Written by: Donna Kirk – The Pro Forum Community of Practice

If Probity is simply the evidence of ethical behaviour – why do, we keep getting it wrong?

It doesn’t matter whether you are in the private or public sector – probity which incorporates words such as ‘Transparency’, ‘Integrity’, ‘Appropriateness’ and ‘Accountability’, become more important when we live and work in constantly changing situations with decisions having to be made hastily.

They say that ‘Necessity is the mother of Invention’…. Can we suggest that ‘Probity is the mother of Trust’?

  • If we want the public to have faith in our message – we need to be transparent.
  • If we want clients to return to our business and become loyal clients, we need to have integrity.

We need people to trust what we say and what we do.

On an individual basis – most of us do. The rogues out there are in fact few and far between – they are simply more visible because they are splashed across the front pages of papers in not a good way!

Probity in a nutshell is the checks and balances of any project, process or procurement that enables teams and individuals to sit comfortably that the decisions they are making are the correct ones.

To do this there are some helpful tools:

  1. A probity plan – developed particularly where a procurement is sensitive or of high value, high risk or subject to a high degree of public scrutiny, to ensure that all probity issues are considered and addressed prior to the start of a procurement project.
  2. Conflicts of interest records – make it easy for individuals to be forthcoming with their knowledge and interests. Ensure the process itself of documenting conflicts is transparent. Scaring people will simply create roadblocks and create more problems.
  3. Risk Management – what happens if? Asking ourselves and our colleagues this question isn’t difficult, and it doesn’t require a lawyer. A good probity advisor can often provide an external but equally knowledgeable perspective and highlight areas of concern that can then be addressed.
  4. Probity education – let’s stop the lawyers from scaring everyone. By taking ownership of probity at every level including the individual, the team, and the leadership. With wider knowledge comes greater awareness and confidence in being able to identify when something is wrong and act on it.
  5. Implementing checks and balances in every workplace – would you provide a new employee with an unlimited credit card on day one without a signed contract or agreement to how it can be used? Likely not. Would you knowingly sign off a contract knowing that due diligence hadn’t been as thorough, but you know that time is against you… possibly? Checks and balances provide the pause point to evaluate situations and give you an opportunity to change, amend or continue.

You may be a project manager balancing the demands of a client who is asking you to do something you know is wrong. Or a procurement professional who is feeling uneasy about a decision.

Probity is the awareness of knowing how to do what’s right and ensuring its done.


Probity awareness is a knowledge gap highlighted by numerous procurement and project professional bodies. Pro Leaders Academy as a leader in probity education for government is providing a complimentary webinar on Probity with a focussed workshop being announced for later in November allowing teams to gain a greater knowledge of probity and the mechanisms that exist to support ethical decision making in all sectors.

NOTE: The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter, and specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances. The content must not be relied upon as legal, technical, financial or other professional advice.