Procurement perspectives: No magical solution when it comes to ethics policy


Stephen_Bauld.jpgCanadian ethics bylaws and policies, are relatively pedestrian compared to our American counterparts. In the United States, municipal ethics ordinances often extend to campaign finance (contributions limits and public financing of campaigns), laws regulating lobbyists, open government or "sunshine" ordinances, as well as highly detailed rules relating to gifts to public officials.

Stephen Bauld, a government procurement expert, unpacks the need to institutionalise ethics in the public sector.

Many have also created independent ethics commissions of various kinds - some of which operate with a full-time staff at arm's length - both to the local municipal council and the municipal administration. Although some Canadian municipalities have appointed ethics commissioners, I am not aware of any that has established comparable institutional arrangements, adopted by such American cities as San Diego or Los Angeles.

I was working in Los Angeles last month and found that the policies and procedures in some cases are much tighter than the rules that govern Canadian municipalities. I also have clients in New York, and have reviewed the various factors that must be taken into account when developing suitable ethical procurement policies. In a paper on "How to Make an Ethics Program Work," Mark Davis of the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board advises that:

"The purpose of ethics laws is to promote both the reality and the perception of integrity in government by preventing unethical conduct before it occurs;

The focus of ethics law is therefore upon prevention not punishment;

Ethics laws assume that the vast majority of public servants are honest and want to do the right thing, and thus that these laws are not meant to catch corrupt officials;

Ethics laws do not regulate morality, or even ethics, but conflicts (usually financial conflicts) between a public servant's official duties and private interests (i.e., divided loyalty);

Ethics laws should encourage good people to serve in government by providing guidance to officials and reassurance to citizens that their public servants are serving the public and not themselves."

He goes on to propose that a proper ethics program must rest upon the "three pillars" of:

  • - A clear, comprehensive, simple, sensible code of ethics
  • - Sensible transactional, applicant and annual disclosure and
  • - Effective administration that provides quick and confidential advice, training and education, public disclosure and reasonable enforcement

These basic propositions have a considerable attraction. The difficulty is finding a manner of putting them into operation in a way that is both fair and workable.

No one has yet developed the optimal ethics policy - much less worked at how to apply it fairly in practice. I offer no magic solution here. However, I do hope to set out a number of concerns and observations that will prove to be of some use to those who are charged with developing a suitable package of ethical rules - at least in relation to municipal procurement.

My company PCI has worked with municipalities to develop a code of conduct and ethical policies this year. I will also be publishing a paper with some of my findings in this area soon, which may be useful for adoption in municipal bylaws.

As we all know there are serious concerns about fraternization between municipal staff and a municipality's suppliers. At least in major cities - for the most part - the relationship between municipal staff members and municipal suppliers is professional, and tied to the work done for the municipality.

As I have mentioned in the past, the reality is that the problems associated with conflict of interest - and other causes of ethical concern - arise long before any person is likely to recognize that a potential for such problems exists. In a case of a dishonest staff member, the municipality is ripe for the taking, and at that point many taxpayer dollars may be squandered before the problem is discovered.

Stephen Bauld is a government procurement expert and can be reached at

Leave a comment



Career opportunites


  • <500 000 Gauteng Operations, Planning & Inventory Supply Chain
Are you looking for new career opportunities as

Procurement Specialist

  • >500 000 Gauteng Procurement Officer / Specialist Strategic Sourcing Supplier / Business Development
As a specialist Supply Chain recruiter, I am

Logistics Controller

  • <500 000 Gauteng Logistics & Warehousing Procurement Officer / Specialist
Seeking dynamic up and coming candidates looking for

Supply Chain Manager

  • >500 000 Permanent Procurement Management Supply Chain Western Cape
As a specialist Supply Chain recruiter, I am

Business Process Specialist

  • <500 000 Gauteng Procurement Consultant Procurement Officer / Specialist Supply Chain
A company within the financial services sector is

LOC Procurement Manager

  • Gauteng Permanent Procurement Management Procurement Officer / Specialist
Your Responsibilities: Job Purpose To be the interface ...More

Account Manager

  • >500 000 Procurement Officer / Specialist Supplier / Business Development Western Cape
Key Performance Areas:• To ensure that all aspects


  • >500 000 Gauteng Procurement Consultant Strategic Sourcing Supply Chain
Key Performance Areas:• You'll be concerned primarily with

Commercial Buyer

  • <500 000 Buyer Contracts Procurement Officer / Specialist Western Cape
A well-known Mining company is seeking the services

Technical Buyer

  • <500 000 Buyer Contracts Procurement Officer / Specialist Western Cape
A well-known Mining company is seeking the services

Business Development Executive

  • >500 000 Gauteng Supplier / Business Development
A retail solutions company is seeking a New

Financial Manager

  • >500 000 Contract Operations, Planning & Inventory Procurement Management Western Cape
Looking for an unemployed CA (SA) in Cape

Chief Financial Officer

  • >500 000 Gauteng Operations, Planning & Inventory Procurement Management
An exciting opportunity exists for a CFO with

Procurement Consultant

  • >500 000 Gauteng Procurement Officer / Specialist Strategic Sourcing
Key Performance Areas: A profound knowledge of sourcing

Commodity Specialist: IT

  • >500 000 Commodities Gauteng Procurement Officer / Specialist
Key Performance Areas:• Effectively applies acquired technical/functional skills

Senior Consultant

  • >500 000 Gauteng Projects / Category Management Supplier / Business Development
Key Performance Areas:• Adheres to best practice processes

Logistics Manager

  • >500 000 Gauteng Logistics & Warehousing Operations, Planning & Inventory Procurement Management
Key Performance Areas:• Manage warehousing and distribution 3PL's

Head of Franchise Network

  • >500 000 Contracts Operations, Planning & Inventory Western Cape
The opportunity to work for a multinational retail

National Driver Manager

  • >500 000 Analyst Contracts Logistics & Warehousing Operations, Planning & Inventory Western Cape
The opportunity for an extraordinary individual to join

Commodity Specialist: Industries

  • >500 000 Commodities Gauteng Procurement Officer / Specialist
Key Performance Areas:• Under the guidance of the