Ann Crotty Writer-at-large
Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Only 9% of professionals working in the public sector believe their leaders are ethical, while a substantial 66% of private sector professionals believe theirs are.

And despite the growth of a powerful and pervasive corporate governance industry, only 26% of professionals across both the public and private sectors believe that doing the right thing is more important than financial success.

These are some of the findings of the inaugural Anti-Intimidation and Ethical Practices Forum (AEPF) Ethical Practices Survey, released on Monday. Almost 40% of the 1,890 professionals surveyed said they had reported unethical behaviour.

The survey revealed that 25% of professional civil servants feared for their lives when blowing the whistle, compared with 10% in the private sector; 28% of public servants said they had been threatened and intimidated when speaking out against wrongdoing.

The survey collected responses from professionals in finance, internal audit, accounting, risk management, governance and fraud management in the public and private sectors.

It was commissioned by the AEPF, which is made up of eight professional bodies and institutions: the Institute of Internal Auditors, the Institute of Directors, the Institute of Chartered Accountants, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, the Institute of Risk Managers, the Ethics Institute, the Institute of Professional Accountants and Corruption Watch.

The survey looked at perceptions of professionals in relation to ethics in society, within organisations and within professional institutions. It also looked at the willingness of professionals to report unethical behaviour, the ease of whistleblowing and the experiences of people who have blown the whistle on corruption.

The survey included a comparison of professionals in the public and private sectors.

While 78% of respondents agreed it was their duty to report wrongdoing, only 56% felt comfortable doing so. The majority of professionals who did report wrongdoing did so within their organisation. Only a small number said they reported unethical behaviour to the media.

The media was regarded as a last resort and usually involved extreme cases of misconduct. "The media may also be used if individuals feel that their organisations cannot be trusted or if top leadership is involved or ethics reporting structures do not exist or are not trusted."

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