Ethics and ethical practices are a major concern in the realm of public purchasing today. While laws and rules mesh to provide a mechanism for public purchasing, only people themselves can truly make it work. In purchasing, as in all fields, there are values of pride and worth, there are standards and ideals, and there are specifics of conduct and performance.
Impediments to the procurement process must be detected early and safeguards provided at all levels. This applies to both district purchasing personnel as well as the vendor community.
It becomes imperative, therefore, that all public purchasing personnel be entirely cognizant of the necessity for ethical behavior. It takes only the slightest hint of impropriety to cast doubt on behavior, whether it be perception or an actual event.
Ethics relating to conflicts of interest, financial interests in firms conducting business with the district, kickbacks, gratuities and improper use of a position or confidential information are clearly communicated throughout the district.
Additionally, district personnel are made aware of the penalties for violations of purchasing laws and ethics, which may include criminal prosecution and loss of employment opportunities.
There are certain common standards of ethics which govern the conduct of employees involved in the purchasing function. The fundamental standards for the Katy ISD are as follows:
- It is breach of ethics to attempt to realize personal gain through public employment with a district by any conduct inconsistent with the proper discharge of the employee’s duties.
- It is a breach of ethics to attempt to influence any public employee of a district to breach the standards of ethical conduct set forth in this code.
- It is breach of ethics for any employee of a district to participate directly or indirectly in procurement when the employee knows that:
- The employee or any member of the employee’s immediate family has a financial
interest pertaining to the procurement;
- A business or organization in which the employee, or any member of the employee’s immediate family, has a financial interest pertaining to the procurement; or
- Any other person, business or organization with whom the employee or any member of the employee’s immediate family is negotiating or has an arrangement concerning prospective employment is involved in the procurement.
Fairness and impartiality in all phases of the process are an essential ingredient in public purchasing. Dealings with vendors and peers must be open, honest and objective.
Like all service functions, purchasing’s justification is the quality of the service it renders. The process cannot be both effective and self-serving; the two are incompatible. In the case of public purchasing, the utmost fairness is required in expending public funds. The result of favoritism extended to either a user or a seller is the same. The practice is not permissible. No matter how strongly a user may prefer a particular product over others, equivalent products must be given every reasonable consideration.
Integrity is a principal stock in trade for a public purchaser. Integrity is manifested by an unwavering commitment to fairness, openness and impartiality in all interactions and can be tarnished by even the slightest appearance of impropriety.