Most corporations have some type of code of ethics to help prevent fraud, theft and other crimes while encouraging a strong, moral workplace culture. In some industries, such as accounting or health care, a code of ethics is even more vital and becomes a core part of operations. In these cases, it is important that a business has a strong system of inquiry for potential violations. A good code of ethics does little good if it is not supported by an effective enforcement policy.
Inquiry Into Misconduct
A system of inquiry is the process of examining a specific event or act in the company for signs of misconduct. The inquiry judges if there was any misconduct against company standards or legal requirements, although most are focused on internal codes of ethics, since external breaches of the law are often handled by legal agencies. A company may hire a third party for the inquiry to remove possibilities of bias.
An inquiry into potential misconduct tends to follow several primary steps. Affidavits are often collected from all people involved in the incident. Financial records are inspected and traced back to see where actions originated, a largely digital process in contemporary accounting systems. All evidence is examined, and the inquiry presents a report on the incident, signs of misconduct and suggested steps, according to the code of ethics created by the company.
Confidentiality vs. Full Inquiry
A system of inquiry is necessary and useful for a business -- but it can lead to problems. For example, confidentiality is often a key part of business ethics, including the company's treatment of its employees. For an inquiry, however, confidentiality may have to be breached in some cases (within the law) to complete the inquiry process and reach the truth. An inquiry often occupies a tricky middle ground between completing its objectives fully and in detail and honoring the confidentiality of employees who have done nothing wrong.
A system of inquiry should not be confused with systems inquiry, a similar term with a different meaning. Systems theory is a branch of analysis related to chaos theory and is often used to study organizations and the many factors that influence them. A systems inquiry investigates the effects a factor or detail on an organization and its people, but is not related to a code of ethics.
Tyler Lacoma has worked as a writer and editor for several years after graduating from George Fox University with a degree in business management and writing/literature. He works on business and technology topics for clients such as Obsessable, EBSCO, Drop.io, The TAC Group, Anaxos, Dynamic Page Solutions and others, specializing in ecology, marketing and modern trends.