1. THE UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES
In spite of a multiplicity of codes of ethics, corruption seems to be
ETHICS FOR THE PROJECT MANAGER
LECTURER: PROFESSOR WINSTON H. E. SUITE
COURSE LECTURER: PROF. WINSTON H. E. SUITESTUDENT NAME: IRWIN ARCHER
STUDENT ID: 02737073
DATE: FRIDAY 13TH
Corruption is dishonest or fraudulent conduct by individuals in positions of power. It may result from a
combination of greed, low integrity and the pursuit of self interest to the injury of those to whom a duty
to protect and serve is owed. Corrupt individuals show no regard for established laws, professional
honour or codes of ethics. In acts of corruption, individuals may commit abuses that violate every pillar
upon which codes of ethics are built. All of this is done clandestinely, while these individuals continue to
command the trust and respect associated with the offices they hold.
Corruption is a key concern in developing countries. Such countries are characterized by limited
resources and a relatively low standard of living and as such, the allure of corruption is high. Corruption
presents an opportunity for individuals enjoy an enhanced standard of living, albeit through ill-gotten
means. In many instances, the rewards for legitimate service are seen as paltry and public officials face
an ethical dilemma; they must choose between integrity and wealth. In this discussion, we seek to
determine why an increasing amount of Trinidadian officials seem to choose the latter.
Due to limited resources, Developing Countries simply cannot afford corruption. Such countries need
public officials who are passionate about establishing institutions and implementing policies that
improve the welfare of all citizens. When public officials in developing countries engage in corruption,
there is an uneven distribution of wealth and a resulting stagnation in the overall development of the
country. A prime example of this is Haiti, a country that has historically been ranked among the most
corrupt nations in the world (Transparency International 2015). Haiti is the poorest country in the
Western Hemisphere and is also one of the most unequal countries in terms of the distribution of
wealth among its citizens (The World Bank 2015).
Transparency International is leading the global fight against the scourge of corruption. It is a non-
partisan movement with chapters in over 100 countries. The Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute
is the local chapter of Transparency International. This organization gathers data on corruption and
provides legal support and advice in the fight against corruption. For the purpose of this discussion, we
will focus our analysis to the organization’s findings in Trinidad and Tobago.
3. Figure 1 Trinidad and Tobago CPI and Rank 2001-2014 (Transparency International 2015)
As shown above, there has been a declining trend in Trinidad and Tobago’s Corruption Perception Index
(CPI) Score (higher is better). Accordingly, the country’s rank has generally deteriorated relative to other
countries over the past 14 years. To understand this trend, it is important to examine the culture, values
and codes ethics that existed over the past 14 years.
Codes of ethics aim to guide the behavior and culture of adherents toward the establishment and
protection of a just society. Such codes are among the primary tools used to combat corruption in
professional associations. They identify acceptable and unacceptable behaviors and outline punitive
measures to be applied to individuals found in breach of the Codes. Professional associations have
disciplinary committees that monitor members and apply these punitive measures where necessary.
Doctors are required by law to register with the Medical Board of Trinidad and Tobago (MBTT) before
practicing medicine locally. Upon registration Doctors must read the MBTT’s Code of Ethics and recite
the Physicians Pledge. Lawyers are similarly required to join the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago
and adhere to its Code of Ethics. The Engineering Profession Act of 1985 guides the Board of Engineering
of Trinidad and Tobago (BOETT) and the Association of Professional Engineers of Trinidad and Tobago
(APETT), both of which have codes of ethics. Architects are guided by the code of ethics of the Board of
Rank (lower is better)
CPI Score (higher is
Linear (Rank (lower is
Linear (CPI Score
(higher is better))
4. Architecture of Trinidad and Tobago (BoATT). According to the Architecture Profession Act No. 19 of
1992, this Board has the power to register Architects and exercise disciplinary control over them.
The integrity in public life Act of 2000 aims to regulate the behavior of public officials through the
establishment of the Integrity Commission. The Act also aims to identify and treat with conditions that
foster systemic or endemic corruption. The Code of Ethical Political Conduct primarily sought to
encourage free and fair elections and discourage the use of state resources for campaign financing.
There have been calls for this Code to be made law but calls these calls have gone unheeded (Kowlessar
2015), (Trinidad and Tobago Guardian 2014).
Indeed, there is a multiplicity of professional organizations and codes of ethics in Trinidad and Tobago.
Had these mechanisms been effective, there would have been much more favorable Corruption
Perception Index scores over the past 14 years. The reality is that these well intentioned mechanisms
did not sufficiently inspire desirable behavior among professionals and public officials. Corruption has
become endemic and cultural; it pervades throughout all levels and sectors of society. From incidents
involving traffic violations (Seelal 2012) to the award of multibillion dollar Government contracts
(Cambridge 2013), allegations of bribery abound. Allegations of nepotism and cronyism in the award of
jobs and contracts are also common in the public sector (Balgobin 2013) (Pickford-Gordon 2005). Recent
years have seen a rise in the tendering of false qualifications and certifications by fraudsters who attain
high paying jobs (Trinidad Express Newspapers 2011), (Gumbs-Sandiford and Hassanali 2012), (Fraser
The political environment in Trinidad and Tobago contributes to endemic corruption. Election campaigns
are typically very costly and rely on contributions from political financiers. These financiers often have
companies which the Government is expected to patronize upon assuming office. The processes for
disbursement of public funds are affected by the “indebtedness” of political parties to their financiers.
Procurement processes in Government Ministries and Agencies have inherent weaknesses which permit
abuse of office and discretionary powers toward the enrichment of public officials and their associates.
In Trinidad and Tobago, this often manifests in form of inflated contract bids and the payment of
kickbacks to public officials. The lack of proper political campaign financing rules clearly creates strong
expectations and incentives for corruption among public officials. The Representation of the People Act,
Chap. 2:01 allows each election candidate so spend a maximum of $50,000 on election campaigning.
However, the provisions in this act do not limit the spending of political parties, through which campaign
funds can be channeled. These political parties aren’t required to submit financial statements to a
5. supervisory authority (Masson 2014). Political parties typically do not volunteer campaign financing
information or cooperate with requests for such information (Bagoo 2015) (Kowlessa 2015).
Another way in which the Representation of the People Act is bypassed is when campaign financiers pay
for election events, promotions and advertisements directly instead of channeling funds through the
political party or its candidates. It is also often the case that the resources of Government Ministries and
Agencies to are used to ‘campaign’ on behalf of the incumbent political party (Masson 2014). Until there
is campaign finance law reform, political parties will continue to maximize campaign financing by any
means necessary to secure political power.
Another factor which contributes to endemic corruption is the culture of impunity that pervades
throughout the nation. Many cases of corruption are exposed by whistleblowers, the local and
international media and members of the public, but few in power face serious consequences for
corruption. This may be indicative of the weak laws and institutions for the prevention, detection and
management of corruption. It may also be that the very institutions that have been established to
monitor and control the behavior of public officials have been brought under the control of those who
hold political power. The result is that these institutions fail to protect the interests of the public and
instead seek the interests of corrupt public officials. Codes of ethics rely on strong unbiased institutions
for their enforcement. Without this vital element in place, the effect of codes of ethics is greatly
Economists have demonstrated that there is a link between the quality of a nation’s institutions and
national development (Acemoglu, Johnson and Robinson 2005), (Ogilvie and Carus 2014). Far too often,
those who gain political power implement policies and strategies that increase the political power and
wealth they hold, while ignoring the development of their country. Such political corruption traps a
nation in poverty and underdevelopment so that a few can enjoy undue power and wealth. It is
therefore important to place constraints and controls on politicians to safeguard against the abuse of
political power and the expropriation of public funds. This may involve constitutional reform, the
passing of appropriate laws and the establishment of unbiased, independent bodies to manage
politicians. Developing Nations need checks, balances and external oversight to ensure that politicians
implement policies that are in their country’s long term best interest.
For corruption to be curbed, it has to be detected. There must be mechanisms in place for
whistleblowers and witnesses to report corruption to unbiased institutions responsible for investigating
6. these allegations. Witnesses and whistleblowers must be unencumbered and protected before and
after reporting corruption. Far too often, this is not the case. The perceived link between corruption and
violent crime has resulted in many would be whistleblowers thinking twice about reporting corruption
(Trinidad Express Newspapers 2015). When allegations are made against public officials who possess
political power, there is a perception that they may impede or influence institutions charged with
carrying out investigations. The low detection of corruption is also evidence of the failure of institutions
charged with auditing Government Ministries and Agencies.
Trinidad and Tobago is further influenced by the international narcotics trade. Several international
investigative journalists have revealed that Trinidad and Tobago is a major transshipment point for
narcotics en route to the USA, UK, West Africa and Canada. Local public officials and well designed
systems ensure that the elites in this trade operate with impunity (VICE News 2014) (Rhodes 2011).
Local journalists and researchers have corroborated these findings (Trinidad and Tobago Guardian 2015)
(Trinidad and Tobago Guardian 2015) (Daily Express 2009). Cocaine emanating from Trinidad and
Tobago has been found in the USA and UK. The quantity of narcotics being trafficked from Trinidad and
Tobago exceeded six hundred million dollars in one particular shipment (Seelal, Local group behind
'coke' in juice tins 2014). It is difficult to imagine cocaine trafficking being undertaken on such a scale
without the complicity of public officials. However, only street level thugs and criminals within this
industry are targeted by law enforcement. The link between this industry and violent crime adds the
element of intimidation to the dilemma faced by public officials. Cooperation with the elites of this
industry may not be driven solely by financial incentives, but also by self preservation.
A lack of transparency further contributes to endemic corruption in Trinidad and Tobago. Corrupt public
officials often prevent access to incriminating evidence, thereby ensuring that they can only be
investigated if there is a change in government. Even still, these officials ensure to destroy all
incriminating evidence when they demit office. The Freedom of Information Act which came into full
effect in 2001 addresses this issue by giving citizens the right to access information held by public
authorities. The major goals of this act include reduced corruption and greater accountability for public
funds. However, as with other anti corruption mechanisms, the enforcement of this act is less than
Ultimately corruption is a reflection of the values of a society. The increasing trend in corruption
indicates that values such as honesty and integrity aren’t being inculcated into our citizens. These values
which are characteristic of the teachings of major religions aren’t penetrating the minds and hearts of
7. citizens. The education system is also failing to instill these values in the upcoming generation. It is
therefore important that Ethics is included in the school curriculum as a long term strategy against the
crippling effects of corruption. With an improved value system, the incoming generation may be able to
successfully ward off temptations to become corrupt.
Many public officials are members of professional associations and are therefore duty bound to not only
adhere to the Codes of Ethics of their associations, but to also report breaches of these codes by fellow
members. The endemic state of corruption in Trinidad should trigger increased efforts to market and
disseminate these codes of ethics. Professional associations must ensure that their Codes of Ethics
widely known and regularly rehearsed within their membership and even among the public population.
These codes of ethics set standards of behavior for professionals and thereby guide the expectations of
the public. Wider currency of codes of ethics within the public may result in increased monitoring of
professionals and consequently, increased detection and reporting of breaches.
In Trinidad and Tobago, Special Purpose Companies have been set up by the state to overcome the
bureaucracy and inefficiency of the Central Tenders Board (CTB), which is the sole authority for
tendering in the Public Sector. These Special Purpose Companies conduct the business of the State in
more efficient and dynamic ways and give the State the flexibility of the Private sector. Examples of such
companies are NIPDEC, HDC, EMBD, EFCL and UDeCOTT. Each of these companies has its own mission,
purpose and procurement policies and practices. The absence of a standard procurement procedure for
these companies has however created opportunities for corruption. These companies disburse public
funds, but the amount of Government control over them and their accountability for the disbursement
of public funds varies. Allegations of corrupt, nepotistic and dictatorial leadership leveled against
UDeCOTT chairman, John Calder Hart, led to a commission of enquiry into the construction sector from
2009-2010. Among the findings of the Commission were extortion of Contractors by criminals at
construction sites, price gouging and profiteering by contractors, abuse of powers vested in Special
Purpose Company executives and a lack of project management competency within UDeCOTT and
NIPDEC project management companies (Uff 2010). Five years later, Special Purpose Company EFCL has
been implicated in a scandal involving the corrupt disbursement of funds to political financiers (Bahaw
2015). Clearly, it has become the norm that resources and institutions in Trinidad and Tobago are
abused for corrupt political agendas.
The decline of professionalism and patriotism is largely to blame for the rising levels of corruption in
Trinidad and Tobago. Even though anti-corruption institutions are weak, professionals are required to
regulate their own conduct in accordance with their codes of ethics. Long term national development
should be foremost in the minds of public officials as they lead by example and inspire professionalism
in the wider society. Many professionals are reward driven and do not possess the desire to do national
service. The low remuneration offered to persons placed in charge of state resources further increases
the risk of expropriation of public funds. Education of the nation on the importance of professionalism
and ethical conduct is perhaps the most effective way to combat corruption.
The effectiveness of codes of ethics is determined by their adoption and enforcement. Professional
associations provide an excellent means of bringing about ethical conduct. Many professional
associations have voluntary membership and as such many individuals opt not to register with them.
There are also many disciplines which do not have professional associations in Trinidad and Tobago.
There are lessons to strategies of developed countries. Many developed countries have made
professional registration compulsory and benefit from the self-regulatory nature of these bodies. These
associations take some of the burden off of the state in the management of professional conduct.
Regulatory reforms are required to mandate registration in existing professions and foster
professionalism in a greater number of disciplines.
National development can also be facilitated through the development and strengthening of institutions
that prevent corruption. It is more difficult and costly to fix corruption than to prevent it. Public officials
must not be given the opportunity wield unbridled power and control over the resources of the state. In
accordance with the spirit of democracy, citizens must retain the power to demand accountability and if
necessary, lawfully remove non-compliant, non performing or corrupt officials from office. Empowered
uncompromising institutions are required seek the interest of the public and restore public confidence
in the state.
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