Efere was left speechless as she couldn’t comprehend the breaking news from her husband, Mr. Ochi. The situation facing her is severe and life-changing. Her husband had just been terminated from his executive job. also, they were about to lose their beautiful home and additional vehicle or pay the difference (because they are company properties).
After 12 years in the Banking Industry, she decided to leave last year to start her business. Also, She was 7 months pregnant and on compulsory bed rest due to some pregnancy complications. Ochi was her knight in shining armor. So, she feared for the next phase of their lives because he was fully responsible for their financial wellbeing and had been lovingly shouldering the responsibilities while she found her bearing.
Mr. Knight in shining armor
Ochi was the CFO of a reputable financial servicing and advisory firm. He had just lost his job of over 4 years because he refused to participate in the new fraudulent culture (high-risk tradings, misappropriation of funds, falsification of client accounts, fund misappropriation and misstatements of financial records, and giving Financing Supports – FS as known and introduced to the new culture.
This was a system of giving cash, gifts, and numerous tokens to government officials and Executives at top financial and regulatory institutions in exchange for business gains, favor, advantages, and favorable judgments.
The Genesis of Mr Alex
The company had recently hired a new CEO, Mr. Alex to replace the just retired Executive. He had plans on how to do business, gain new big accounts, increase profit and fulfill his bogus promises to investors. Mr. Alex wasn’t concerned nor interested in corporate ethics nor the effect of his decisions and actions. He insisted on full compliance with no complaints nor contests from his subordinates.
In the first quarter, the company recorded high profits but in reality, Ochi knew it was false. In fact, The business was swimming in high payouts, high accounts payable, and low inflow from its operating activities.
Ochi had requested a meeting with Mr. Alex to discuss the resulting effects of his decisions, and the need to normalize operations to avoid more losses and bankruptcy. He outrightly hushed him and asked for compliance.
Later that week, Mr. Alex called Ochi in and gave instruction to approve payment of N5 million to a specific Executive to facilitate an ongoing bid. Ochi asked for further explanations and supporting documents, but Mr. Alex replied,
“Mr. Holy, don’t ask me any more questions just do your job as instructed. Don’t you know you have to give something small to get more? If you won’t do it, you violate my rules, and I will find someone else to get the job done”Mr. Alex
Ochi refused to comply and eventually, it led to his dismissal.
Should Ochi have yielded to the demands of his superior, and the new culture as practiced by his colleagues?
Was he selfish not to have considered his family’s predicaments and his wife’s condition?
With 2 children and 2 more (twin pregnancy) expected in a few weeks, Ochi wondered how was he going to cope. He could feel his head swell just from the thoughts. Now, He wish he had reported the truth to The Board of Directors earlier or maybe quit when he saw the start of the illegal trends. Ochi was puzzled by these questions, but he was certain he made the right decision to stay ethical. This gave him the courage to console his wailing wife. Finally, He spoke,
Interestingly, with diligence and constant search, a few months later, Ochi got another job with better perks and work culture.
Sometimes, it may not be a happy ending, and being ethical in the pool of wolves may even pose a threat to life. I know some may say/ ask,
To this end, is it really necessary to lose it all when you can enjoy in silence?
What harm is done? all I did was appreciate his/ her support.
In business, it is okay to give a small token in exchange for bigger value for the benefit of many stakeholders (Well, says who)
In the short term, it may have been easier to yield and give the required bribe but it would be more difficult in the long run. The truth is that bribe or any form of gift given in exchange to influence the judgment, opinion or free will of someone in authority is harmful both to the giver, receiver, and others within the environment.
The effects of Corruption
Corruption is like cancer, it always tends to spread and grow larger. Where once 10% was acceptable, soon 20% becomes necessary. Where once only some functionaries in key positions demanded special payments, soon every clerk starts to demand their cut.
As corruption becomes prevalent, those in positions of responsibility lose the ability to implement sound policies. Generally, the easier it is to influence government officials; the easier it becomes for people to buy for themselves dispensations from any laws or regulations they do not like; and make decisions that favor their interests.
Likewise, where corruption prevails, contracts, appointments, payments, sales, favorable judicial decisions, etc. are no longer obtained because one deserves them but because one has offered the highest bribe. This discourages honest effort and disrupts a predetermined structure. And the prevalence of this tends to discourage economic initiative.
“The tip for a quickly issued license encourages officials to invent new licenses. The tangle of lucrative red tape strangles would-be entrepreneurs-and the economy suffers.”The Economist
The more corruption becomes common, the more people tend to mistrust the motives of others, especially those in positions of power. As the credibility of the leadership groups declines, resistance to authority mounts and it becomes impossible to secure the willing co-operation of the public or to persuade them to accept the need to make sacrifices, no matter how necessary they may be.
This was evident in the story when all senior management and client services officers started inflating project costs, approved Financial Supports (bribe), hospitality, and entertainment amounts to satisfy their collective and personal selfish gains. As expected, these activities cost the company huge financial losses and its reputation.
Sometimes, we engage in activities to serve immediate needs and promote selfish gains/ unfair advantages without thinking about tomorrow nor the effect of our actions on ourselves and others. It may be difficult at first to stay ethical or we may assume safety to hold onto the bird in hand as tomorrow is uncertain. However, I urge you to ride through the storm and save your virtues from further decay.
Bribery is not sustainable. It is also never the only option. The result may be temporarily pleasant but then, at what future cost? Corruption is an evil persistent friend that will blindly turn to bite you hard, at the slightest glimpse of a new tenant or when you don’t agree to its updated terms. He is an unfaithful, overbearing, and excessively demanding lord, who grants short-term favours to the highest bidder.
The good news is that personal ethics is doable and rewarding. It is vital for corporate ethics and business sustainability. It requires consciousness, consistency, and clear actions.
Ochi is not a perfect human but in this scenario, He is an ethical CFO, be like Ochi.
Until next time. Stay good and stay safe.
Article By Ezinne Okuku