COVID and corruption

Journalists and lawmakers are starting to investigate how certain public contracts related to COVID-19 have been awarded.

We should expect many more investigations of this kind all over the world. When billions of dollars converge on one event, whether it be the Olympics or a pandemic, there is bound to be corruption, self-dealing, and other improprieties.

With the Olympics or the World Cup, we understand the importance of augmenting corruption controls years before the event takes place. The minute the host city is announced, we can start reinforcing the compliance program and the ethical culture of our local operations before the first bid is due. With COVID-19, governments have not had time to do this. They’ve all had to rely on ordinary controls.

But here’s one thing we can prepare for: the reopening. Once the machine revs up again, and millions of customers are urging millions of companies to release goods that depend on millions of suppliers, the pressure will be on. And with pressure comes not only wrongdoing but a diminished capacity to fight wrongdoing.

On the other side of the reopening coin is the need to “ease” compliance. My friend Richard Bistrong wrote an excellent piece about it on the FCPA Blog, which I recommend you read with this one as an interesting balancing act.

Decisions to make before the end of COVID-19

In her book Giving Voice to Values, Mary Gentile recommends that we play out ethical dilemmas before they happen. When a supervisor routinely gathers her team and asks “How would we handle this scenario?”, they have a much better chance at doing the right thing when it actually happens.

This is what Richard Bistrong is recommending that we do before the economy reopens. When it does, there will be pressures from customers, suppliers and senior leadership to get back on track as quickly as possible. Inefficiencies from regulations and internal policies that were tolerated in good times will become infuriating. Even good regulations and policies will be questioned. “Can’t we just skip this step, just this time?”

The pushback will be understandable. In fact, it should be invited at all times. But the best decisions will not be made under extreme pressures after months of idleness and isolation.

Identify your future tough decisions now.

And start the role play.

Coffee and Twitter

I had coffee with two E&C influencers yesterday.

Keith Darcy, Richard Bistrong and I met in a coffee shop to catch up. At some point, our conversation turned to social media and we compared notes on how we use various platforms.

Which prompts me today to recommend that you follow Richard and Keith on Twitter. Each day, they post links and original thoughts that can only enrich the world of an E&C professional or enthusiast. From these two accounts, one can be exposed to many other thought leaders and important developments.

Keith: https://twitter.com/ktdarcy

Richard: https://twitter.com/richardbistrong

Happy reading!

On making connections

Later today I will have the pleasure to visit with Richard Bistrong in New York City.

I first learned about Richard via LinkedIn in 2015. His personal experience with corruption was both dramatic and fascinating. I started to follow him on social media and eventually sent him a direct message asking if we could meet in person. He immediately said yes, we met for coffee, and we’ve stayed in touch ever since.

The point of this post is to encourage you to reach out to those you can learn from. I have done this with authors, business leaders, compliance executives, podcasters and many others. Most of them will gladly engage with you, especially when you can provide value in return or, even better, first. They can become allies and cheerleaders. They can open doors and provide opportunities. They can make introductions that lead to more allies, cheerleaders and opportunities. And not simply opportunities for you to receive but more importantly for you to contribute. It’s a virtuous cycle that starts with a simple click of a “follow” button.

Who would you like to connect with today?