Revolving Doors – Ethics starts at the top

“No Bribery Please, We’re British” (ITV) was  televised last week before allegations surfaced in today’s Sunday Times that senior military officials have been assisting defence companies in the UK to win projects even though they are barred from this if not long out of uniform.


It always was so, of course, but we had hoped that codes of conduct and ethics – so critical and well-enforced by the military when in uniform – would in the 21st Century be upheld by those who were so recently held in such esteem.


The Exposure programme on ITV focused on bribes that British companies pay overseas and in certain cases in the UK. The Sunday Times focuses on less obvious (and still alleged) cases where favours were provided – for less obvious reward.


Yet, the different types of favour and reward schemes are too similar to be dismissed. They both reside on the wrong side of the ethical argument and maybe on the wrong side of what is legal.


Transparency International in its “Cabs for Hire: Fixing the Revolving door Between Government and Industry”  states that the system was not working and that ACOBA, the government’s Advisory Committee on Business Appointments should be replaced by a statutory body with real powers.


The time for this was long ago – ethics has to start at the top. Senior military officials just out of uniform (just like civil servants or government ministers) have to show that they did not benefit while in power. This requires a reasonable length of time between leaving office and providing favours – let alone not providing them when in office.