Comment: Besides fighting corruption, Romania must also learn ethical responsibility

Corruption is at the heart of the very tragic event that unfolded, but there is another issue, and just as important, that is being overlooked and that is ethics.

Corruption and ethics go hand in hand. One of the reports I read was that the contractor who installed the insulation that so rapidly caught fire explained that the club owner refused to pay the additional cost of fireproofing. The contractor should have ethically refused to install the material knowing that it did not comply with the regulations, but he put profit first. If that is the case then the contractor must accept equal responsibility for the tragedy.

Ethics in the construction industry and even amongst the professional seem to be something that is frequently overlooked and yet it is the professionals who carry the responsibility for the Health and Safety of the Public at large. A good professional would have resigned if a client refused to comply with the regulations and would have a moral and ethical responsibility to advise the authorities of the non-compliance with regulations. Whether the city hall officials would have responded correctly is another issue.

As Chartered Surveyors, we have a strict code of conduct and ethics are at the forefront. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, which is now a global professional body with a significant number of Romanian members, exists to set standards and the primary purpose by setting standards, ethical codes and issuing good practice guidance protects the public interest. It is not a “trade body” and does not exist to protect members but to ensure that members provide the best possible advice and highest standard or professional service.

I came to Romania nine years ago and have met many excellent professionals but sadly my optimism about standards improving has diminished with each year I have lived here. I know of cases where “diriginti de santier” (site masters) have overlooked defective work by contractors or to even be present when major works have been undertaken overnight. Situations where a contractor has tried to influence Project Managers to accept sub-standard work or alternative materials without passing on the full cost saving. I know of situations where the client has worked with a professional team who will do his bidding even if it is in conflict with professional and ethical standards and contrary maybe to the lending banks instructions.

The dilemma we face, in a country that has great potential, is enormous and it is time not only for the political situation to be rapidly changed (see Paul Wood’s excellent article) but it is time for business as a whole to address its own problem of corruption and self-interest.

Institutions such as the banks can bring enormous pressure to bear on the business community to clean up their “act”. The banks are in a position to set a very good example and force change as most building owners and businesses rely on the banks for finance.

I could have been a lot wealthier in this country, but I refuse to do business “the Romanian Way”.

By Jonathan Youens, guest writer

About trust, real estate, honesty and… photography with Fellow Jonathan Youens