VALUES AND ETHICS IN ADMINISTRATION STATUS AND PROBLEM

ETHICS AND VALUES IN PUBLIC SERVICES

  • Ethics is concerned not only with distinguishing right from wrong and good from bad but also with a commitment to do what is right and good.
  • The concept of ethics is inextricably linked to that of values, that is, enduring beliefs that influence the choices we make from among available means and ends.
  • Many values (for example, wealth, success etc.) have relatively little direct connection with ethics; but many other values (for example, fairness, honesty) are in essence concerned with what is right or good and can be described as ethical values.
  • The critical link between ethics and values is that ethical standards and principles can be applied to the resolution of value conflicts or dilemmas.
  • The term public service ethics or administrative ethics refers here to principles and standards of right conduct in the administrative sphere of government.
  • Since public servants are actively involved in politics, in the broad sense of the authoritative allocation of values for society, the values, which they bring to their decisions, are centrally important in the development, implementation and evaluation of public policy.
  • There is an enormous range of values by which public servants’ attitudes and actions are influenced. These include social, political, personal and administrative (or organisational) values.
  • Consider the challenge of applying ethical principles to the reconciliation of such administrative values as efficiency, effectiveness, accountability, neutrality and responsiveness. For example, public servants may seek to resolve a clash between the values of accountability to political superiors and responsiveness to the public by reference to such ethical principles as truth telling or promise keeping.
  • Public servants have traditionally been advised that responsible administrative behaviour requires that they adhere to a number of generally worded rules or commandments.
  • These commandments include such commandments as:
    • Act in the public interest
    • Be politically neutral
    • Do not disclose confidential information
    • Protect the privacy of citizens and employees
    • Provide efficient, effective and fair service to the public
    • Avoid conflicts of interest
    • Be accountable
  • In contemporary governments, several difficulties arise from these commandments:
    • First, it is not easily apparent to public servants-or indeed to anyone else – precisely what these general rules mean in practice.
    • Second, even when the meaning of the rules is clear, there is disagreement as to whether the rules themselves are appropriate. For example, there is much difference of opinion as to what benefits public servants should accept from persons with whom they conduct official business.
    • Third, the rules sometimes clash with one another. A public servant cannot, for example, always be both accountable and efficient. There is a need to provide structures and processes to clarify and interpret the current meaning of the traditional rules.
    • There is a need also for mechanisms to ensure vigorous and continuing dialogue among public servants as to the ethical principles and standards to be applied in the face of competing values.

 

ETHICS IN PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION

  • Professional ethics of a public administrator is the science about morality
    • as the totality of human ideals and values
    • ideas how to make things right
    • ethical principle
    • behaviour rules reflecting sense of public administration; and
    • securing adequate relations between people.
  • Ethics in public administration is the process of finding the most effective way to solve problems and misunderstandings between public servants and stakeholders – the citizens.
  • The object of Ethics in public administration represents professional morality, while the subject is the system of those ethical relations, ethical awareness and ethical values appearing in the process of public service performance.
  • The aim of ethics in public administration is to secure and maintain a sense of professional activity; the task – normative regulation of inter-behavioural relations and actions of certain representatives of the professional group, their professional unions, the forming of adequate ethical consciousness of public administrators.
  • The highest measure of public servant morality has to be welfare of the client and society in general. By making ethical assessment of desired goals, the public servant takes responsibility for planning concrete actions to solve the problem of client.
  • If the public servant assesses the results of his possible actions as negative for his client so he should not launch any administrative process for this purpose achievement, or should change this purpose with relevant arguments providing for the client.
  • The activity of a public administrator should include specific moral motives of his professional activity: respect of law, striving to make good things only, providing help for those in need, willingness to achieve ideals of his state, realization of value orientation approach. All these are induced by the internal But, unfortunately, in the Indian practice the external motivation factors are above those of internal ones.
  • Thus, many people choose public service because of the opportunity to obtain some material welfare (pension of a public servant, stable salary, gifts, bribes as well), appropriate hours of work, long term of annual vacation, low level of personal responsibility.

 

CURRENT STATUS OF ETHICAL STANDARDS IN INDIA

Ethics and morality have been the hallmark of public life in India since ancient times. This ethical and moral legacy was inherited by its national leaders, who demonstrated a high degree of probity and honesty in public life during the freedom struggle led by Mahatma Gandhi. They not only preached morality in public life but also practiced it. Gandhiji believed that politics without morality is a thing to be avoided.

A) Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules 1964

  • While the Central Government has issued conduct rules for government employees known as Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules 1964, it does not lay down the values, which civil servants should follow or a code of ethics. The rules are more in the nature of “do’s” and “dont’s”.
  • The Conduct Rules cover matters such as property transactions, acceptance of gifts, joining non-political organizations and a host of other issues covering almost every activity, which a normal individual undertakes.
  • The rules are highly restrictive, seriously curtailing freedom of operation of a government employee, couched in vague language and sometimes impractical to follow.

B) First Initiative for Code of Ethics- May 1997

The Department of Administrative Reforms of the Government of India had prepared a Code of Ethics for public services, as part of an Action Plan for an Effective and Responsive Government, which was presented in a conference of Chief Ministers presided by the Prime Minister held in May 1997.

The objective of the Code was to prescribe standards of integrity and conduct that are to apply to public services. The salient features of the code are as follows:

  1. The public services should assist the government in formulating and implementing policies and administering public services in the most effective way.
  2. Employees in public services should uphold the rule of law and respect for human rights, and act solely in public interest. They must maintain the highest standards of probity and integrity.
  3. They should conduct themselves in such manner that the public feels that the decisions taken or recommendations made by them are objective and transparent and are not calculated to promote improper gains for the political party in power, for themselves, or for any third party.
  4. They should not seek to frustrate or undermine the policies, decisions and action taken in public interest by Government by declining or abstaining from action.
  5. Where an employee in public service has reasonable grounds to believe that he or she is being required by superior authority to act in a manner, which is illegal or against prescribed rules and regulations, he should decline to implement the instructions. He will have the right to bring the fact to the notice of superior authority.
  6. Conflict of Interest: Employees in public service should refrain from decisions;
    1. which are calculated to benefit any particular person or party at the expense of the public interest;
    2. shall disclose any clash of interest when there is conflict between public interest and private interest.
  7. They should maintain their independence and dignity and impartiality by not approaching politicians and outsiders in respect of service matters or private benefits, and exercise peer pressure to dissuade those within their own cadre who do so and to set in motion disciplinary proceedings against such persons.
  8. Accountability to Citizens:
    • Employees in public services should be accessible to the people and practice accountability to them in terms of quality of service, timeliness, courtesy, people orientation, and readiness to encourage participation and form partnership with citizen groups for responsive government
    • they should be consistent, equitable and honest in their treatment of the members of the public
    • they should accept obligation to recognize and enforce citizen’s right for speedy redressal of their grievance.
  1. They should have concern for public assets and funds, avoid wastage and extravagance and ensure effective and efficient use of public money within their control.
  2. Non- abuse of official position: Employees in public services have a responsibility to take decisions on merits, as they are in a position of trust, they must not use their official position to influence any person to enter into financial or other arrangements with them or anyone else.

C) Second Initiative for Public Service Values – Public Service Bill 2006

In 2006 the Department Of Personnel drafted a Public Service Bill which enumerated fundamental values of Public Services, a Code of Ethics, a Management Code etc. with the object of developing public services as a professional, politically neutral, merit based and accountable civil service. The main values by which the Public Servants shall be guided are as follows:

    • Allegiance to the Constitution and the law, democracy, nationalism, sovereignty, integrity of India and the security of the nation;
    • Function in apolitical manner;
    • Act objectively, impartially, honestly, equitably, and in a fair and just manner;
    • Act with integrity and in a courteous and just manner;
    • Establish high standards, and ensure quality service, effective working and prompt decision making;
    • Be accountable for the decisions;
    • Establish merit as the fundamental principle in employment, promotion and placements;
    • Discharge functions with due regard to diversity of the nation/community and religion but without discrimination of caste, community, religion, gender or class and duly protecting the interest of poor, underprivileged and weaker sections;
    • Provide honest, impartial and frank advice to political executive;
    • Ensure that public money is used with utmost economy and care;

The Public Service Bill has not made any headway and seems to have gone in cold storage. One problem with the draft bill was that it intended to fulfill too many objectives. Apart from values and ethics, the Bill envisaged laying down principles of management of public services, principles which should govern appointment to public services, performance indicators for public services etc. With such wide ranging and diverse coverage of matters relating to service matters, it is difficult to reach consensus and secure legislative approval.

 

THE PROBLEMS DUE TO DECLINING ETHICAL STANDARDS AMONG PUBLIC SERVANTS

  • Abuse of personal authority or rank position: Intentionally, public official uses his authority out of public service interests and these actions bring him elements of private benefit. It appears when:
    • performing un-objective administrative actions;
    • use of public technical means, cars, communications, premises in a public official’s private interests;
    • inactivity causing damages for community.
  • Excess of personal authority or rank position: Intentionally, officials make actions that are out of their position responsibilities and rights that, finally makes damage to the interests of state or a certain citizens.
  • Negligence: A public official don’t perform (perform in a bad manner) his professional responsibilities causing damage to the state or community. As rule, this conditioned by the law level of interest in official duty performance or lack of personal and professional characteristics to do it.
  • Bribes: As it was mentioned above the process of bribes giving charges in criminal responsibility on the person-receiving bribe, person giving bribes and intermediates.
  • Official forgery: Often, for private interest’s achievement, public servants put well known to them incorrect data in official documents, make counterfeits.
  • Public authorities must keep in secret information about the customers and their needs.
  • Some public officials discredit prestige of public service by not knowing business ethics well enough

 

PROBLEMS IN ENSURING HIGH ETHICAL STANDARDS

  • Anticipating specific threats to ethics standards and integrity in the public sector: Attention needs to be paid to systemic threats that could weaken adherence to core public sector ethics values, and commitment to good governance, and to preparing the necessary political and management responses.
  • Strengthening the ethical competence of civil servants, and strengthening mechanisms to support “professional ethics”: New techniques need to be undertaken to institutionalise ethically competent decision making, disinterested advice to Government, and, ultimately, an ‘ethical culture’ which supports professional responsibility, self-discipline, and support for the rule of law;
  • Developing administrative practices and processes which promote ethical values and integrity: New and proposed pro-ethics laws require effective implementation through, effective performance management techniques which support the entrenchment of the ethical values set out in Civil Service Codes of Ethics.

 

SPECIFIC STRATEGIES WHICH SHOULD BE CONSIDERED

  • Effective laws, which require civil servants to give reasons for their official decisions.
  • Management approaches, which encourage all public officials and civil servants to deal positively with corruption and unethical practice when encountered.
  • ‘Whistle-blower’ protection law to protect appropriate ‘public interest disclosures’ of wrongdoing by officials.
  • Ethics audits to identify risks to the integrity of the most important processes.
  • New Human Resource Management strategies (which link, for example, ethical performance with entry and advancement, and ethical ‘under-performance’ with disciplinary processes), merit based promotion and recruitment, anti-discrimination protections.
  • Training and development in the content and rationale of Ethics Codes, the application of ethical management principles, the proper use of official power, and the requirements of professional responsibility.
  • Effective external and internal complaint and redress procedures
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