Cheswick, Pennsylvania is a small town. For most purposes, it’s pretty much irrelevant. But, for this story, it is very relevant.
Because there are probably just over a bajillion small towns just like Cheswick in the USA. And, right now, procurement ethics violations could be happening in each and every one of them right at this very nanosecond just like they were happening in Cheswick from about 2010 to 2013.
What was going on in Cheswick?
Well, apparently, a Cheswick councilman during that period owned a company that was a vendor of the town. Now, that itself isn’t necessarily an ethical violation. But, according to an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the former councilman, Brian Harvanek, failed to file documents or abide by contract value limits that would have made his being a vendor permissible.
That, my friends, is what you call a classic conflict of interest.
And, unfortunately, Harvanek’s “excuse” for this conflict of interest was equally as classic.
The article states that Harvanek said that all of this stuff went down because of him being “ignorant of the ethics laws when he took office.”
Almost every time that someone is investigated for a procurement ethics violation – either in the public sector or in the business world – they always say “but I didn’t know that was an ethical violation.” While we would all like to think that procurement ethics are common sense, they clearly are not.
And that’s sad.
It’s sad because organizations have done implemented so much new employee training on other “grey areas.” Sexual harassment is a good example. From what I understand, back in the day, male employees would often say things to female employees in the workplace that are simply unthinkable today. Organizations have done a good job at clarifying the definition of sexual harrassment, codifying it, and training and communicating to their employees in a manner that certain behaviors don’t happen nearly as often as they once did.
Why organizations don’t do the same with procurement ethics is beyond me. It’s not like there aren’t resources, expertise and procurement ethics training out there.
How many more of these Cheswick situations are going to happen in the USA before something changes?
Organizations could stop most of these Cheswicks from happening if they simply took away that most common, stupid, and avoidable excuse used by Harvanek and the countless others that made the same bad decisions.
To Your Career,
Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2
President & Chief Procurement Officer – Next Level Purchasing Association
Author – The Procurement Game Plan
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