Just as Royal Institute for Governance and Strategic Studies took helm to train world class leader in Bhutan, I am left determined to ask some pertinent questions that has been chiseling my mind for very long time to one of the privileged candidates of RIGSS, the Chief Executive Officer of Food Corporation of Bhutan. The question concerns ethics in business and moral responsibility as Chief Executive Officer of one of the oldest companies in Bhutan.
I bring forth this question because I could not keep quiet and it concerns ethical issues which touches the depth of human nature. As a writer, I have always sought for refuge in my conscience. After having tolerated the swamp for very long time, I thought there are million reasons to ponder upon this case.
Mr. Champay joined the service of FCB in March 1975 after completing class IX from Tashigang Central School. On August 31st, 2012, he reached superannuation age of 58 years and completed 37 years of service. As per the FCBL Service Rules and Regulations, employees superannuate at the age of 58 years. Given his good track record and very long service, the FCB Management re-employed him on contract basis after his superannuation for a period of one year with approval from the FCB Board of Directors. There were two people who joined the service and superannuated around the same time. They were both retained by the management on contract for a year with approval of the Board. The other person was Sherman Rai, Regional Manager at FCB in Samdrup Jongkhar.
However, Mr. Champay’s contract was terminated six months prior to expiry of contract period without giving proper reasons. While his friend was retained for full period and was paid off all terminal benefits, Champay was denied his benefits for reasons FCB management knows best. Subsequently, the FCB management showed shortages in stock of sugar, rice and oil to the tune of 2.6 Millions. A complete anatomy of the FCB process and system showed that the shortages were actually created by the management by manipulating the system at the backend and by endorsing fake multiple invoices for single consignment.Later we were able to understand why FCB management had retained his terminal benefits like pension, PF and gratuity. It was to cover up for the shortages that the management created by manipulating the system. They had plotted against Champay knowing fully well that he was eligible to get benefits.
What shocked me was an attempt by the management to suppress and misrepresent the material facts. Instead of carrying out independent investigations, FCB management was involved in threatening the employees not to pass on the information. The management went to the extend of grossly lying the authorities and law enforcement offices.It is shameful to note that management can blatantly lie to its own governing Board without a slightest guilt despite the fact that truth is so obvious.
An attempt by the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources to solve the issues did not materialize because FCB management refused to abide by the labour laws. Now I have started to wonder if FCB management is above the law. Law has been passed by National Assembly and not by FCB's Board of Directors. And it is the responsibility of every individual and entities to follow due process of law. Similar case has erupted with Customs. The FCB management took advantage of RRCO Regional Director’s membership in the Board to waive off the penalty being imposed by the custom officials to the tune of Nu. 2,63,000. There arises the conflict of interest. If management was not guilty of endorsing fake documents, they should not be bothered of the penalty levied by relevant authorities. On what basis RRCO RD waived off the penalty is not only against the norms but also clearly shows conflict of interest as Board Director.
The FCB management did everything to block fair investigations by independent authorities. They tampered with contract and official documents and favoured few handfuls. Cronyism and nepotism was practiced in open. A person with tainted history took front seat and interestingly, that tainted guy was a member of disciplinary committee also just because of his unknown connection with the management. People worked in constant fear of being terminated without benefits. How do we judge such company? We are talking about 21st century world and a company which at one point of time was premier institution involved in making differences in the lives of thousands of Bhutanese people. Where did it go wrong? We are talking about management who has been entrusted to operate a company that has social mandates.
Isn’t there something called ethics in the mind of FCB management which takes notice of the lessons of the past, the desires of other people, and the consequences of actions? Was there ever an element of prudence, thoughtfulness, practice of the lawfulness?
I think John Dewey was right in saying , "If the standard of morals is low it is because the education given by the interaction of the individual with his social environment is defective."
Business entities survive on the goodwill of the people and society. The very fact that the company operates with the goodwill of the people necessarily makes company responsible to behave in the manner best desired by people waiting to be served not just the product but quality of services. It must have taken 38 years for FCB to create a brand for itself but now a self conceited management has ruined not only its name but its future. Ethical management brings more profits to business because it establishes a reputation for honesty and for fair dealing beyond the necessities of the law that has a business asset of great value and profit.
Crude cheating was outlawed in civilized countries long ago. The mass approval of fair dealing, and the withdrawal of patronage from unethical staff will steadily effect upon the improvement of morals in business.
This is a crucial point for FCB. It is time to show the essential fairness. Society and community will advance and it is only natural that thousands of people like me will hold Government companies like FCB accountable and responsible to the public. Within the purview of law, Business entities or an individual can look eye on eye and no one, whether CEO or otherwise can delve to treat other people as inferior. A company cannot be run on the basis of CEO's personal ego nor is it wise for a company to give space to cronyism. There are honest people out there making living from decent works they perform daily. They have living to make. I believe that I live in a civilized society today where there are laws to respect.