Over the decades, the Engineering profession has been constantly grappling with ethical issues involved with political contributions by individuals to state or local candidates. It is a common issue even in the global context where political parties approach non-government organization (in the content, it’s an engineering firm) to assist or support the party on their campaign during the election period and these assistance usually comes with rewards in a lot of form, example the engineering firm will be awarded for the future major state projects or in the form of valuable assets or even cash which also known as bribe.
Figure 1: the percentage of corruption for different occupation (BISHWAMANI POKHAREL, 2016)
From Figure 1, it can be seen that 22% engineers are corrupted. It may seems low to public but think of it this way, there will be at least 22 engineers that are corrupted or accepting bribe to perform their expertise in a sample of 100 engineers. That is a huge amount and it will contribute a lot to low quality infrastructure and will directly harm the well-being of public.
As the engineering firm’s owner or stakeholder, profits and the well-being of the firm is the
most vital aspect and these offers to assist a certain political party might be accepted. If the specific party won the election, all the major projects will be given to the engineering firm as promised and this will form a monopolized market. From the interest of the industry, a monopolized market is unfavourable as all the big projects were given to a specific firm. There will be no competition among engineering firms as there will not be improvement. Besides that, monopolized market will cause the other engineering firms unable to gain profits and forced to either leave the states for more opportunity or close the firm down. With the closure of the other engineering firms, there will be no competition and the specific engineering firm that get all the major projects might slack off and it will directly affect the quality of the products. With low quality products, the national interests will be jeopardized too, image of the country will be ruined and cause tourism profits of our country reduce as no tourist would want to visit a country that the infrastructure is not safe. For the interest of engineering profession, these below average products might be view as the overall standard of the engineering profession in this country which will directly causes the other engineers to suffer as the oversea investor will not have faith in local engineers. Without competition, engineers could not further develop themselves.
2.0 Problem Statement
Integrity is important to every engineer but it is hard to resist benefits that are so enormous that keep an engineering firm alive. How engineers should react to bribe and what actions should be taken?
1. To retain the honour of the engineering profession as a faithful agent or trustee.
2. To remain truthful in the professional reports, statements and testimony made.
3. Not jeopardizing the prosperity of other fellow engineers.
4. Contribute to sustainable development of the engineering profession.
The best action for the principal partner forward is to reject the offer.
From this question as stated in the provision of IEM’s regulations on profession conduct:
4.1 _Sustain the honour of engineering profession
Engineers shall at all times conduct himself honourably, responsibly, ethically and lawfully so as to enhance the honour, dignity, reputation and usefulness of the profession Not only that, a registered engineer shall at all times hold paramount of the safety, health and welfare of the public. The engineer shall exercise his expertise and judgement to its fullest and fulfil his professional responsibilities with integrity.
Besides that, engineers should also at all times direct his conduct as to sustain the dignity and reputation of the engineering institution, and act with equality, fairness and integrity towards all individuals that he work with or for. Engineers shall not solicit or accept financial or other valuable consideration, directly or indirectly, from outside agents in connection with the work for which he is responsible. Bribery is taken seriously in current world so involvement of registered engineer in it would damage the image and honour of the profession. A conflict of interest is any activity, transaction, relationship, service, or consideration that is, or appears to be, contrary to the individual’s professional responsibilities or in which the interests of the individual have the potential to be placed above his/her professional responsibilities.
Referring to guidelines for the code of professional conduct provided by Board Of Engineers Malaysia (BEM). Code 4.0 says that a registered engineer shall act for each employer or clients as faithful agent or trustee. Adhere to the current rules and orders, the profession expect that every engineer should be able to follow the standardized rules and order related to their engineering profession for instance the Registration of Engineers Act 1967 (Act 138). The section 15 of Act 138 specifies that if an engineer were to accepts any commission while performing his or her as a professional engineer, penalty of payment not exceeding RM50,000, suspended from the registration of professional engineer for a period of at most 2 years or cancellation from being registration of Professional Engineer on engineering organization, also he or she will be issued with a written warning or reprimand.
Therefore, it is important for an engineer to avoid any unethical conduct and uphold the integrity of the profession.
There are other acts which is related to the guidelines for code of conducts of an engineers like the Occupational Safety and Health Act which is to make further provision for securing the safety, health and welfare of persons at work, or the Factories and Machinery Act 1967 (Act 139) which will be used as the pillars in ensuring engineers perform their responsibility ethically by sticking to the standard rules and regulation.
4.2 Maintain company’s public impression and interest of fellow partners
In the guidelines for the code of professional conduct provided by Board Of Engineers Malaysia (BEM). Code 4.3 states that a registered engineer shall not solicit or accept financial or other valuable consideration, directly or indirectly, from outside agents in connection with the work for which he is responsible
All professional and business decisions shall be made in the best interest of the public, the client, employer and also the profession. By accepting the offer it means to monopolize the future major project of the states in return of helping the political party in the election. It would be treated as bribery when a partner or engineer accepts the offer to help a certain political party to win the election in return for the involvement of all the future major projects in the state. No matter how much the engineering firm desire to secure new projects, the project still need to be obtained via proper and ethical channel such as through the open bidding process of any projects.
Even if there is no evidence of improper action to be found, a conflict of interest can create an appearance of impropriety that can undermine confidence of the public in the ability of that person to act properly on his or her own. The principal partner of a reputable engineering-based firm has the responsibility to safeguard the interest of his fellow partner and employees so if it meant to damage the public’s opinion of the company and eventually the interest of fellow partner, refusing offer will be the best action forward.
4.3 Do not jeopardize the prospect and prosper of other fellow engineers
All projects initiated by state government organization should be awarded to a certain engineering-based firm via the open bidding process to promote competitive and better quality infrastructure. The principal partner of the reputable engineering-based firm as the elder generation of engineer in the industry should not threaten the fairness of bidding process and opportunity of other fellow engineers. If the partner accept the offer from the political party, all the major projects in the state will be awarded to the firm directly and this would jeopardize the prospect and also prosper of other fellow engineers. The other engineering firms will not be given the chance to secure the projects and eventually face financial difficulties which might lead to closure of the firm. In the long run, all the engineers that are not working in the specific engineering firm will forced to move out of the states to get a better opportunity in the related field and the competition between engineers will not occur which leads to the deterioration of the quality of engineers in the state.
4.4Contribute to sustainable development of the profession
If the proper and ethical approaches of obtaining a project are used, competition between engineering firm will occurs to obtain the project and this promote continuous development of engineering profession. Capability of each engineer will be boost as everyone will try their best to grab the opportunity. The profits obtained via the inappropriate and unethical methods are all short termed, and only to one single person, individuals or firm. All benefits obtained via inappropriate and unethical approaches are short term and not sustainable but it snatch the opportunity for other fellow engineers which lead to the stagnation development of engineering profession.
4.5 Be integrity and competent
As previously stated, engineers shall at all time conduct their responsibility with integrity. Engineering project often involve a huge sum of money so integrity is very crucial so that actions that will damage the image of the profession would not happen. The projects are often related to benefits of public, nation and clients. Corruption or incompetent engineers might lead to low quality or unstable infrastructure which can jeopardize the safety of public. Hence, integrity and transparency is very important during both implementation of project and securing the projects. The general public will recognize engineers as competent and not errant.
4.6 Make only reliable public statement and statement relevant with qualification they possess
Engineers are professional individuals with technical qualification and mastery on a certain field. The engineer shall only make public statement which is related to the field of expertise he or she owns. He shall not make public statement which he is not deemed the qualified and request the individual with the qualification to make the statement as the public will assume that his fellows, company or association member support his statements. He shall not falsify his qualifications so that public statement can be made. If he does otherwise, no one indeed will benefit but creation of bad impression to himself and the profession..
4.7 Do not improperly solicit work
It is an inappropriate and unethical way to solicit work from the others when an engineer assists the errant leaders of certain political party in return for the state’s future major project. It is unethical to solicit work from fellow engineering firm and it will directly harm the image of his or her engineering firm as this situation is also considered as bribery.
An engineer as a professional, shall at all time act for each employer or clients as faithful agent or trustee. Engineer as a profession has responsibility not only to their client or employer, but also to their profession, and the general public. Engineers need to perform their duties in as conscientious manner as possible in sustaining the society as well as the environment. The achievement would be meaningless if an engineer does not sustain the practices of ethics and morale in their profession because professional ethics is one of the cornerstone in this profession and also the society. An engineer needs far more than just acting within the bounds of law. An engineer who is ethical is the one that does not seek to misrepresent or falsify their expertise or proficiency in certain field so that they could accept jobs which are far beyond capability. Engineers should avoid conflicts and acts in the benefits of the society and also the environment. Not only that, they should fulfils the term of their contracts in a professional manner. Nonetheless, an enormous amount of money are involved in the deals with the action of obtaining an engineering related products, this exposes engineers to the possibility of bribery or unethical actions. Legal consequences like revocation of license might be taken on the engineers involved to punish their misbehaviour.
There are a few cases in Malaysia that involve unethical engineering practices. One of the cases happens during the nationwide anti-graft blitz in 2012. It is related to a senior assistant engineer who is working for the Public Works Department, the engineer was suspected to have received large sum of money amounting to millions of ringgit. About 30 projects in Sik which is a district in Kedah, Malaysia that are mostly maintenance and enhancement of roads were granted to the chosen contractors in exchange for an illicit payment, also known as kickbacks. The suspect engineer was said to be involved in such controversial deals since he held the position in 2012. The suspect was said to be given to selected bidders in return for goods. An investigation on corruption, power abuse and money laundering was carried out on the suspected engineer and the engineer was expected to be remanded in Alor Setar during the investigation is underway to assist in the probe under two Acts, the MACC Act 2009 and the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2001. These statements have been recorded from the suspect’s spouse, two technicians, two employees from the Public Work Department (PWD), and also seven contractors which are connected to him. These failures gave members of the public bad perceptions or bad impressions that engineers are not honest, trustworthy, money-oriented and are excessively concerned with material possessions. (Simon Khoo, 2017).
Figure 2: the percentage of corruption for different occupation (BISHWAMANI POKHAREL, 2016)
Figure 1 show a survey which was done by the Nagaik Research Bureau (NRB) under Nagarik national daily. The result from the survey shows that politicians and civil servants are the most corrupted occupation in Malaysia. It shows that about 84 percent of politicians and 82 percent of government officials are corrupted. Besides that, 61 percent of police, about 37 percent of lawyers and judges and 32 percent of NGO workers are corrupted. Engineers have a relatively lower percent of corruption which is 22 percent while the lowest percentage of corruption is drivers and teachers which is 6 percent and 8 percent respectively.
“Khanal of the Department of Statistics says it is not possible to indulge in corrupt behaviour without some nexus, though the share of the politicians is bigger than that of any others.”The politicians find various ways to take bribes.”
“The people’s perception is enough reason for course correction, though the survey was conducted with a small sample size,” he says, adding it is not a good sign that the people think service providers are so corrupt. Likewise, former CIAA chief Upadhayaya claims that the whole system in Nepal is under a corruption nexus. “The politicians, bureaucrats, lawyers, judges and police are all inter-linked,” he said. The anti-corruption watchdog also stands accused of being under the nexus. (BISHWAMANI POKHAREL, 2016)
Therefore, it is crucial for an engineer to stop the spreading of bad impression of the profession to the publics by undertaking the following action:
a) Transparent and fair evaluation.
Transparency is an important element in engineering profession. During the procurement of a product or projects, an engineer that acts as a technical expert should read and understand the documents in detail and the specification as stated on the documents or the client’s need. Based on the documents and client’s specification, a fair evaluation should be done by the engineers and if any he should propose what he thinks is the most suitable option or method which benefits the end-user which is the customers the most. The main reason behind this is because engineers are the one with qualification and capability to make and act on an informed decision in situation that the general public could not as engineers had been given the required training on the subjects. With a transparent evaluation and engineers do not abuse their power and authorities, the customers can place their trust on the engineer profession for their services and products. Therefore it is very important for an engineer to conduct themselves honourably, responsibly, ethically and lawfully as to maintain the public’s and clients’ faith in this profession when they seek professional advices. In conclusion, actions such as bribery be it in the form of money, valuable assets or any other form can be avoided as these actions go against the engineering code of ethics and it helps to retain the profession’s status in current society.
b) Regular supervising to be carried out
Engineer who approved the premises or projects should regularly check or performing spot checks on the projects that are undergoing to understand the exact condition and progress of the projects. Documents about the type and amount of material used, work procedures, safety measures taken, tools’ condition and also make sure the project is perform based on the blueprint to avoid any unnecessary accidents happening which might hurt the employees or the public. These regular checking can also ensure the quality of the infrastructure or products built are within the expectation of the client and standard of the country. If anything were to happen, it will jeopardize the faith that client place into the engineering profession and damage the public’s opinion on the profession.
c) Audit (Check and balance)
Audit of an engineer’s work document should be done by a third party engineer who has the same or higher rank in the related field of expertise and has a good reputation in auditing. Any comments, be it good or bad from the assessor who evaluates engineers should be accepted with open mind while the assessor should not overlook any unethical practices done by the person they evaluates even if they are offered with bribes. If the engineer being audited was found guilty of any unethical practices like accepting any form of gifts, properties, hospitality or inducement, it must be reported to the government bodies which is the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (SPRM).
d) Never Ending Learning, Be more competitive
As we all know, learning is a never ending process. Engineers should actively participate in any engineering-related organization or groups like the Institute of Engineers Malaysia (IEM) which provides a lot of self-improving activities like seminar, visit or trip, discussions between engineers, dialogue and also meeting. With all these activities, engineers are exposed to the information, knowledge, and experience about the latest technologies as the technology are keep on advancing and leaving those who do not learn behind. When the situation on the question happens, all major projects will be awarded to a specific engineering firm and the other engineering firm will have to compete for the minor projects left. When all the major projects were monopolized, the engineering firm that was favoured will never improve as there will be no competition occurring. On the other hand, the engineering firm that compete for minor projects might face difficulties in finance as some of them will not get projects and without projects there will be no profits. An engineer plays an important role in improving the socio-economy of a nation. Therefore, ethical and well behaviour should be possessed by an engineer to avoid any bad influence on the public’s opinion on engineering profession and ultimately developing the nation towards the first world country or advanced technology country.
In a nutshell, the best course of action forward for the principal partner of the engineering-based firm is to reject the offer from the leaders of political party. Though it is desirable for the firm to secure new major projects, the process of obtaining the project shall be transparent and via competitive bidding process. Projects awarded through inappropriate and unethical method will not be beneficial for the public’s impression on the firm which will eventually harm the interest of the firm. It is because the firm could have lost the trust or faith from the public. Furthermore, as a reputable engineer, he or she should act as the role model for the younger engineers.