From accountability to integrity


-The Joseph model

Over the years, businesses and organisations which have paid due attention to record-keeping, accountability and integrity have become progressive and successful institutions with enviable brand names and trademarks.

‘Accountability and integrity’ is a subject that preoccupies the leadership of organisations and business entities in several areas of their operation, including the management of time, energy, financial and material resources. In this presentation, our focus is on the management of financial and material resources. It takes more than accountability to create a high trust environment which produces excellent product and delivers value-added services.

Joseph’s leadership skills

In the history of Egypt, a young talented foreigner was made prime minister, and entrusted with the management of two critical periods in the country’s history:

  1. Seven years of abundant food supplies, followed by
  2. Seven years of famine and scarcity of food resources.

The prime minister was the young Hebrew called Joseph.  With God’s blessings of rich land resources, coupled with Joseph’s exceptional talents, Egypt experienced a great economic boom. Joseph developed the right strategies which resulted in increased food production as well as efficient and effective storage and preservation systems.

With Joseph’s skilful management, proper accounting structures and systems were put in place and the required records were kept of transactions regarding the storage and later distribution of the abundant food supplies. Thanks to the exceptional leadership and great strategic initiatives of Joseph, Egypt became a great economic power and the bread basket of the world at that time.

One of the great policies pursued by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president, related to food production and storage. The Ghanaian leader built silos in the capital, Accra as well as other cities and strategic locations in the country for the purpose of storing farm produce to address the nation’s food needs, especially in times of scarcity.

Overwhelming food production

In the case of Joseph, with such great in-flow of food supplies, the accounting structures he had established began to face some challenges.

“Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure.”(Genesis 41:49 NIV).

The integrity test

When Joseph stopped recording the in-flow of the food items, it became obvious that going forward the management of the food chain would depend heavily on his integrity and the trust the people of Egypt had in him.

Indeed, Joseph had already exhibited a high level of integrity at all levels of responsibility, with or without documented evidence.

In his earlier days, while working as a slave in Egypt, Joseph built an enviable record of honesty and sincerity in his service. Potiphar, his first Egyptian master, left everything he had in his care to the extent that “with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate”. (Genesis 39:6 NIV).

His integrity was recognised and respected at the highest level of the political hierarchy in Egypt. When the people came to Pharaoh for solution at a time when “all Egypt began to feel the famine” (Genesis 41:55 NIV), Pharaoh had only one solution:

“Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.” (Genesis 41:55b NIV).

Later, the Egyptians themselves expressed their gratitude to Joseph and voiced out their confidence in his administration:

“You have saved our lives. May we find favour in the eyes of our lord” (Genesis 47:25 NIV).

Such was the integrity of the man Joseph.

In the Acts of Apostles, when people of integrity were needed to manage the social interventions of the early Church, Stephen was chosen (together with six other men) as “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5 NIV).

The critical question is:

  • What happens to accountability and integrity where there are no records?


In Ghana’s political and socio-economic history, accountability is a well-known terminology. In 1979 and the 1980s, during the late President Jerry John Rawlings’ regime, the expression ‘Probity and Accountability’ was given prominence. The fight against profiteering (kalabule) at the marketplace was quite tough, as government directives came against strong market forces and the economic law of demand and supply.

Where nobody is watching

In companies and organisations, management keeps pointing employees to the corporate mission, policies and regulations designed to ensure accountability. On the other hand, some employees also try to redefine accountability in their own way.

For example, a young man in the Projects Department of an organisation is requested to undertake a business trip to a neighbouring country for a couple of weeks. The Project Officer is given funds, termed as accountable advance – without per diem, to cover all official aspects of the trip, including transportation, meals and hotel accommodation.

Having returned from the trip, the Project Officer accounts to the Finance Department with the details of his financial transactions. In some cases, the officer presents receipts covering transactions which never took place. For instance, the officer spent most of the nights in a friend’s house, but the receipts presented indicate that he spent all the nights in a hotel. Also, he shows receipts for rented car services which he never used. He has managed to obtain false receipts to cover his transactions.

In this scenario, the Project Officer may be cleared for having accounted for funds he received by a simple show of documented evidence.

Accountability verses integrity

At the workplace, some supervisors and finance officers would pass a transaction as long as it is covered by receipts – genuine or not. Some would easily compromise for obvious gains.  Others try to avoid getting involved in a possible long search to establish the genuineness of the documents presented. This makes a mockery of accountability.

The Determining Forces

There are two principal forces that control accountability and integrity:

  • Accountability is mostly controlled by external forces – material evidence and the fear of possible sanctions.
  • Integrity is driven by an inner force – moral principles and godly character.

One day, I took a taxi to a busy part of Accra, to transact business in a small shop. When I had finished with my transaction, I started to look for another car to take me back home. As I was going to cross the major road in front of me, I saw the driver who had brought me to the shop.  He handed something to me and said:

“This is your phone; you left it in my car.”

I stood there speechless.  It was then that I realised I had left my mobile phone in his taxi. I saw his action as a real display of integrity. He could have gone away with the phone with the excuse that I had been irresponsible by not taking good care of this important item of mine.  Considering all the time and effort he spent in returning to a busy spot to look for me, and hand over my mobile phone to me, we can say that this driver had certainly moved from the accountability zone to operate in the integrity zone.

The Call for Integrity.

In our world today, we need men and women who, like Joseph, would go beyond the record books to deliver excellent services without a shadow of doubt. Certainly, we need to go beyond accountability to possess that unique godly character – integrity.

The writer is an HR/Management Practitioner, Phone: 0244599628, E-Mail: [email protected]

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