Conflicting Interests

This 27 August 2011, Singapore will be seeing its’ second election in a year, this time it will be the Presidential Election.

Slated to be one that is extremely competitive in view of the number of candidates stepping forward to take up the Presidency, it is no doubt one that is exciting ONLY IF ALL CANDIDATES GET TO COMPETE.

Out of the many candidates competing for the Presidency, one has been pushed into the limelight by virtue of the power he used to hold and how perhaps, as a result of his power, his son was credited with a slightly different treatment – the White Horse treatment.

This person is none other than former Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Tony Tan.

His son has recently been cast into the spotlight over what many are calling preferential treatment when he was serving his National Service as he was allowed to be removed from the regular duties of a uniformed officer to one that was doing research in a lab as he was qualified to do so (after disrupting NS to do his studies).

Rather ridiculous I’d say but where the public is concerned, the public has every right to complain because it is the taxpayers money that is being used to pay Dr Tony Tan’s salary and his son’s, who was serving NS. Equal treatment should be accorded and that’s how taxpayers/public want it to be unless you are in the private industry.

Having said that, ‘Conflict of Interest’ has long been a concern in the public administration where taxpayers money are concerned but how much of such issues are actually being taken up?

We all know that ‘Conflict of Interest’ business dealings are happening all the time in the form of legalised documentation and often, it occurs because the person who gives the approval also happens to be the Boss/President/Chairperson/Director. Employees/Subordinates/Members and whoever else it is that doesn’t oversee the organisation/corporation is obliged to follow instructions or face being ostracised or given a hard time either through more work or halt in promotion.

That’s totally understandable but what if it happens in a VOLUNTARY ORGANISATION?

Are you as a fellow volunteer obliged to conform to what the decision maker commands/suggests be done?

In Public Administration where choice for vendors are scrutinized because it’s using taxpayers money, there is little room to negotiate around the system except unless that vendor is able/willing to provide more at a lower cost or has a reputation that is worthy to be accorded the contract.

In Private Companies/Organisations where choice of vendors are based on recommendations by the TOP, there’s no need to negotiate because if the TOP wants it, you give it!

But what if you’re in a wholly run voluntary organisation whereby choice of vendors are not subject to the stringent assessment that Public Offices do and whereby decisions made are purely based by a committee of members or by an instruction of the leader who’s able to justify the reasons.

It’s a very sticky situation indeed but I don’t suppose it’s that big of an issue should the vendor be able to be professional and deliver the service/product as required/stated. BUT what if the vendor isn’t able to and was given the job in the first place by virtue of the good relationship they had with the decision maker?

No one’s ever going to complain about a vendor should they be able to remain professional and deliver the service/product as required/stated, IN FACT, that vendor would probably be respected for the ability to remain professional despite the relationship with the decision maker.

On the contrary, should the vendor not be able to deliver the service/product as required/stated or remain professional in their dealings with the organisation, both the vendor and the decision maker would have lost the trust and respect.

It’s a much bigger loss to take on a big risk to allow a conflict of interest to pass through especially when the ethics are in question.

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