PwC has announced it would retreat from all government consulting. Can anyone imagine a diabolical result from such a background as diabolical as this current Government scandal and how PwC had addressed it?
If this behaviour is proven, as it seems it has been, they how could any client feel safe,
that their ‘in confidences’ were not shared, spruiked, or dishonoured?
That the other partners had no idea what was happening – that opens up another myriad of failings.
A group of heads are identified and sacked; by heads, it seems that refers to ‘Partners’. WRONG ACTION!
There are many areas to focus on in all of this and it should not be seen as a purely PwC problem – to think that others do not do exactly as has been done here is to be naïve in the extreme. And that’s not just in the field of accounting – professionals everywhere become imbued with a sense of being special, able to bend and break laws and conventions.
In this current situation there are numerous matters:
1. What exactly is a ‘partner’ and what rights and responsibilities do they have that they can be summarily dismissed?
2. Partners do a lot of the talking but their intermediaries do most of the work, their managers down. So, all these people knew what was happening, and actively participated but the system and the culture precluded them to raise alarms and if they were raised obviously not acted on – there would have been MANY warning signs.
3. These intermediaries became aware of the exampled true core values of their employer and probably emulated that in their dealing in the areas they had access to – systemic breakdown – who is going to check on all of this? (To think this is only about government is to be further naïve, there are commercial ‘in confidences’ across all industries that can be leaked/shared)
4. The resumes of these intermediaries now have the stain of the PwC brand and that must be a negative to future employers! Their very thinking is tarnished.
5. Leadership has been shown to be sadly missing, replaced by the expedient of cash, power, and position. That is if one is to put aside ineptness. The impact on what is referred to as culture is serious – who is to believe who, who is going to example what behaviour in future.
The bottom line is government has a responsibility to audit its suppliers and suppliers have a core responsibility to act in a trustworthy manner. In the case of accounting companies, it isn’t long ago that they were awash with sexual harassment cases, managing partners (and others) exiting right left and centre.
(That is not to say the legal fraternity wasn’t also impacted here but just less publicly)
Big enterprises become institutionalised and through that become remote to their employees and their values. Too often white men getting fat on their earlier days of energy and replacing that with the comfortableness of ‘having arrived’ and now enjoying those fruits, which are expensive and need strong profitable cash flow it seems, at any expense. This is another reason diversity is good – less a club more a business.
The team are treated like fodder, they too have needs of cash flow, to support their family’s mortgages and ‘style’ appropriate to be seen as future partners; very easy to get on with it and bend their values – fear of termination and long job searches being motivators, as is peer pressure.
Performance management is one of the weakest parts of corporate governance; this is an area to focus on – ‘cause and effect’ – not rewriting the core values, not sacking one partner to replace with another partner just to go back to the same expeditious behaviours!
Rex Buckingham 5th July 2023