By Lehana Nel, Forensic Accountant @ Nel Agri-Accountant & Forensic services / TS Advisory Namibia
A while back, I visited our local retail grocery shop again for our monthly list of items. At the fruit and vegetable section, a price tag for pawpaw’s caught my eye. I picked up the fruit, went to the lady at the weighing station to make sure that the price is correct. She assured me it was the correct price. Astonished, I took a photo of this fruit, with the price tag on. Later I contacted the store owner and asked him why the price was more than 100% inflated. The store owner replied that he had bought these fruits from a local supplier, who charged a much higher price than normal imports from South Africa. He corrected the price to a fair market value which was less than half the advertised price.
The great ethical retailer, Anita Raddick, who died more than a decade ago, was one of the pioneers in ethical commerce. She said: “I want to work for a company that contributes too, and who is part of the community”. Demanding that modern-day retailers does right by society. Sir Marten Sorrel coined this phrase right after the economic meltdown after 2008: “Doing good, is doing good business”.
According to the Namibian Competition Commission, close to 40% of the complaints received the last 4 to 5 weeks relates to the price increase of food, and basic consumer items. Whilst 25% of the complaints are in respect of health and hygiene, hand sanitizers, immune boosters, and face masks. 24% of the complaints relate to products or services which were not specified.
Ethics cannot be cherry-picked. In this day and era, it gets harder and harder to maintain ethos in our environments, with the internet at your fingertips, our profession is constantly under scrutiny, and sometimes over-regulated, mostly because of deontological ethics.
Deontological ethics is to do right by the book, and by the book, I refer to the applicable laws. As a developing country that recently suffered one of the worst droughts in many years, it now faces an economic decline of 25%, as estimated by our new Finance Minister Honorable Minister Ipumbu Shiimi.
My thoughts frequently wander off to what is our social responsibility towards this. In our economic environment should we not be the ‘Anita Raddicks’ of our profession? Advocating and protecting the public’s interest?