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There's a particular moral standard that simply doesn't stack up in my view. It's the standard that claims that if it's legal, it's OK. If it's within the rules, it's fair. We see it all the time. Employees who feel they are unfairly treated are told "If you don't like it, you know were the door is". Put up or shut up! The employer knows that the employee needs the job and if they do walk, there's plenty of potential replacements. Whether or not the employee is right in their complaint, the employer is using or even abusing their power over their staff. It's not fair. Large corporations spend huge sums of money employing the best legal minds in the world to show how they can arrange their affairs so that they avoid paying tax. Perfectly legal practices that are quite blatantly unfair - unfair to those tax payers who, whether out of a sense of decency or simply because they can't afford the best legal minds in the world, pay their fair share of tax. I'm not referring to the grey areas - there are lots of them - situations that are open to interpretation and opinion. No, I'm referring to those cases where any reasonable person would agree that a course of action is clearly, without ambiguity, contrary to the spirit and intention of a set of rules, a contract or an agreement. The fact that there is no breach of rules does not make the situation fair - it simply makes it legal. Which is why I'm astonished at the response from Philip King recently on the OB10 blog to a question about prompt payment.

I have been reading the draft of the new Procurement Directive. I had previously dipped into it but have now read all 360-odd pages in sequence. There is a lot in the draft Directive of value, particularly about sustainability, but I found myself musing on the concept of “Abnormally Low Tenders”. The explanatory notes in the draft are quite clear what the concern is: (44a) Tenders that appear abnormally low in relation to the works, supplies or services might be based on technically, economically or legally unsound assumptions or practices. Where the tenderer cannot provide a sufficient explanation, the contracting authority should be entitled to reject the tender. Rejection should be mandatory in cases where the contracting authority has established that the abnormally low price or costs proposed results from non-compliance with mandatory Union legislation or national law compatible with it in the fields of social, labour or environmental law or international labour law provisions”.

It’s astonishing! At a time when we have Sarbanes Oxley and a culture of control, in the climate of transparency and scrutiny and a fetishistic focus on finance – how is it that fraudsters have been able to get away with a more than 50% increase in procurement related theft? But it’s not that astonishing really. A cursory glance at the procurement practices and purchase to pay processes in any organization will reveal opportunities to defraud and while we should never forget that it is the fraudster that’s to blame, the responsibility is shared with the executives who choose to turn a blind eye and underinvest in proper P2P.

A couple of weeks ago, I sat down with Tony Duggan, CEO of Crossflow Payments, an organisation looking at alternative ways to bring together suppliers and corporate buyers and strengthen supply chains. Supply Chain Finance is a bit of a buzzword at the moment. The old guard, the banks who seem to have tunnel vision for the very big trade finance deals, and the factors who exploit to a greater or lesser extent the vulnerabilities of small and medium sized businesses view the new SCF players with a mixture of  doubt, suspicion and (although they’d not admit it) – fear. And they’re right to. Some of the new models emerging are innovative and impressive and they promise to take business away from the traditionalists. Crossflow is going to do just that in my view. Inspired by hands on experience in industry, Crossflow Payments has taken the concept of ‘Just In Time’ manufacturing and applied it to the financial supply chain. Tony believes that this can help transform the way financial supply chains operate.

The amount of sensitive data on the servers of mid-to-large enterprises can be quite shocking. Included in the data could be credit card numbers. Locally storing your customer’s credit card data can be a risky proposition as your company could fall victim to a costly data breach. Many large enterprises keep multiple copies of their customers’ payment data on old legacy systems whose underlying technologies remain solidly rooted in the 1960s.  Because these systems are transaction-based rather than customer-based, their interoperability with internal audit and accounting processes is severely limited.  To make matters worse, organizations often don’t know where sensitive data resides on those systems and have no control over it.

The BBC reports today the the Prompt Payment Code - a UK government backed initiative to encourage big business to pay on time - isn't working. In other news, the sun came up this morning and it is expected to get dark sometime tonight. The Prompt Payment Code provides little more than gentle encouragement to business to demonstrate - in words at least - that they will pay according to terms. I wouldn't criticize for one moment those businesses that have signed up to it. I know that they are sincere in their intentions. But the code doesn't have teeth. It doesn't name and shame transgressors. It doesn't hold business to account if they pay little attention to actually delivering against the promise. And it's hardly surprising therefore that it's not working.

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