Surprising and disturbing IT-related news crossed my Twitter feed last night: a well-known CIO is being sued for alleged fraud by his former firm. Allegations are that this senior executive received kickbacks from vendors that he helped connect to the company where he served as CIO and vice president.
My purpose here isn’t to comment on this individual case; it’s now in the courts, information is still sketchy about the details, and I feel that people are entitled to a presumption of innocence while the various legal actions run their course. As Forbes columnist Ben Kepes wrote, though, this is “one for the ‘we knew these things happened but tried not to know about it’ department.”
So let’s broaden the topic to the overall issue of CIO ethics and integrity, particularly with respect to financial matters. As I’ve written before, the head of technology for many companies (certainly all the firms I’ve worked for) stands at the rudder of a very large portion of the overall “spend” for that company. IT infrastructure and systems spending, taken broadly, is often the second-highest category, after salaries, for total annual outlay for a company. The responsibility involved for the senior IT executive cannot be overstated.
Often when I’ve come into a new CTO/CIO position, I’ve discovered, over the course of the natural “archaeology” that one performs in such a situation, highly questionable business deals cut by my predecessors with outside vendors. I’ve raised my eyebrows and, yes, even occasionally shouted a bit at the incomprehensibility of various vendor arrangements I’ve inherited.