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Pandemic crisis or opportunity? Leverage this time to inspire compliance

Josh Clemens (clemensj@bgvillage.org) is Director of Compliance & Compliance Officer for Boys & Girls Village in Milford, Connecticut, USA.

In February 2021 I led a webinar on key considerations as we prepare to exit the crisis period of COVID-19. I asked the compliance and ethics professionals attending when they thought all adults would be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Half of the respondents said they expected this by October 2021 or later. Only 10% expected it to be before August. The reality was that just two months after that webinar, on April 19, all those above the age of 16 in the US became eligible for the vaccine. By late May, most states had sufficient COVID-19 vaccine stocks to start offering walk-in vaccinations and even incentives (“Get vaccinated, get a free beer!”). The actual outcome versus the attendees’ inaccurate estimations made just two months prior is a cautionary tale illustrating how we are accelerating into a new normal quite a bit faster than expected.

With accelerated, broad changes comes significant risk of organizational cultural shifts, fraud, and noncompliance, so simply returning to prepandemic structures will not help us meet the requirements needed to mitigate this risk. It is essential to keep in mind these elevated risks while we scramble to address the basic challenge of aligning policies, procedures, and processes. Significant factors that must be considered include, but are not limited to, slimmer margins, significant supply chain disruption, unexpected higher personal and organizational debt for some, and pandemic stress fatigue that may lead to unusual behavior. To help in addressing the new normal, it is also important to rethink the role of compliance and ethics and leverage the opportunities presented by this unique period of change.

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