June 18, 2024

Choosing a standardisation specialist on cost alone is a dangerous move

3 min read

Overcoming bribery and corruption in business and government dealings is a worthy goal for any country – and one way for companies to start the journey toward ethical compliance and behaviour is to leverage best practices and implement new standards and practices, like ISO 37001:2018. This ISO establishes a framework on which to build anti-bribery management systems and is the de facto standard for companies worldwide and needs to become a standard upheld by organisations in South Africa.

Wikus van Niekerk, company secretary at World Wide Industrial Systems Engineers (WWISE), says: “Bribery and corruption in South Africa is a major challenge. Many organisations are susceptible to it, particularly those that deal with government institutions/enterprises. This is because of the massive sums of money involved; companies can be desperate to secure it and can be willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen. It’s a huge problem.”

According to the Corruptions Perception Index, South Africa has a score of 44 out of a 100 where 100 is very clean – and is sitting in 70th position in the global rankings. This affects investment, trust and perceptions around good business practices, and makes it critically important to have certifications in place that cement trust and ethical perceptions.

With organisations adopting new standards like ISO 37001:2018, however, a long-term solution could be on the horizon.

Van Niekerk says, “ISO 37001:2018 provides organisations with a framework for implementing an anti-bribery management system. This involves identifying bribery risks, implementing controls to prevent bribery, monitoring and reviewing the effectiveness of these controls, and continually improving the system. By following the guidelines set out in the standard, organisations can establish a culture of integrity and transparency, reduce the risk of bribery and corruption, and demonstrate their commitment to ethical business practices.”

The first step toward adopting the standard is for organisations to enlist the aid of a specialist or company that offers ISO 37001:2018 implementation. However, choosing a specialist based on cost alone is a dangerous move.

A specialist chosen purely on cost may lack the expertise needed to effectively implement the system; they may not provide adequate training; they may not produce high-quality deliverables like risk assessments, policies, procedures or training materials; and they may not be able to provide sufficient levels of ongoing support to ensure the system remains up to date and effective.

In short: it’s a bad idea. Concerns over and above just cost should be taken into account when evaluating potential partners for ISO 37001:2018 implementation.

“What organisations need to look for is a standardisation specialist or company with relevant experience in implementing anti-bribery standards such as ISO 37001:2018,” says WWISE legal manager Sibongile Ncwane.

“When evaluating a potential provider, organisations should ask for case studies or references from previous clients in similar industries to assess their expertise. They should also check for certification with an accredited body. 

“Flexibility is also important. Organisations should look to partner with specialists that offer a customised approach that can fit their specific needs. They should also evaluate the quality of the specialist’s services in everything from risk assessment and policy development, to training and monitoring.

“Another good indicator of quality is reputation, and research into past performance, legal disputes and ethical concerns can tell prospective clients all they need to know. Online reviews, testimonials and industry forums are great sources of this information. 

“Lastly, when it comes to communication, it’s important to choose a provider that communicates clearly and promptly. This is important, as the provider you choose will be supplying ongoing support and guidance, and you need one that does so effectively.

“When weighing all of these up against the costs of prospective ISO 37001:2018 providers, the right choice for your organisation should become apparent,” Ncwane concludes.

Implementing standards like ISO 37001:2018 can be daunting, but by partnering with the right specialist for your needs, organisations are making vital progress toward ending the scourge of bribery and corruption and building trust. After all, South Africa needs the economic boost and ethical certification is one way of making this a reality.

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