For many workers, the workplace is almost like a second home – the place you spend the most time outside your actual home. There is no undermining the effect the workplace culture and environment can have on a worker.
We read about the recent Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) saga in the news and their slide down the slippery slope of lapses, oversight and fraud and thought it’d be interesting to pull out several learning points that can be gleaned from this saga. What exactly went wrong and how can such a big misappropriation of funds be stopped in the future. We’ve picked 3 glaring mistakes they made that if replicated in another workplace setting is cause for great alarm.
1) Your organisation has no transparency
Transparency and accountability are basic requirements in an organisation that help to reduce its vulnerability to corruption and fraud. It is also the foundation of good governance especially when it comes to matters of financial nature.
In the case of AHTC, the Worker’s Party had not only not called for a tender for services, but they deliberately gave a false impression of urgency so that they could institute a waiver of tender. To add insult to injury, the contract was then given to their friends and this eventually led to the mismanagement of $33 million.
2) Your organisation tries to cover mistakes with more mistakes
Let’s face it, mistakes happen. How individuals and organisations deal with their mistakes is an indication of moral integrity. Mistakes are commonplace in work or personal settings, and while owning up to them is never easy, it takes a stronger person or organisation to make it right.
The case of AHTC saw absolutely moral degradation in this aspect. Apart from already allowing friends to profit off public funds, the Worker’s Party had asked for the draft report to be “sanitised” so that it could pass auditor’s eyes. In addition, the “sanitisation” of the report was also to be done by the very party (the friends) who would benefit from getting the contract after the waiver of tender was approved. The intention to deceive was quite clear in this instance and using deception to cover previous mistakes is what no organisation should ever do.
(MP Edwin Tong on the AHTC Saga -” even a child knows you don’t ask the fox to guard the chicken coops” Source: CNA)
3) Your organisation does not take responsibility
An interesting case study in responsibility was one we covered earlier – where Duty Free Singapore retrenched workers and was called out by the Singapore Manual and Mercantile Workers Union (SMMWU) for not being responsible in their dealings with these workers. They previous retrenchment packages were well below industry norms and left workers severely short-changed. This was rectified later and after union intervention, the retrenched workers were able to get fair compensation.
In AHTC’s case, a motion was proposed to ask the Worker’s Party to recuse themselves, releasing them from having to deal with or have oversight of financial matters until the court case is concluded. Various speeches were made to appeal to the Worker’s Party to “do the right thing” and take the path of “accountability”. The ball is now in their court – will they recuse themselves and put the resident’s interests first? We shall see.
No organisation is perfect but if you spot any of these 3 signs in your current organisation, alarm bells in your head better be ringing.
And run… run far!
Editing is my work.