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Case Study

Nimal’s Ethical Dilemma

Nirmal is the IT manager in a government department with more than 500 staff members and six branches across Australia. His department has decided to acquire an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. An RFT for the procurement of the software was advertised in a number of Australian newspapers. Two local companies responded to the advertisement and sent their offers to the department.

When Nirmal opened the envelopes and examined the offers he found that company A’s offer is slightly better than company B’s offer. To his surprise, company B’s offer was made by his best friend Devraj, who is the general manager of company B. Company A’s software appeared to be easier to use and easier to modify compared to company B’s software. Although the initial cost of company B’ software appeared to be less than that of company’s A, the former may require some ‘tools consultants’ to modify it and some ‘business consultants’ to assist in running it, which might eventually raise the total cost. 

To complicate matters more, Nirmal received a phone call from Devraj, who urged him to favour his offer, as he is quite desperate to get this deal. He also reminded him that the ‘tools and business consultants’ who might be needed in the project will be recruited from his home country which means more jobs for his countrymen and in turn more money sent home. Nirmal is indeed in a difficult position (ACS, 2004).

Discussion Questions

1. Apply the ethical decision making model presented in week one lectures (adapted from Beemsterboer, 2010; Velasquez et al, 2009) to the case study.

a. identify the ethical dilemma

b. list the facts of the case

2. Using utilitarian ethical theory (consequence based):

a. Identify who benefits or suffers (and how) from the consequences (whether as an individual or as a member of a group of people) if Nirmal decides to accept the tender from company A?

b. Identify who benefits or suffers (and how) from the consequences if Nirmal decides to accept the tender from company B?

c. Apply act utilitarianism using your answers to question 2, parts a, and b, decide which path Nirmal should take to maximize the greatest good for the greatest number of people and give the main reasons for your decision. Mention the concept of utilitarian calculus in your answer.

d. Apply rule utilitarianism using your answers to question 2, parts a, and b, and decide which path Nirmal should take when applying the rules of common morality.

3. Using deontological ethical theory (duty based):

a. What duties does Nirmal have in this situation to company A, company B, his own organisation, his professional association, his religious community, his friend and the country of his birth?

b. Apply rule deontology, using the list of duties compiled in your answer to question 3 a, decide which path Nirmal should take. Give your reasons.Mention the categorical imperative, and concepts of universality and impartiality in your answer.

c. Apply act deontology and decide which path Nimal should take. Discuss the appropriate prima facie duty (Ross, 1930) Nimal should apply to this case.

4. Describe a situation in which you applied and/or witnessed a utilitarian and/or deontological ethical theoretical approach as a tool for solving a moral dilemma. Now that you understand these theories, what approach would you advise?

5. Reflect on your learning materials for this week and locate a You Tube video, which provides information on one or more of the following key concepts: consequence-based (utilitarianism), and duty-based (deontology).Indicate why you think this resource was particularly useful and provide a link to the video.

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