Ethical leadership can prevent fraud, corruption

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Windhoek

Good governance is a prerequisite in the fight against fraud and corruption, as well as in the achievement of individual or organisational goals. This is how Standard Bank Namibia’s Chief Executive, Vetumbuavi Mungunda sees the importance of good governance in society.

“We need to encourage and promote ethical leadership underpinned by a strong moral code. Good governance is fundamentally about integrity, honesty, trustworthiness, diligence, transparency, competence, inclusiveness and fairness.

“I sincerely believe that putting up governance structures and processes which are manned by unethical, or incompetent leaders is an exercise in futility that costs money and wastes resources,” said Mungunda. He added that the effective implementation of good governance policies depends largely on winning the hearts and minds of people with integrity.

“As Mervyn King [former Governor of the Bank of England] pointed out, ‘Trying to legislate for corporate governance is like trying to legislate for good neighbourliness,’” Mungunda said, adding that “Values are either inherent within people or they are not.”

Mungunda further believes there is a need to realise that structures, policies and procedures achieve nothing if societal or institutional morality and integrity are mere words; if the values and ethics of the leadership are lacking.
Highlighting the importance of integrity, Mungunda pointed out that the most important characteristic for a leader of any institution, whether in government or a private company, is integrity: “People with integrity will ultimately make the right decision on behalf of an institution, irrespective of their personal interests, and that is what needs to be promoted and encouraged in our society.”

In addition, “We need to see significant improvements in the capacity of the legal and justice sectors, there is a need for them to understand, investigate and prosecute complex fraud incidences and to show their teeth, to be able to bring transgressors demonstrably to book.

“Failure to enforce legislation with appropriate penalties, coupled with seemingly successful circumvention of rules and regulations will seriously undermine any attempt to complement good governance,” Mungunda explained.

He elaborated that “even if our legal and justice sectors were resourced to investigate and prosecute large complex fraud or corruption cases, it would not be a solution to our quest to fight fraud, in the absence of good ethics and values in the wider society. The absence of a strong moral code will mean that the incidents of fraud and corruption will continue, but with more people in jail.”

There needs to be a clear paradigm shift of emphasis from strictures and processes to values and morality, as the main pillars of good governance in society and business.

“How much time is spent by our leaders or appointing authorities on assessing and evaluating the value-system, the moral fibre, or the culture of our society, institutions or appointees? Have we as society devised mechanisms to evaluate our leaders’ alignment with and fulfilment of the values of the institution or broader society?”

Mungunda believes the essence of good governance is quite basic, considering that it is fundamentally about integrity, honesty, trustworthiness, diligence, accountability and responsibility, as well as fiduciary duty.

“These basic values are age-old and near universal. They have always been at the very core of good governance, be it in corporations, governments of informal traditional organisations.

“Let’s put less emphasis on structures and processes and more emphasis on the most effective of them all – ethical principles and a strong moral code in the whole of our society,” he concluded.

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