Leading Clean IT
Why businesses need to do their part to ensure a respected framework that supports fair play
Dato’ Praba Thiagarajah, Founder and Group Executive Chairman of Basis Bay, recently shared his views about the company’s focus on fighting corruption in the IT sector and a deep commitment to accountability and fair practices. This was published as an article in Malaysiakini, captured below.
As one of the leaders of the data centre industry, we had the foresight, early on, to consider sustainability in everything we touched. In fact, Basis Bay has been championing Green IT since our inception in 1996 and Clean IT extends our efforts in this regard.
Clean IT includes aspects such as social and corporate governance, which form the ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) framework. Informing our initiatives and policies, Clean IT is simply an expansion and application of these principles specifically within the IT sector. Integrity, sustainability and leadership represent our core values and the DNA of Basis Bay.
This has been embedded in everything we do, right from our beginnings 25 years ago. We continue to take a holistic approach to how we run our business which considers a number of elements. These include:
exploring ways to extend the product life cycle
building green data centres (which we’ve built a strong reputation for)
adopting and advocating for cloud computing
embracing green IT best practices enterprise-wide
IT infrastructure optimisation.
Our key focus on Clean IT is on fighting corruption which has been rife in the IT sector, not only in Malaysia but regionally too. Many close an eye to it considering it part and parcel of this ecosystem. This occurs not only within governmental circles but within the private sector.
But with our extensive experience over the years, we have seen first-hand how the IT industry is continually plagued by corruption. The temptation to pay a bribe (and accept one) is strong. Sadly, given Malaysia’s GDP per capita and well-intended Digital Play, it definitely shouldn’t be this bad at this time and in this age.
Historically, and still very much so, almost all multinational companies that dominate in the IT industry typically facilitate payments via preferred discounts to their resellers, many seeing this as the way things are and how business is done. But we are different and continue to strive for ethical governance in our industry.
In order to maintain fair business practices, welcome the ‘right’ foreign investment (versus the more sustainable and strategic DDI) and ensure a competitive landscape, our nation and industry players need to do their part to ensure the creation and maintenance of a framework that supports fair play.
Additionally, as a global business, we want to continually provide our services to large enterprise businesses, both local and foreign. Bench-marking ourselves against the global best is a must.
Whether in our region or elsewhere, this can only occur when corruption is eradicated, or at least, kept to a minimum. We continue to lead as a clean IT partner across ASEAN and APAC for both our regional and global clients.
While efforts are made to address the issue, systemic change is necessary. Research shows coordinated actions are far more effective than unilateral ones. Everyone playing their part in this ensures that the market gains access to the best in tech offerings (rather than simply who is best able to pay their way through). “Know-who” versus “know-how” is not only non-sustainable but will never create locally born Global Tech Players.
We also prioritize corporate social responsibility through anti-discrimination policies and our efforts to uplift marginalized sections of our society. As part of our commitment to equal opportunity and diversity, we encourage minority groups to join our organisation.
We believe in giving back to the community, and over the last two decades, much of this has occurred in the form of aid and support, (financial and otherwise) to members of marginalised communities and groups.
In response to the increase in COVID-19 cases and the white flag movement that has burgeoned in Malaysia, we’re doing our part too. We have come forward to provide support in the form of hot meals and groceries delivered daily to homes that need it. We have currently supported more than 150 families and will continue this effort given the times we’re in. These are some of the ways in which we bring our Clean IT policy to life.
International standards of Clean IT Nepotism, cronyism and corruption of any kind are globally endemic.
As expected, many organisations, even multinationals, do not want to discuss this issue openly. Some multinationals embrace clean practices in certain geographies but may choose to embrace the local ecosystem, and work with partners where less than ideal practices may be embraced in selected locations.
In terms of a global corruption barometer, 71% of people think government corruption is a big problem with 13% of public service users having paid a bribe in the previous 12 months.
This means that while benchmarks are visibly higher in first world countries, there are still instances of corruption.
Overall, we can look to New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Singapore for guidance as these countries are all in the top five globally according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).
However, some of these countries may have their corporate citizens behaving badly outside their geography. Many multinationals headquartered or based out of Singapore do facilitate the IT ecosystems mentioned earlier or just turn a blind eye. This is the elephant in the room.
We know that there is discomfort and a lack of transparency in existence. We know that the ecosystem has long been in place. Times are changing given global digitalisation but perhaps not fast enough.
Buy in towards ESG and governmental push in that direction is helping. Change is hard to initiate but this is where we see ourselves playing a role in leading the way and creating something game-changing.
Need for the right policies
We believe that despite the challenges we’ve touched upon, there are tangible actions that can be taken. We have recommendations about certain procedures and processes, that once implemented, can help hinder these practices and right these wrongs.
The key to this is having board members or independent senior executives that understand the digital world, but more importantly, they are untainted. Background scrutiny and ensuring their independence is critical, keeping in mind that multinational CEOs may have supported the corrupt ecosystem and may think that this is the way to continue playing it.
We believe that these may also provide some guidance:
Ensure at the pre-tender stage of a procurement process that criteria do not allow for too much discretion or that it is too restrictive
At the evaluation stage, bidders can sometimes collude to artificially inflate prices or even provide fake bids. These can be addressed through increased scrutiny
At the administration stage of a tender, bribes may influence decisions. When there are sufficient processes in place to catch potential issues, these can be surfaced and addressed
Ensure that the budget set is realistic
Develop selection criteria. Define these clearly and establish them in advance
Maintain sufficient workflow transparency and ensure the accuracy of pricing data in proposals
Ensure that the appropriate people have access to relevant records related to the process.
Basis Bay takes the lead Our overarching objectives and how these are articulated and rolled out are as follows:
Maintain zero anti-corruption practices and create a work environment across the enterprise that not only supports but promotes these practices in all our dealings and communications.
Maintain and promote integrity and impartiality across the enterprise. This involves preventing, detecting and addressing any form of corruption and ensuring decisions made are ethical and impartial.
Maintain consistent transparency and accountability across the enterprise through the development of clearly defined and accessible policies and processes that support ethical behaviour (consistent with our legal responsibilities and our ethical obligations).
These are rolled out through:
Centralised core business functions
Review of our attraction, selection and recruitment practices
Review of on-boarding policies and practices
Strengthening processes to identify and watch for opportunities that may result in corrupt behaviour
Ensuring integrity and accountability during the procurement process of our vendors and in architecting our solutions
Increasing staff awareness of the definitions of conflict of interest
Increased monitoring and reporting.
A zero tolerance policy in relation to employees who are involved in corrupt practices has been and will continue to be key. We will also continue to stay away from customers that we are aware allow and condone unethical business behaviour, however attractive the opportunity may be.
As the Founder and Group Executive Chairman, Dato’ Praba Thiagarajah oversees the strategic direction of the Basis Bay group of companies, assisted by a high-calibre executive leadership team. If you would like to find out more about Basis Bay’s Clean IT programme, please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com
This article was first published in Malaysiakini on 14 September 2021.