standing with him in business. The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) found that Mr Camilleri and many of his associates, including his family and business associates, had acted corruptly in the obtaining and distributing of these funds. ICAC also recommended that he and his associates be liable for prosecution for their deceptive behaviour.

While Mr Camilleri was clearly acting against the interests of the law, so were many of the people who were duped by him in to loaning him money. Those who stood to benefit from being in good business standing with Mr Camilleri and who did benefit in the way of lucrative maintenance contracts were also included in the ICAC ruling.

While these two examples are extreme cases relating to those working in opposition to good probity practice, it is important to always be reminded  there are real and very important reasons why it is enforced, but apart from working honestly and transparently, probity benefits the organisation in other ways like improving workplace attitude. When a company’s workings are transparent and procedures are followed and regulated, employees feel more secure in their roles and their workplace.

On top of that, keeping your community informed and reassured as to the legitimacy of your business dealings ensures that you are in good standing and your professional reputation is upheld. A good reputation is the key to fostering a sense of pride within your employees and ensuring that your customers can trust in you to follow the best interests of the community and everyone is happy when your community is happy!

So now that you know why probity matters, what can you do to ensure your workplace is on board? That’s where we can help.

Have a chat with us about how you can improve your Probity Skills through one of our training programs or our corporate E-learning. For chalk and talk, see our open training calendar for a session, date, location and time that suits you.