Ethics

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TEACHING ETHICS THROUGHOUT THE CURRICULUM

Case 97. Maintaining Documentation of Professional and Scientific Work

Situation

Philip Engledorf , Ph.D., is a sociologist who owns and operates a private research and consulting organization that has prospered over the years. He has never been one for paperwork and has always disliked having to maintain proper files for outside inspectors. He feels if he produces the deliverables for a project and charges only within a budgeted amount, it should not be anyone's concern how the money is allocated to complete the work. In earlier days when many of his company's projects were not audited, he had the ability to move money around from one category to another and if some line items actually cost less than specified, he "pocketed" the difference as part of his profit.

Today, however, most of Dr. Engledorf's contracts are in excess of $25,000 and with government agencies. As such, there are requirements for independent audits (financial as well as compliance) of the projects under contract. Given this, the requirements for proper documentation of work completed and expenditures has increased dramatically. 

Recently, in one of the state contracts that did not require an audit, some problems surfaced and the state wanted documentation of the expenditures for the specified line item budget. Dr. Engledorf knew he did not have the proper documentation, but he felt he could make it up and give it to the state to satisfy them. Since he was not charging any more to the state than originally specified, he felt justified in doing this. 

Questions

  1. What are the ethical issues in this case? 
  2. Is Dr. Engledorf justified in his actions?
  3. What are courses of action that Dr. Engledorf could have taken to maintain the highest ethical standards?

Reflect on the above questions and form your own answers before clicking the discussion key to review the commentary provided with this case.

 

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