ETHICS – DOING THE RIGHT THING
Can you enjoy a round of golf or a meal with a vendor? Can you accept something of value? There is a definite impact to competition if we accept something for free that allows a vendor to be one step ahead of the competition. Whether or not our actions are intended to conflict with procurement laws and rules, we must proactively think about how our actions as state officials or employees may be perceived by the vendor community and the public.
Ethics is an important part of public procurement. From OMB State Procurement Manual: The state procurement program is the vehicle through which a significant amount of the state’s taxpayer dollars are spent; therefore, the integrity of the state procurement program is paramount. Any improper actions or the appearance of improper actions by state personnel or vendors can compromise that integrity.
If you are involved in any aspect of the procurement process, you are required to refrain from acting, or appearing to act, unethically or in conflict with those laws and rules. Behavior that may be perceived as unethical includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Artificially fragmenting or splitting purchases to avoid competition requirements.
- Writing restrictive requirements that intentionally limit competition.
- Preference for or favoritism towards a specific vendor.
- Discrimination against vendors based upon race, sex, religion or political affiliation.
- Accepting gifts, entertainment, prejudicial discounts or favors from suppliers.
- Attempting to unduly influence an evaluator or procurement decision.
- Inappropriately handling confidential or proprietary information.
- Providing information to a select vendor, or vendors, that gives a competitive advantage.
- Revealing information about a bid or proposal to a competing vendor.
- Providing false information in a determination or Alternate Procurement.
- Not following the procurement process required for the purchase being contemplated.
- Failure to recognize or disclose that an official, employee or immediate family member has an actual or potential conflict of interest, including a monetary interest, in a procurement. This includes failure to recuse an official or employee from the process when a conflict is identified.
- Former state officials or employees improperly using information gained from their previous working relationship with the state to influence a procurement outcome. N.D.C.C. § 12.1-13-02.
Vendors commonly offer pens, cups, calendars and note pads. Items of nominal value offered by a vendor or contractor as a gesture of good will or for public relations purposes may be accepted, but be mindful of appearances. What would a vendor think if you display a competitor’s promotional items in your work area?
If there is anything that might compromise or appear to compromise your ability to make an unbiased decision, you must remove yourself from the procurement process. An impartial procurement professional should step in and conduct the procurement. The OMB State Procurement Office is available to assist agencies in these instances.
Contact Sherry Neas with Questions.