The case mentioned is related to the Hospital Environment and it is pertaining to the department of research. The case issue is related to an Employee whose main task was to support the team with administrative, logistics, finance and budgeting matters. It was his sole responsibility to ensure that all the activities of the department were being conducted in a streamlined way following all the ethical standards of the Hospital.
All the research projects were qualitative and quantitative which involved a team of participants who received some sort of an incentive through cash at the end of the participation in the research activity. The receipt of every cash voucher had to have an authenticated signature of the Participant which confirmed that the Participant received the amount. In one of the cases the Participant had missed out on signing the voucher which also missed the attention of the concerned Official who had to get the signature of the Participant. While conducting an Audit the Employee concerned had found out the case and enquired the departmental official if he could contact the Participant and get his signature which would complete the process as per their Hospital rules and regulations.
On being questioned by the Auditing Employee the departmental official mentioned that it was difficult for him to contact the Participant and has quickly signed the voucher with the forged signature of the Participant and has asked him to submit it to the Finance Department. The Auditing Official was shocked of his action and was in a dilemma as to how he could deal with the issue as the departmental official was a close friend of his. At the same time the Auditing Employee was aware of all the ethical codes of conduct of his Company which they were supposed to follow.
The above ethical dilemma can be solved using the concept of Moral Intensity of Jones (1991) where theory of consequentialist ethics is applicable in this context. The role of ethics and the need for accounting decisions to be taken on the ethical grounds in a professional way is being adapted and implemented by Public and Organizations (Keim and Grant 2003). Aspects of professional judgement are critical for preparing the financial reports. This concept is supported strongly with the fundamental assumption that the auditors must act ethically with regard to exercising their professional judgement (Jones 1993).
The present case can be strongly solved by applying the Moral Intensity of Jones theory where he proved that the issue – contingent model of ethical decision making and behaviour can add a greater value to the understanding of ethical process. Jones (1991) model emphasises on the behaviour of the decision makers and it also focusses on the ethical issue and its attributes like the effects of consequences, social consensus, the possibility of effects which could result out of the issue, any immediate solution which could be applied and the proximity of the effects of the issue.
The same could be applied to the above auditing case where we could consider the case with an open mind to introspect the possibility of the missed out signature, effects of the consequences, possibility of any issue which could arise and the proximity of the effects of the issue.
In alignment to this concept we could also apply the consequentialist theory of ethics to this case where we could assess if the normative properties depend only on the consequences (Bradley 2006). A secondary aspect to this would be a general approach which could be applied at various levels of a case to see the probability of moral rightness of acts which were performed or taken. Consequentialism decides whether an act is morally right as per the consequences or the situations and it also considers the intrinsic nature of an act or any situation which could have risen before the act (Gert 2005).
As a second stage to this process, the concept of actual consequentialism can be applied to decide whether an act is morally right depending on the actual consequences. The consequences could be quite opposed to the foreseen ones or the most intended ones (Coakley 2015).
As per the case the consequences would be only if the Participant comes back and claims that he has not received the payment. Until this situation arises there would not be any situation which would cause issues (Darwall 2003). In order to solve this case the departmental official could have contacted the Participant through any electronic communication mode or a written mode to report the missing signature and could have requested the Participant to approach the closest office and sign the voucher.
The third aspect of the theory of consequentialism which is applicable in this case is the theory of direct consequentialism where the act performed could be judged only on the consequences of the act itself (Jamieson and Elliot 2009). This is dependent on the motive of the person who performs the act and it is in this context where we could decide whether the intention of the person is right or did he intend to commit to something which is inappropriate (Brown 2011).
In this case, the intention of the departmental official was on the right grounds however he had an issue contacting the Participant as he lived away and it was not possible to contact him.
All these aspects are in close relation to the Moral Intensity of Jones (1991) where there are sequential stages involved in the process like recognition of the moral issue involved and interpretation of the moral issue which were performed by the Auditing Employee, moral judgement which is the course of action which is applicable in this context, establishing moral intent which is prioritizing the moral values and engaging in the moral behaviour. All these three aspects were missed by the Auditing Employee as he was introspecting them himself than communicating with the departmental official who was involved in the issue. The Auditing Employee should have communicated in an open way with his friend about the issue and the possibilities of solving them in order to save his friend from facing any of the consequences in the future.
Jones, T.M (1991). ‘Ethical Decision Making by Individuals in Organizations: An Issue - Contingent Model’, Academy of Management Review, vol. 16, pp. 366-395
Jones, J., D.W. Massey and L. Thorne (2003) ‘Auditors’ Ethical Reasoning: Insight from Past Research and Implications for the Future’, Journal of Accounting Literature, vol. 22, pp. 45-103
Keim, T.M. and C.T. Grant (2003) ‘To Tell or Not to Tell: An Auditing Case in Ethical Decision Making and Conflict Resolution’, Issues in Accounting Education, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 397-407.
Bradley B (2006) “Against Satisficing Consequentialism”, Utilitas, 18: 97–108
Brown C (2011) “Consequentialize This”, Ethics, 121: 749–71
Coakley M (2015). “Interpersonal Comparisons of the Good: Epistemic Not Impossible”, Utilitas, doi: 10.1017/S0953820815000266
Darwall, S. (ed.) (2003). Consequentialism, Oxford: Blackwell
Gert, B (2005). Morality: Its Nature and Justification, New York: Oxford University Press, revised edition
Jamieson D., and Elliot R (2009). “Progressive Consequentialism”. Philosophical Perspectives, 23: 241–251
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