Ethics and Corruption
What is corruption? Corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. It is damaging to a country because decisions are taken not for the public benefit but to serve private interests. Corruption undermines good governance, fundamentally distorts public policy, leads to misallocation of resources, and particularly hurts the poor. There is a case in 29th July 1995, where the collapse of the Sampoong Superstore in Seoul, South Korea, represents an example of a structural collapse attributed in large part to corruption.
The collapse of this structure left 937 people injured and had a death toll of over 500 innocent lives. Due to that, Engineer’s integrity and ethical standard will be put to test when involving project worth millions dollars. As the saying goes, “money is the root of all evil,” it is not unusual to find engineers who are tempted by the amount of money that they are entrusted with; whether to fully utilize the money in the project or to fulfill their individual greed.
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Hence, engineers need to be truthful. The level of truthfulness in engineering is very high, much higher in everyday life.
It imposes what many consider an absolute prohibition on deception, and in addition it establishes a high ideal of seeking and speaking the truth (Martin & Schinzinger, 2005). Being truthful keep the engineers away from corruption and cutting corner. One of many ways to prevent corruption and unethical practice of cutting corner in engineering field is the development of honest and ethical engineering culture by creating or increase awareness of ethical practice among engineers since large amount of money or projects are often being handled by engineers.
This is important in a sense that engineers must aware of the types of corruption as well as the punishments and consequences for involving in corruption. Punishments such as retracting the title of engineer and blacklisting the particular individual in the Board of Engineers Malaysia (BEM) and more severe punishments such as imprisonment, confiscating of properties and summonses. When engineers aware of the punishments subjected, then corruption can be prevented. Besides, awareness among engineers towards corruption can be created by implementing subjects or courses concerning engineer’s ethical issues into engineering course in university.
Students that vow to become an engineer must first be taught of the ways to become an ethical engineer. Furthermore, BEM can include seminars or talks about ethical issues into Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programs for local engineers. Seniors engineers are compulsory to participate to gain points in CDP. By doing so, senior engineers that left university for long could still be educated on ethical issues. Therefore, self-awareness is a long term strategy in curbing corruption and unethical practices. When corruption is involved, competitions are not fair anymore. People will find various methods to undercut competition.
Instead of using a well-organized process for contracting based on technical criteria to judge bids and firms, it is decentralized and is subject to monopoly power plus discretion minus accountability. Some political appointees have the discretion to let contracts without competition or technical reviews. Therefore, tendering process must be more transparent and have strict control over project variation. Handling of tenders should be fair and just where the project should only be awarded to the bidder who offers lowest price on the project without ignoring the quality of materials and services as well as the customers’ requirements.
Any conflict of interest or bribes should be notified by the engineer to the corresponding company during the process of evaluating all the offers made by the bidders in order to ensure an outcome of decision which are fair, just and also the best for the company. By doing so, the opportunity of the engineer to work together with the bidders in falsifying the receipts or offers to gain profit without alerting or the knowledge of the company can be decreased or at some point, being completely eliminated, to avoid putting the lives of workers, employees and publics at risk due to corruption.
Advantage or authority given to the engineers must not be misused in unlawful deeds, engineers should report to their company for how they handle or use the given authority to complete the project in order to prevent falsification and exaggeration of the project funds. Corruption usually occurs because a certain individual or organization has too much power and authority. Engineers themselves should always alert toward orders they get from company or requirement from customers. Any conflicts of the order or requirement with the codes of ethics should be advised by the engineers to the customer or company.
If the advice failed to change their mind, then the engineers have the responsibility to carried forth the case to corresponding authority. Besides, in order to eliminate the unnecessary power and authorities, the administration approval process should be optimized. A complete supervising system should be implemented to prevent any corruption and this supervising system should allow the officials to work without administrative interference at the same time protecting the innocent public.
Besides, institution of regular and random checks is important to review the conduct of the officials involved in engineering, project or construction industry. These checks include detailed review of the entire procurement process on selected projects. It must be fair and done by an anti-corruption body. The checks should not single out any individual official or company. Consequently, officials are less likely to participate in corrupt conduct or deliberate maladministration as they cannot be confident that their conduct will not be detected by detailed scrutiny of supervisory officials.
As a consequence of these random and regular reviews or checks, may be a pattern of misconduct can be identified at one or more specific stages during the construction process. Furthermore, hot lines or whistle-blowers protection is another measure in curbing corruption and unethical practices of cutting corners. Hot lines improve accountability by enlisting workers and public to report corrupt acts. The government office responsible for investigating such acts often operates a hot line.
For example, in Hong Kong, the Independent Commission Against Corruption runs a hot line and guarantees that every allegation is investigated. It also protects those who make reports by granting file access to officers on a “need to know” basis only. However, in cases where anonymity cannot be guaranteed, those who protest corruption often place themselves at risk. In many countries, whistle blowers are often fired or punished, subjected to administrative harassment, and exposed to violence. For this reason, anti- corruption efforts need legislation to protect whistle blowers from official sanctions or even to reward them.
Although whistle-blowing is not desirable in a company as it will affect the reputation of the company, but it is an essential way in combating corruption. With every engineer practicing whistle-blow, others will not even consider unethical practices such as corruption and cutting corners. Thus, effectively preventing misbehavior among engineers and subsequently safeguarding the good image of the engineering profession. Professional engineers should aware that it is important to conduct the duty assigned to them responsibly and professionally especially when it involves he confidential information about certain project because bribery and cutting corner can also occur in such way that the information is used by other company to compete in an unfair condition. The professional engineers will never disclose the confidential information of their client or companies to others in order to maintain their professionalism and they must also knows that the consequences of revealing those information can be a great risk for themselves and companies, such act is punishable and will affects their reputation as an professional engineer.
Furthermore, transparency of a project progress can reduces as well as avoids corruption to occur as the activities of the project are visible to all and the engineer can hardly alter it for cutting corner purpose. The transparency of a tender progress or engineering project can be made clear or enhanced by doing the publication of the procurement procedures. Procedures involved in the projects shall be clearly defined and stated so that the publications are understandable and clear to public, details such as stating how and where the supplies originated from shall be included.
Through this step, the procedures made in the projects are transparent to the public and the chance for the engineers to corrupt would be greatly reduced. The publication can be made through media such as newspaper, internet, and magazine at which these media are easily reached by the public. According to the BEM code of ethics, a registered engineer shall conduct himself honorably, responsibly, ethically and lawfully so as to enhance the honors, reputation and usefulness of the profession.
This code should always be abided by the engineer and keep in mind that one should be avoiding from corruption, bribery and also cutting corner and have to be very well aware that these are the actions punishable by the Board of Engineers or court of law and also might risk the safety and health of the public. Every engineer should aware of their own responsibility toward the company, client and public which includes preserving the reputations of company and themselves. They should do everything lawfully to increase the reputations of their company and engineers.
Reputation of an engineer is very important in order for them to be employed and keep their professions as an engineer. Engineers also should uphold their professionalism in order to honor and enhance their usefulness in the field. Failing to abide the codes might result in drop in reputation, being fired, the license of engineer being revoked or the worst is, might end up in jail. Based on the first principle of BEM Codes of ethics, a registered engineer holds paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public.
The engineer should always make the public as his first priority because in the profession of engineering, the whole community is the ultimate client rather than the individual client. Corruption and cutting corner always put the safety of public at the edge of risk as the bidders always tend to make more profits from the project, hence they might altered the materials for the project to lower quality materials in order to save cost and this might lead to disastrous consequences such as collapse of buildings and dangerous behaviors of machines due to malfunction or system breakdown.
Engineers have the responsibility to report to corresponding authority if their client or company failed to fulfill the instructions of the engineer that abide the code. Even though engineers have their own responsibility toward their client, but the first code of ethics erases this responsibility if their clients or company fail to follow what have been set by the engineers which did not against the codes of ethics. Failing to abide the first code might result in disciplinary action to be taken or the license as an engineer to be revoked because they put the lives of public in danger, even though at the end no harm or loss of life occur.
The first code of ethics is also applicable to the case with other professions at which the general public’s safety is the main consideration to be made before others. In conclusion, engineers should always take consideration and action according to the codes of ethics. Any action that might lead to bribery, corruption or cutting corner should be avoided. Prevention methods for unethical practice have to be carried out by engineers and the importance of upholding the professionalism in engineering field has to be kept in mind in order to create an honorable, responsible, ethical and lawful profession.
The impression or reputation of engineers can be improved through actual practice of the codes of ethics and avoiding corruptions. Engineers should always remind themselves that not only the project, reputation, and wealth are in their hands, but also the safety and life of public, therefore, it is important for them to make safety issues as the main priority of making consideration. In addition, the integrity of the country also can be improved through such practice as the corruptions, briberies, and cutting corners are reduced.