This news certainly doesn’t make for a chamber of commerce moment: According to the Center for Public Integrity, not one state in the union was deemed worthy of an excellent grade for their effectiveness toward ethics enforcement and against corrupt government. The recent State Integrity Investigation report gave “B” grades to five states (including New Jersey… New Jersey?!?!?!) and failing grades to nine (including, alas, my home state of Georgia, which ranked dead last).
All in all, we shouldn’t be surprised, but it is appalling that the government in whom we have placed our trust can get such low marks for following ethical procedures and maintaining open and transparent government affairs. The report pointed out several points of failure: exemptions, loopholes, straight-up malfeasance and a significant lack of enforcement.
The report goes a long way to a) raising my blood pressure and b) pointing out a wide range of problems. Awareness and communications are a great form of transparency, and maybe these findings will garner some much-needed zeal for anti-corruption enforcement. But so many areas are at risk – budgeting and fiscal responsibility, procurement and state contracting, fund management, auditing procedures, executive oversight, and the list goes on.
The report’s project manager, Caitlin Ginley, said that “in every state, there’s room to improve the ethics laws, the level of transparency on government proceedings, the disclosure of information, and – most importantly – the oversight of these laws. One of the major findings was that even when ethics laws are passed, they are difficult to enforce and lack meaningful consequences for violators.”
It’s like asking the 800-pound gorilla in the room to kindly change seats.
Governments rely on accountability commissions and ethics boards to police themselves and rarely make reference to the viability of their compliance initiatives or risk management programs. The public sees it as black-or-white: either the government is functioning in a transparent, ethical manner, or there is political corruption and the guilty parties should be run out of office.
The corporate enterprise, on the other hand, understands that gray areas are just as important, as long as the shades of risk are properly managed and ethical lines are not crossed. They do this with comprehensive policies and interactive training balanced with solid methods of incident reporting and issue management. And, they take what they learn and apply it back into their compliance mix, so that the same mistakes don’t reoccur.
So, Georgia legislators, what do you think? Would a course on conflicts of interest, anti-bribery or gifts, gratuities and entertainment be beneficial to you? Do us Georgians a favor and take a look at this two-minute video about ethics training.