By Venansio Ahabwe
Mr. Naperi did not acquire a lot of wealth in spite of working for a profitable company for many years. He was puzzled that some of the people he had gone to school with quickly became very rich. One of them was Bafiire, a civil servant who, in a few years, had gained property in both the city and the countryside. Among others, he had a luxurious home, a hotel, a deluxe car and square miles of farmland. In addition, he regularly took expensive trips abroad to celebrate key events as well as birthdays. Yet, he earned a civil servant’s salary.
Every year, many workers abandoned civil service because of unfavourable wages, so it was surprising that a few in the same system were growing so wealthy. One day, Naperi had an honest conversation with his friend, Bafiire, who revealed that there was a lot of laxity in the government department where he worked. Officials had created an atmosphere where it was dangerous to be honest. Good people were made to pay heavily for being ethical; and anyone who seemed ‘rigid’ would be technically weeded out of the system.
Whereas Bafiire seemed to be favoured by this environment, he informed Naperi that he wanted to resign from his job. He pointed out that a new Director had been appointed to the department and she was not likely to tolerate any more scam. She had already started doing things differently. Previously, there was a young lady, named Kabara, who had demonstrated rare courage by telling her manager that it was wrong to divert money to private advantage instead of official purposes. She reminded the ‘boss’ of the official Code of Conduct, which every employee signed up to. She was unlike many junior staff who opt to violate ethics either when pressurised or are assured of protection by their superiors.
It is unfortunate that mere existence of a Code of Conduct in an institution does not mean that people will magically become ethical. A Code of Conduct must be rooted in the institutional culture, unlike in Kabara’s department where it was only a formality and blatantly violated. Some of the employees noticed that Kabara might endanger her career by her honesty and alerted her about the risk of sticking to the truth. Indeed, it was not long before she received a bad appraisal from her supervisor, leading to termination of her employment.
A twentieth century essayist, Anais Nin says, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” More fraud occurred after Kabara had been sacrificed. Bafiire was a major player in this racket. He would craft and spread lies about the financial status of the department in order to persuade staff to accept to lose money. He also belonged to a clique that falsified documents to account for stolen funds. Forgery became a culture whereby honest individuals were despised. King Solomon declares, “Tainted wealth has no lasting value…” (Proverbs 10:2a). Relatedly, Bafiire became insecure when the new Director took over the department. She strongly hated corruption and did not want to interact with any dishonest person. Many resigned their positions before she could fire them. She decided to constitute a new team, staffed with decent individuals. In this process, she came across information concerning Kabara who was fired from her job because of her abundant decency. Kabara was recalled to the department and promoted to a more senior level, with a much more reasonable salary. She could not regret having stuck to the truth.
The case of Kabara almost verifies the theory that ‘all truth goes through three stages: it is initially ridiculed, then it is violently opposed and finally, it is accepted as self-evident’. Every employee, irrespective of rank, should uphold universal work ethics, desirable and applicable in any sound institution. This enables one to remain efficient and secure in case there is change in company management or if one wishes to secure a job elsewhere. Creation of internal controls is essential in protecting company resources but, this makes sense only if every staff is keen to safeguard these resources. Everyone ought to go beyond narrow, personal indulgence and demonstrate commitment to high standards – like Kabara.
All characters in this story are imaginary
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