Adherence to code of conduct essential to purchasing profession

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Professionalisation is the social process by which any occupation transforms itself to levels of highest integrity and competence.

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This involves establishing acceptable qualifications in line with the practice, professional association to oversee the conduct of members that provides some demarcation of the qualified from unqualified, creating a hierarchical divide between the knowledge-authorities in the professions and a deferential citizenry.

This demarcation is “occupational closure”, stratifying the occupation by defining professional demarcation and grade, thereby closing the profession from entry by outsiders, amateurs and the unqualified.

Professions also possess power, prestige, high income, high status, privileges and their members come to comprise an elite class of people, cut off from the common people and occupying an elevated station in society and as such, their conduct and behaviour must be well defined.

The process establishes the group norms of conduct and qualification of members of a profession and insists that members of the profession achieve conformity to the norm and abide more or less strictly with the established procedures and any agreed code of conduct, which is policed by professional bodies — for accreditation assures conformity to general expectations of the profession.

In the absence of a local professional procurement regulator, the use of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) code of conduct is the only option. CIPS code demands that worldwide members uphold it and seek commitment by all the parties they engage within their professional practice.

As such, members are encouraged to influence their organisations to adopt ethical procurement and supply policies based on the principles of the code and raise any matter of concern relating to business ethics at an appropriate level within the organisation.

Members’ conduct is therefore judged against the code and any breach may lead to action under the disciplinary rule set out in the CIPS Royal Charter. As such, members are expected to assist any investigation by CIPS in the event of a complaint being made against them.

Ethics are at the core of the procurement professional. Ethics are principles which define the behaviour as right, good and appropriate and members are bound to uphold certain values in their professional activities.

The procurement function in general is expected to be efficient and effective. Efficiency demands that they are well organised, competent, resourceful and professional in the way procurement decisions are made.

Effectiveness demands that value of transactions in the procurement process make business sense by managing costs and quality of inputs. Quality in this spectrum is all encompassing involving products quality and the related costs from schedule delays.

Unethical practices such as bribery, corruption and other practices that include unjustified schedule delays increase costs. It is therefore imperative that procurement operates ethically, with impartiality, transparent and professionally.

Ethical procurement practice starts with employers that employ strategies to promote ethical practice through structures and systems in their organisation.

This is then complemented by employment of skilled individuals that belong to a school of thought embracing ethical procurement such as the CIPS with a code of conduct which dictates members’ behaviour and actions in conducting business. Inevitably, ethical procurement practices are then extended across all stakeholders in the procurement cycle.

Breach of CIPS codes of conduct arises from issues such as conflict of interest, corruption, failure to adhere to CIPS guidelines on business gifts and hospitality and other policies and considerations such as managing fair competition, equality and anti-discrimination, which areas shall be explored in future articles.

lNyasha Chizu is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply writing in his personal capacity. Feedback: chizunyasha@yahoo.com; nyashachizu@harleyreed.com