Nkandla has been dominating media headlines even before the Public Protector’s report on the R246 million upgrade to the President’s homestead in KwaZulu-Natal. Two ethical issues that are central to this saga are responsibility and accountability. There were clearly public officials who were responsible for approving the work, but the big question is whether anyone will actually be held accountable. The lesson that is applicable in the workplace is that when those who are responsible are not held to account for unethical or illegal actions – for example, when there are no consequences for their actions – it erodes accountability as an important mechanism to address misconduct and risks adding to a slide into increasing unethical behaviour.
Cynthia Schoeman is the MD of Ethics Monitoring & Management Services (Pty) Ltd, the author of Ethics: Giving a Damn, Making a Difference and a member of the SABPP’s Ethics Committee.