Paper – IV
(Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude)
In rapidly changing society, there is a need of good public administration. Public administration is the field of study and analysis that linked to law, political science, sociology, business management, economics, psychology, technology and engineering. Although the public administration differs from nation to nation, political science and law have significantly affected the development of modern public administration (Professor Michiel, 2011). In the administrative system of any country, The Public service system such as Civil service, Policing, and other government officials are mainstay of which acts as significant mechanism for governance. Over the period, the role of Public services has transformed depending on the schema of the governance of that particular period. The institution of Public service has reduced service to the overall socio-economic development of the country. By advising the government of the day, managing programs, and serving citizens, public servants has important role to maintain India’s democratic institutions and nurturing economic affluence and social wellbeing. It is essential to identify that the discipline of Public Administration has been broadly influenced in the initial stages of its growth, by Political Science and the science of Management. While the philosophical principles of Public Administration were influenced primarily by Political Science, its technological facet was designed by Management Sciences.
Ethics and values has key role in smooth functioning of public administration system.
Values relate to the norms of a culture, but they are more universal and abstract than norms. In certain cultures, norms reflect the values of respect and support of friends and family. The source of values is an issue of substantial continuing debate in ethical philosophy and is similarly challenged in organisational theory. Public values are defined as those values that provide normative consensus about the rights, benefits and prerogatives to which citizens to be entitled. These are the obligations of citizens to society, the state and one another. Values are the principles upon which government and policies must be based (Bozaman, 2007).
When appraising theoretical studies, it is documented that one school of thought suggests that values emerge and evolve gradually through natural processes over time. Another view is that values can be formed by institutional design and change, and that conflicts between actors can cause new values to emerge. Different cultures reflect different values. It is established that values mould and inform behaviour. Thus, they provide a basis for the achievement of organisational aims that cannot be achieved by simply steering according to those objectives alone, and are worthy of further consideration in the context of public service development. It is well documented in studies that values are essential components of organisational culture and instrumental in determining, guiding and informing behaviour (Hofstede and Hofstede 2005).
Kernaghan (2003) described values as those ‘enduring beliefs that influence the choices we make among available means or ends’. The New Zealand State Services Commission explained the notion of values as ‘essentially the link between the daily work of public servants and the broad aims of democratic government in New Zealand’ (2001).
However, values are not only concerned with resource allocation and decisions on public policy but can also inform other features of organisation life such as human resource policy and interpersonal employee relations. OECD study (1996: 12) defined values as ‘the individual principles or standards that guide judgement about what is good or proper’. While this is a more useful interpretation.
For bureaucracies, adherence to high-level public service values can produce substantial public trust and assurance. On the contrary, weak application of values or promotion of incorrect values can lead to reductions in these essential elements of democratic governance, as well as to ethical and decision-making quandaries. Though a core set of public service values is necessary, it is also factual that different values apply to different parts of the public service. As values can differ within different parts of the public service. One of the principal tasks of managers and leaders is to synchronize, reconcile or cope with differing values between individuals or even between parts of the organisation. Also, there are a number of dynamics challenging traditional values in the public service. These include new modes of governance and the fragmentation of authority, market-based reforms, politicisation and political expectations, the growth in the use of agencies, decentralisation or relocation, changes in human resource management and recruitment, and the advent of new technologies and methods of information sharing.
The study of public service values is one pigeonholed by ambiguity, measurement difficulties and with competing and conflicting definitions and interpretations. However, as all public service activities are value-based, identifying the nature of those values is worthy of assessment. Public service organisations operate in environments subject to regular change and replete with competing demands and obligations. Process is as important as outcomes and public trust is predicated on democratic values being represented at all stages in the decision making process. In an environment of doubts, and which is subject to frequent structural and functional change, values offer a compass for guiding activities. If the work of the public service is not based on or driven by proper set of values, it may lose the trust and respect of those who rely on it that is the public. Different stresses may be placed on different values according to the administrative and political priorities at a given time, but adherence to a set of broadly coherent and accepted values is vital for stability and consistency (Toonen 2003). As public administrators’ values are developed through an interaction of self, situation and society, it is important that values are therefore periodically re-examined and challenged.
Ethics: Values, standards and ethics in public life is major concern since earlier time in administrative system. Ethics, whether in an entire society, or in a social sub-system, evolves from ancient time and is influenced, during its nurturance and growth, by a variety of environmental factors. Ethical behaviour and decisions maintaining citizens’ trust, guarantee effective use of resources, and allow government to preserve individual rights while assisting those who will benefit the most. Ethics is one of the prime components that allow democracy to succeed in any country. Ethics in government is critical to realizing the promises of democracy. In an egalitarianism, government has an obligation to treat everyone equally and to provide the greatest good to most of citizens. The effective operation of democratic government requires that public officials and employees be independent, impartial, and responsible to the people. Government decisions and policies should be made within the proper structure of government; public office shall not be used for personal gain; and the public has to have confidence in the honesty of its government. When ethical wrongdoings and scandals occur in government, they pose a threat to the democratic ideologies of the rule of law, equity, and individual rights. Fraud, bribery, and other abuses in government take the power from people and give it to a few in position of control, which distorts the concept of the equality of all participants of public life (Jane, et, al., 1999).
Administrative ethics is the product of several contextual structures and it never ceases to grow and change. Public service ethics rooted in Western states during the 1960s has been supplemented by a more recent concern with public service values. In bulk of literature, ethics is a system of accepted beliefs, morals and values that influence human behaviour. It has been stressed upon in individual life as well as public life through time immemorial through sacred texts and theorists like the Manusmriti, Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bentham and Rawls as well as Arostotle respectively.
In India, there is a long history of immoral practices in the governance system. Kautilya’s Arthashastra mentions number of corrupt practices in which the administrators of those times indulged themselves. The Mughal Empire and the Indian princely rule were also plagued with the unethical practices of the courtiers and administrative bureaucrats, with ‘bakashish’ being one of the accepted means of selling and buying favours. The East India Company also had its share of employees who were criticised even by the British parliamentarians for being corrupt. The forces of probity and immorality co-exist in all phases of human history. Which forces are stronger depends upon the support these get from the prime actors of politico-administrative system.
In theoretical framework, The Behaviouralist school brought a dichotomy between facts and values in decision making and made it firmly rational like a machine model which was not successful and was questioned all the time. That led to the New Public Administration school of thought that brought back values at the centre stage along with facts and rationality in decision making. The society, educational institutions, laws and their implementation and family play a large part in inculcating good values and morals in people. The political environment is also of significance as well as the behaviour of politicians directly and majorly affects the behaviour of his/her subordinates and his/her ethics.
Ethics guide human conduct and it help people to lead good life by applying moral principles. Ethics refers to well based standards of right and wrong that commend what humans ought to do, usually in terms of rights, obligations, benefits to society, fairness, or specific virtues. Ethics is related to issues of propriety, rightness and wrongness. Values are often exchanged with ethics (and not infrequently also with standards), particularly in relation to addressing corruption or maladministration. While there is a close and often interdependent relationship between both, such interchanging is difficult for the study of either notion. In general term, Ethics are in effect the rules that translate values into everyday life (OECD 1996, p. 12).
When analysing ethics and values with regard to public administration, it can be said that ethics is about determining what is ‘wrong’, ‘good’, ‘bad’ or ‘right’, and ethical choices are informed by values which help actors decide on what option to take when faced with an ethical dilemma (Kakabadse et al 2003, p.478). Whereas, the values of different bureaucracies may vary between states, similar ethical challenges are regularly met, particularly in respect of issues of resource management. It is because of conflicts between ethical and unethical behaviour that Codes (or Standards) of Conduct and rules of procedure have emerged in importance. They provide an aide or benchmark against which decisions can be made and acted upon. According to Van Wart, ethics are a sub-set of values, and that values form our broad, socially derived ethical standards for how the world should operate (1998: 163). He suggested that ethics is doing the right thing that is, acting on values. Values inform all aspects of ethical decision-making, ethical judgment, ethical choice and ethical behaviour and are reinforced by them. Correspondingly, Gortner recommended that ‘an understanding of the role of values in choices clarifies many of the issues related to ethics in public administration’ (2001).
Ethical Concerns in Public Administration:
Public administration is a profession that offers and unusually array of opportunities to make moral or immoral decisions, to make ethical or unethical choices, to do good or evil things to people. Public servants are servants of the public, of government, of their immediate organisations and of the law. Their role is traditionally conceptualised as part of an interconnected structure existing alongside but outside of the private sphere. In Western society, the dominance of democratic theory means that it is assumed public servants share the values of wider society, whilst also recognising the need for representative government (Gortner 2001). Though public servants perform a numerous of tasks and undertake a multitude of responsibilities, there are common elements to their work.
‘International Code of Conduct for Public Officials’ has following general principles:
- A public office, as defined by national law, is a position of trust, implying a duty to act in the public interest. Therefore, the ultimate loyalty of public officials shall be to the public interests of their country as expressed through the democratic institutions of government.
- Public officials shall ensure that they perform their duties and functions efficiently, effectively and with integrity, in accordance with laws or administrative policies. They shall at all times seek to ensure that public resources for which they are responsible are administered in the most effective and efficient manner.
- Public officials shall be attentive, fair and impartial in the performance of their functions and, in particular, in their relations with the public. They shall at no time afford any undue preferential treatment to any group or individual or improperly discriminate against any group or individual, or otherwise abuse the power and authority vested in them (United Nations 1996).
Currently, the concept of ethics has extended itself to involve all major areas of human existence. There are certain prominent aspects of ethics in public administration. These are summarised as following maxims:
Maxim of Legality and Rationality: An administrator will follow the law and rules that are framed to govern and guide various categories of policies and decisions.
Maxim of Responsibility and Accountability: An administrator would not hesitate to accept responsibility for his decision and actions. He would hold himself morally responsible for his actions and for the use of his discretion while making decisions. Moreover, he would be willing to be held accountable to higher authorities of governance and even to the people who are the ultimate beneficiaries of his decisions and actions.
Maxim of Work Commitment: An administrator would be committed to his duties and perform his work with involvement, intelligence and dexterity. It is well explained by Swami Vivekananda. He observed, “Every duty is holy and devotion to duty is the highest form of worship.” This would also entail a respect for time, punctuality and fulfillment of promises made. Work is considered not as a burden but as an opportunity to serve and constructively contribute to society.
Maxim of Excellence: A bureaucrat would ensure the highest standards of quality in administrative decisions and action and would not compromise with standards because of convenience or complacency. In a competitive international environment, an administrative system should faithfully adhere to the requisites of Total Quality Management.
Maxim of Fusion: An administrator would reasonably bring about a combination of individual, organisational and social goals to help evolve agreement of ideals and imbibe in his behaviour a commitment to such a fusion. In situation of conflicting goals, a concern for ethics should govern the choices made.
Maxim of Responsiveness and Resilience: An administrator would respond successfully to the demands and challenges from the external as well as internal environment. He would adapt to environmental transformation and yet sustain the ethical norms of conduct. In situations of deviation from the prescribed ethical norms, the administrative system would show flexibility and bounce back into the accepted ethical mould at the earliest opportunity.
Maxim of Utilitarianism: While devising and implementing policies and decisions, an administrator will certify that these lead to the greatest good (happiness, benefits) of the greatest number.
Maxim of Compassion: An administrator, without violating the prescribed laws and rules, would establish compassion for the poor, the disabled and the weak while using his discretion in making decisions. At least, he would not grant any benefits to the stronger section of society only because they are strong and would not deny the due consideration to the weak, despite their weakness.
Maxim of National Interest: Though universalistic in orientation and liberal in outlook, a civil servant, while performing his duties, would keep in view the impact of his action on his nation’s strength and prestige.
Maxim of Justice: Executives who are responsible for formulation and execution of policies and decisions of governance would ensure that respect is shown to the principles of equality, equity, fairness, impartiality and objectivity and no special favours are given on the criteria of status, position, power, gender, class, caste or wealth.
Maxim of Transparency: An administrator will make decisions and implement them in a transparent manner so that those affected by the decisions and those who wish to evaluate their rationale, will be able to understand the reasons behind such decisions and the sources of information on which these decisions were made.
Maxim of Integrity: An administrator would accept an administrative action on the basis of honesty and not use his power, position and discretion to serve his personal interest and the illegitimate interests of other individuals or groups.
Presently, duties of the public servant remain many, complex and often apparently conflicting, but successful public servants recognise their multiple roles and prepare for them. These include maintaining secrecy, acting in the public interest, regulating, providing quality advice, adjudicating, avoiding conflicts of interest, guaranteeing accountability to a range of actors and treating all colleagues equitably. To execute such tasks, public servants employ array of values as a means to guide their behaviour and to assist them in steering a course through multiple requirements. The intricacy of public service ensures that its value system is unique and specific to its work. Invariably, given that there are so many elements to it, the mechanisms of a value system often compete with one another. Therefore, clarity over an organisation’s values is vital and the suitability of a particular value-system is worthy of regular consideration in the context of changing expectations and functions.
Public services officers has vital role to implement public policy and should understand the significance of values to all aspects of their work. Poor intelligibility or uncertainty about values can not only lead to ethical and decision-making problems, but also affects organisational coherence by lessening team spirit, creating organisational confusion and weak external communication. Public administrators are responsible not only for understanding the values implicit in the decisions they take, but also for enunciating those values clearly for others in the organisation and for external customers (Van Wart1998). Such external customers may include not only peoples, but politicians and other stakeholder representatives. There is a belief that the public service are extended to the government places an emphasis on particular values such as (political) neutrality and loyalty, while viewing the service as holders of the ‘public interest’ implies greater emphasis on fairness, transparency and impartiality. Given the various tasks performed by bureaucracies, and the varying levels of direct contact with the public, different values will also apply to different parts of the public service (Sherman 1998).
Global Values Committed to service: The Public officers should be innovative, objective, professional and efficient and work to get better results for the community and the government.
Ethics: They show leadership, trustworthy, and acts with integrity, in all tasks they do. They should respect all people, including their rights and their heritage. They should be open and accountable to the people community under the law and within the framework of government responsibility. A public servant is expected to be apolitical and provides the government with advice that is frank, honest, timely and based on the best available evidence.
In civil service, administrators and bureaucrats must show some ethical behaviour for smooth functioning of government system. Service delivery at the cutting edge level Provide ‘continuity and change’ to the administration.
Public Servants Obligation to the Community: Public servants have special obligations to the community because of three reasons. First, they are responsible for managing resources entrusted to them by the community. Second, they provide and deliver services to the community. Third, they take important decisions that affect all aspects of the community life. The community has a right to expect that their Public servants function honestly, efficiently and open-mindedly. It is essential for the community to be able to trust and have assurance in the reliability of the Public servant’s decision-making process. The decisions and actions of Public servants should reflect the policies of the government of the day and the standards that the community expects from them as government servants and they are expected to maintain the same standards of professionalism, openness, and fairness.
Though ‘global’ public service values exist, ‘local’ values may be espoused according to the type of function and environment in which public servants operate. For example, a difference may be made between technical, regulatory and administrative tasks, or between those parts of bureaucracy in direct contact with the public and those which are not. Likewise, values that are ‘local’ to a particular part of the service may rarely come into conflict with the more common service-wide values. This can also occur in the context of individual or functional parts of the service moving between departments or even between divisions within a department. It has been observed that public service organisations are more significant for their shared values instead of the variety of value sets within them. After assessing the codes and guidelines, Sherman (1998: 15) discovered the following values that are most common:
- Honesty and integrity
- Respect for the law
- Respect for persons
- Economy and effectiveness
Categories of public service values:
Academic research conducted by Hood (1991), Toonen (2003) identifies three ‘families’ around which primary values in public administration are as follows:
Parsimony and economy: Values in this family are concerned with ensuring optimal and efficient use of resources, and are at the core of public management as viewed from a financial perspective.
Fairness, equity and rectitude: These values are concerned with honesty and the development of public trust in government.
Robustness, resilience and sustainability: These values are concerned with ensuring that public administration and government are strong in the face of various pressures, but are flexible enough to learn and adapt to changing circumstances in order to maintain public confidence.
Theoretical literature on ‘public values’ by Beck Jorgensen and Bozeman (2007) recognized seventy two such values informing the social and organisational environment of public servants.
Structure of the Public Values Universe (Beck Jorgensen and Bozeman, 2007):
The categories and values required for each are as follows:
General social values:
- Public sector’s contribution to society: Common good, altruism, sustainability, regime dignity.
- Transformation of interests to decisions: Majority rule, user democracy, protection of minorities.
- Relationship between public administrators and politicians: Political loyalty.
- Relationship between public administrators and their environment: Openness-secrecy, advocacy-neutrality, competitiveness-cooperativeness.
- Intra-organisational aspects of public administration: Robustness, innovation, productivity, self-development of employees.
- Behaviour of public sector employees: Accountability.
- Relationship between public administration and the citizens: Legality, equity, dialogue, user orientation
It is observed that the nature of public service and several tasks of public officers will inexorably result in value conflicts. The environment in which the public service operates is a continually changing such as new technologies, growing and changing public expectations, demographic changes and the effects of economic and social globalisation. Demmke (2004) identifies, public policy is delivered through a multitude of ‘complex networks, decentralised governance structures, public-private partnerships, and cooperative ventures between NGOs, consultants and Government’. In this environment economic, political and social values can come into conflict with the professional values of the public manager. Values can also differ within public service organisations, and one of the prime tasks of managers is to organise or reconcile differing values between individuals or between parts of an organisation. Kreitner and Kinicki (2005) suggested that there are three different types of value conflict. Intrapersonal value conflicts arise within the individual when he or she is faced with competing personal values. Interpersonal value conflicts occur between individuals with different ambitions and goals. Lastly, individual-organisational value conflicts occur when the values employed by an organisation are at variance with the personal values of an employee. They proposed that while intrapersonal value conflicts require an almost exclusively personal self-assessment of work urgencies, interpersonal and individual organisational value conflicts can be resolved through the provision of clear value statements and the inspiring capacity of ‘value-centred leaders’. Cooper studied the administrative ethics and argues that the role of the ‘responsible administrator’ is being accountable for conduct to relevant others whilst also acting in a manner that is consistent with the professional values that support the role of protector of the public good. He also signified that the most common conflicts of responsibility faced by administrators are conflicts of authority, role conflicts and conflicts of interest (2006).
In this framework, the requirement on public services to clearly communicate and maintain common core values becomes even more imperative, however radical change can make this even more difficult if not properly managed. Newman (1996) debated that two of the most noticeable value conflicts have been between efficiency and equity, and cooperation and competition. The former emerges in the context of demands for greater cost-cutting while simultaneously being a good employer and providing quality services for all. The latter refers to the challenges faced by local authorities in an environment where they are expected to emulate the ‘competitive edge’ of private sector firms, yet cooperate and engage meaningfully with several stakeholders across a range of service areas. Dealing with any policy issue involves values and value judgements. Another theorist, Van Wart (1998) argued that there is no such thing as a value-free decision and this makes it all the more important that public administrators fully understand the values they use when making decisions. Given the increasing range of demands on the public service, as well as the frequent ambiguity in terms of goals, relationships and responsibilities, value conflicts or ‘clashes’ are not therefore unusual. These clashes can arise in relation to issues such as:
- Tensions between the need for control and the need for discretion.
- Tensions between the needs of different stakeholders.
- The requirement to provide efficient and effective service within budget and to respond to growing public expectations.
- The tension between adapting to changing circumstances and the need to maintain existing standards (Lawton 1998).
Similarly, Korac-Kakabadse et al (2000) also categorize some of the contradictory requirements faced by public servants which lead to value conflicts:
Free market economy
Freedom of information
Public sector codes
Value clashes are unavoidable, particularly in organisations performing manifold tasks and with a range of stakeholders. Instead of impeding progress, however, conflict can enhance the quality of decision making through problem identification and deliberation. The challenge for public servants is to handle with and manage conflict and simultaneously make decisions based on the appropriate value-set. For many public servants, managing conflict is something learned ‘on the job’, but training can support in the process of prioritising values in times of crises or difficulty.
Problems of public service values:
Many economists and public service experts have realized that the significance of public values have been declined. Bozeman (2002) stated emerging problems of public value failure. These failures occurs when
- Mechanism for articulation and aggregation of values have broken down.
- Imperfect monopolies occur.
- Benefit hording occurs.
- There is a scarcity of providers of public values.
- A short time horizon threatens public value.
- A focus on sustainability of assets threatens conservation of public resources.
- Market transactions threatens fundamental human subsistence.
Challenges to values:
Although value conflicts occur in manifold areas and at all levels of the public service, there are specific challenges to current public service values which are considered here. They arise in the context of:
- New modes of governance
- Market-based reforms
- Changes in HRM and recruitment
In Indian context, the civil service personnel are accountable to ministers/elected representatives, who in turn are accountable to Parliament. The Parliament is elected by the people. Thus the bureaucrats serve the people by executing functions which are directed by Parliament in the best interest of its people. Whether it IAS or IPS or any civil service, there are a set of core values common to all. These core values determine the standards of behaviour a person in civil service must follow. Each individual service will have its own set of values which are based on these core values. In Indian terrain where there are so many diverse cultures, treating all people with respect is of paramount significance. This includes giving respect to diversity of people and also giving respect to fellow employees.
The Government of India encourages values and a certain standard of ethics of requiring and facilitating every civil servant such as:
- To discharge official duty with responsibility, honesty, accountability and without discrimination.
- To guarantee effective management, leadership development and personal growth.
- To avoid misuse of official position or information.
- To serve as instruments of good governance and foster social economic development.
In India, there is high level of corruption, favouritism which has increased the importance to retain civil service values. At global level, governments and international agencies draw their attention to developing and maintaining high standards and values, ethics and conduct in public administration to combat corruption. All these factors are essential components of ethical infrastructure of public life. Every nation has some lawful framework with provisions to cover various unethical and corrupt practices such as the breach of official trust and duties, abuse of power, misappropriation, and extortion, corrupt practices, acceptance of undue advantage and abuse of officials influence. Major problem is not corruption, but weak enforcement. Without effective enforcement mechanisms, legal and administrative provisions on ethics and corruption are in themselves unsuccessful. Weak enforcement capacity may be blamed partly on the fact that several document, which makes access to them difficult, especially where enforcement officers lack experience.
The flaws of the administrative system with implication for ethics are structural hierarchies, cumbersome processes and weak control over administrative action. Individual senior officials seem to wield too much power and discretion without effective accountability. Administrative procedures are such that routine decisions by front line staff often have to be cleared through the hierarchy. The consequences of these procedures results in delay and frustrations in obtaining decisions and services on time, which partially encourages bribery and petty corruption at the point of service delivery. There is need to simplify systems and procedures in order to remove the unnecessary blockages in organizational systems that create opportunities for bribes to be extracted from the public. Ethics reforms and anti-corruption policies would not be useful if they left in place the restrictive laws and cumbersome processes that produced incentive for bribery and other unethical practices in the first place (Susan Rose-Ackerman, 1999). Imposing accountability for the exercise of administrative power has become more difficult as public service has continued to grow in size and as there responsibilities have grown in complexity.
The decision-making process in government is often so lengthy and complicated that it is difficult to single out those public servants who should be held responsible for specific recommendations and decisions. Another hindrance in accountability is the wide range of authorities to which public servants are deemed to be accountable. It is well observed that Code of ethics play a guiding role in the ethics infrastructure, but they also take on a controlling function since they establish and publicize boundaries of behaviour and set standards for public servants. Government bodies that synchronise the overall ethics framework range from parliamentary committees, central agencies, and departments or specially created independent agencies mandated to supervise ethics in the public service. They serve a management function by coordinating and supporting all the other infrastructure elements. They operate either through directly implementing ethics initiatives or by delegating these tasks to the other departments or agencies.
To summarize, values and ethics of civil service has imperative role in healthy public administration of country. Values are important in giving yardsticks and prescribing how goals must be accomplished. Moses Sindane designated that there is a need to establish appropriate infrastructure, institutions, and framework to promote values and ethics in public administration. But, it is realized by many experts that there are numerous problems and unethical behaviour in public services. He stated that Public values and ethics are meaningless in public administration if these are not implemented, enforced, coordinated and integrated in public services (Professor Michiel S, 2007). Many experts have realized that Ethics is gaining importance in the discourse about governance presently. It is observed that standards in public life are in decline. This raises concern about the costs of misconduct on the part of those who have been entrusted with guarding public interest and resources. It is necessary that public servants must be aware of the basic principles and standards they are expected to apply to their work and where the boundaries of acceptable behaviour lie. A succinct, well-publicised statement of core ethical standards and principles that guide public service in the form of a code of conduct, can accomplish this by creating a shared understanding across government and within the broader community.