Ethics group to rank contractors

A nonpartisan ethics group is launching a project to rank the ethics and compliance programs of government contractors.

The Ethisphere Institute plans to solicit information from contractors through Jan. 15. The institute will distribute a questionnaire to collect information and intends to use the data to create a ranking of 1,000 contractors.

The Practising Law Institute, LexisNexis and Corpedia, along with several corporations, created the institute two years ago. The group also publishes a quarterly magazine on business ethics, called Ethisphere.

The institute takes a nonconfrontational approach, co-founder Alex Brigham said.

The goal is to recognize companies that are doing a good job with their ethics and compliance programs and encourage other companies to improve their performance, Brigham said.

The requirements for ethical contracting set forth in the Federal Acquisition Regulation and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines will form the basis for the evaluations, he added.

The rankings will be dynamic: Companies can update their information, and the institute will also update the rankings on a quarterly basis, Brigham said.

The institute will evaluate ethics programs according to several criteria, including:
  • Code of ethics and business conduct. Does a company's code sufficiently cover major areas of potential improper contact in government contracting? Is the code broadly distributed, acknowledged or easily accessible?
  • Internal control systems. Are the controls suited to the company's size? Do the controls facilitate timely discovery of improper conduct? Are corrective measures taken quickly?
  • Training and communication. Does the company promote the code of ethics internally? Do employee-training programs exist?
  • Leadership and tone from the top. Do senior leaders demonstrate the importance of compliance and ethics?

Although answering the questionnaire is voluntary, the institute will still rank companies that decline to participate, Brigham said.

More information and a copy of the questionnaire is available here.

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

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