‘A Question of Ethics’


By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK The Prime Minister, Nahas Angula says there is an urgent need for both the public and the private sectors to plant a sense of solid corporate ethics in their organisations in order to fight corruption. Graft has become one of the topical issues in the country at the moment. At a National Conference on Corporate Governance and Anti-corruption that has brought together over 100 participants from different sectors to debate on good corporate governance, Angula said there is a great need to debate on the importance of ethics at all levels in order to fight this scourge. “Corruption has to do with lack of ethics. If we cannot make a difference on what is decent and not, what is good and not, the chances are that we will get tempted and do something unacceptable.” The premier believes that once good ethics are in place, people would also learn to avoid engaging in conspicuous consumption, which is just another tool that leads many to commit corrupt practices. “If you are promoting good governance, start with ethics because decisions we make come from our beliefs. Let the conference interrogate the idea of creating an ethical culture, which is the basis of corporate governance,” he advised participants. Considering that the public sector employs about 80 000 people countrywide, the Prime Minister says good governance is paramount at this level especially when it comes to service delivery. He however lamented that time is a resource that is heavily abused in the public sector. Angula added that tasks are rarely completed on time and most people go to their offices without a purpose and spend time reading newspapers, which on its own is denial of services to the public. Apart from looking at corporate ethics, the conference is expected to give people in management positions a better understanding of the essential question regarding financing, disclosure and succession. It will also look at planning, compensation and litigation, among other issues. Amongst prominent speakers that yesterday addressed the conference was Chief Editor and Convener of the King Report on Corporate Governance, Phillip Armstrong, who spoke on the connection between corruption and corporate governance. He indicated that corruption is not only a moral problem but also a fundamental obstacle to development. Regarding the popular definition of “abuse of public office for private gain”, Armstrong says this is too narrow a definition as private firms often share responsibility in corrupt deals. Corruption, he added, has indeed become an issue of concern not only in Namibia but also beyond as it acts as a barrier to economic development, which in the long run undermines overall development, consequently hitting hard on the poor. Further, corruption diminishes the productive use of national assets and discourages investment locally, not excluding the deterring of foreign interest. Though “not a one size fits all” response, Armstrong suggests that on the supply side, the only way to fight some of these corrupt practices would be by instituting sound corporate governance systems, controls and procedures. At the demand level, he recommends the streamlining and simplifying of laws and regulations. The conference aims at promoting good corporate governance in both the public and private sectors, engaging stakeholders in a national debate about what contributes to good corporate governance and creating awareness about good corporate governance in society. The conference is expected to provide an opportunity for executives, managers and leaders in various disciplines to learn and network about the best practices and emerging trends in corporate governance. Tonata Shiimi, co-director of the conference last week told the press that the conference would add impetus to the many things that have been happening to bring the issues of anti corruption and good corporate governance to the fore. In addition to the already mentioned topics under discussion, matters such as how to spot early warning signs of mismanagement problems, the role of the media in promoting good governance, ethics, morality, spirituality and good corporate governance, affirmative action and its implications on good corporate governance as well as the legal fraternity and academics’ contribution to good corporate governance will also be looked at. Partners in the conference, which is jointly hosted by AZ Investment Holdings and the centre for Training and Projects Development, include the offices of the President and Prime Minister, the Anti-Corruption Commission, NID and Transparency International. The conference ends tomorrow.