I just read an article in Supply Management Magazine that detailed how David Safavian, a top US government procurement executive, was convicted for crimes related to breaches of government procurement ethics.
It appears that all of these charges stemmed from Mr. Safavian accepting an invitation from a lobbyist to go golfing in Scotland. Then, Mr. Safavian lied about the lobbyist’s business dealings with the government.
So, Mr. Safavian faces up to 20 years in prison. It’s hard to imagine the golf trip being that good, isn’t it?
What’s interesting is that Safavian had asked a government ethics officer for permission to go on the trip. If you were Safavian, wouldn’t feeling compelled to ask an ethics officer for permission maybe give you a clue that perhaps something was a little dangerous about accepting this trip? Doesn’t it make you feel like there was some doubt in Safavian’s mind that accepting the trip was ethical?
The situation reminds me of a phrase that my driver’s education teacher in Central Catholic High School used to state over and over. And it can be applied to procurement ethics as well…
“WHEN IN DOUBT, DON’T”
Any time I teach ethics in procurement courses, I always say that if you have to think about whether something is ethical or not, just play it safe and decline. The safer you play it, the less risk you expose yourself to.
Not everyone will be in a position where they could end up serving 20 years in jail for a breach of procurement ethics. But every procurement professional should use the same amount of care as if that possibility existed.