Posts Tagged ‘Parliamentary conduct’

Lobbying and ethics

June 3, 2013

The UK is once again facing the unedifying view of Parliamentarians who offer their services for payment. It causes no shock any more. It has almost become the behaviour to be expected.

BBC:

Three peers have been accused of agreeing to carry out Parliamentary work for payment.

Undercover Sunday Times reporters filmed the men appearing to offer to help a fake solar energy company.

Ulster Unionist Lord Laird and Labour’s Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate and Lord Cunningham deny wrongdoing.

The two Labour peers have been suspended from the party and Lord Laird has resigned the party whip pending an investigation.

In a separate investigation by the BBC’s Panorama programme in conjunction with the Daily Telegraph, Lord Laird was also secretly filmed discussing a retainer to ask parliamentary questions.

But it is not lobbying or the Rules of Parliament which are the fundamental problem. It is the ethics of Parliamentarians which is.

Not much has changed since I wrote this back in 2010.

…….  While the range of all possible human behaviour is generated by the individual’s values, it is subject to:

  • Law, which defines what a person may not do.
  • Morals, which define what a person ought not to do whether or not it is lawful.
  • Ethics, which describe what is correct and desirable for a person to do; which will always be moral and will usually be lawful.

There are probably many politicians who do have admirable intentions and who do not get involved with the murkier side of political funding. But politicians whether in the US or Europe or in Asia do sell “access” into the world of regulations and approvals. MP’s and even Ministers in the UK are not shy in offering their paid services from time to time. Ministers in India have their performance ranked according to how much they raised for the party coffers. Japanese politicians approve roads and highways in their constituencies that nobody needs, except the civil contractors, their employees and their shareholders. Parliamentarians across the world offer their services to raise questions in parliament or in parliamentary committees. The skimming off of funds, misuse of subsidies and regulatory scams such as the Carbon Trading scam are legendary in the European Union. All over the world many politicians propose the “pork belly” projects in their own constituencies, sometimes with little competition, to add to appropriations legislation. Just in the US alone there has been between 13 and 27 Billion US$ of appropriations for “pork” projects for each year between 2005 and 2009. Assuming that these projects just followed US or OECD guidelines on corruption, but made use of all the loopholes available, the contract awards could have legitimised between 400 M US$ and 800 M US $ every year which could have – and probably has – ended up in the funds of political parties and their lobbyists. A large number of the people involved in these channels have rather “sticky fingers” which allows the amassing of individual wealth as it flows. …….

….. In my experience, which is limited to contracting in the power generation industry, the reverse sequence, where corporations initiate the whole process while seeking competitive advantage and offer  pay-offs to politicians or contributions to their party funds, is not unknown but probably not as prevalent. …….

……. There is a pervasive atmosphere within the business world today taking the view that ethics is not a matter for corporations. Milton Friedman, Peter Drucker and others must bear their share of the responsibility for having propagated the view that corporations should only be concerned with the profit they deliver to shareholders. They have – maybe inadvertently – supported the view that humans in a corporate setting can and should abdicate their own ethical codes. The Wall Street Journal has declared from on high that ethics cannot be learned and ethics courses are irrelevant to business. Utter rubbish of course, but even the “newspapers of record” such as the New York Times or The Times or Der Spiegel or the Wall Street Journal have lost their famed objectivity and have become political advocacy channels. It is such high-profile and basically amoral views which have been greatly responsible for providing a cloak of respectability for the attitude that:

         i.            Corporations have no business to concern themselves with ethics, and

       ii.            Even if ethics is important then compliance with law is a sufficient substitute for having a code of ethics, and

    iii.            If an action is seen to be compliant with laws then this is sufficient.

………

The fundamental reason for behaviour to be ethical is not because of some collateral benefit it may bring but simply because it is the right and proper thing to do. The right and correct thing to do is sufficient in itself, and does not need excuses or justification. In spite of the Wall Street Journal’s opinion, ethics can be taught and can be developed.

from Essence of a Manager 


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