Whispering Truth to Power: A Case Study in Anti-Corruption and Ethical Leadership  

Dec. 15, 2020 - Aug. 15, 2021

Whispering Truth to Power: A Case Study in Anti-Corruption and Ethical Leadership

Overall objective is the promotion of professionalism – i.e., professional ethics, which encompasses the personal & corporate standards of behavior expected by legal and business professionals.

The case study depicts the negative wide-ranging effects of corruption on South African society. Some people might be tempted to think that this is an isolated problem, to be encountered in African countries only, whereas the reality is that it is not. Some of these effects are fairly obvious, while others require explanation. 

The documentary film Whispering Truth to Power chronicles the story of Thuli Madonsela in her last year in public office as Public Protector in South Africa. After her appointment in 2009 to the office of Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela quickly commanded nationwide respect and admiration for her ethical work that helped neglected citizens and the poor. However, Madonsela faced severe backlash when she investigated the most powerful man in the country, President Jacob Zuma, who has been accused of massive illegal public spending on his private home. A bitter four-year battle sharply divided South Africa's political elite when Zuma refused to abide by Madonsela’s ruling and pay back public money. The film follows her last year serving as South Africa’s Public Protector and her dramatic race against time to complete her investigation in the face of violent protests, court interdicts, political and personal attacks, and death threats. The result is not only a portrait of a remarkably steadfast woman, but a deeper and more personal portrayal of her family and the difficulties they face while seeking justice in a country still coming to terms with its apartheid past. 

The case study shows the wide-ranging negative impact of lacks of ethics and corruption on society in general – not just for Africans, but also for North Americans and Europeans as noted by the United Nations, such as: undermining the rule of law and democracy, or the rise of populism and political polarization, or the blatant undermining of human rights (equality – diversity and inclusion), undermining sustainable development goals, economic loss and inefficiency, poverty and inequality (including increase of gender and racial inequality), personal loss, intimidation and inconvenience, public and private sector dysfunctionality, failures in infrastructure, impunity and partial justice, etc. 

The case study (film) also focuses on the most pernicious negative effect of corrupt behaviors on South African post-Apartheid society that is the rise of racial inequality, the rise of populism, racism and sexism. The film shows that corruption in South Africa negatively accentuates the racial divide between white and black people in the South African post-Apartheid society and generally speaking affects Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI).

Specific Learning Objectives:

  • Overall, the course discusses best risk management practices to mitigate corrupt behaviors, and the promotion of professionalism and ethics for legal and business professionals.
  • The course also discusses the importance of ethics and anti-corruption to preserve/promote Equality, Diversity, Inclusion (EDI) in a multicultural society – that one of the most pernicious negative wide-ranging effects of corrupt behaviors on society is the rise of populism that accentuates sexism and racism (racial and gender inequality).
  • Help professionals understand the negative wide-ranging effects of corrupt behaviors on society and the importance of promotion of professionalism and ethics in public and private sector.
  • Discuss required behavior for public service and private sector executive arising from anti-corruption legislation such as Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act.
  • Discuss the importance for lawyers drafting risk management corporate policies and anti-corruption compliance programs that are promoted by the firm’s senior management and understood by all employees in order to serve as best practices for analyzing legal risks and ethical dilemmas linked to corruption in domestic and international business transactions.
  • Reflect on the duty to maintain confidentiality, including justified and permitted disclosure (may include discussion of privilege) and corporate whistleblowing in the context of responding appropriately to client dishonesty, fraud or corrupt behavior. 

Post-Screening Experts:

Noah Arshinoff. Lawyer, Advocacy Strategist, Business Consultant, Part-time Professor (business ethics and anti-corruption), Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa resident and Canadian Managing Partner, Digital KPMG in Canada

Lori-Ann Beausoleil, CPA, CA, Partner, Forensic Services, PwC Canada, National Forensic Services Leader for PwC Canada, Former Chief Inclusion Officer, PwC Canada

Nicole Beausoleil, J.D. Candidate (2022), University of Ottawa – Faculty of Law

Alison G. FitzGerald, Of Counsel, Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP

Retired Sgt. Pat Poitevin, Former lead and Senior Investigator – Outreach Coordinator with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Sensitive and International Investigations, National Division, Co-Founder - Managing Director - Senior Advisor - ABC Expert at Canadian Centre of Excellence for Anti-Corruption

Marc Tassé, CPA, CA (Canada), Forensic Certified Public Accountant (FCPA) (USA), Forensic Accountant & Corporate Compliance Consultant, Part-time Professor of Accounting, Finance and Ethics at the undergraduate and MBA programs at Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa, Part-time Professor (business ethics and anti-corruption), Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa, Guest Lecturer MBA program and Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa




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    Exclusive to CBA Members: $89.99
    (compared to $199)
    Plus applicable taxes

    Whispering Truth to Power (a film by Shameela Seedat)

    Feature film: 86 minutes
    Post-screening panel discussion: 64 minutes


    Viewer discretion is advised. This film contains Adult Language. This film may not be suitable for all audiences.

    View other UDocs films available to CBA members



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