Journal of Public Administration and Policy Research Vol. 4(2)
pp. 23-31 March, 2012 Available online at
https://allaplusessays.com/order. academicjournals. org/JPAPR DOI:
10. 5897/JPAPR11. 049 ISSN 2141-2480 ©2012 Academic Journals Review
Ethics in Public Administration D. Radhika Ph. D. Research Scholar,
Post-Graduate and Research Department of Public Administration,
Anna Adarsh College for Women, (affiliated to the University of
Madras) Chennai-600040, Tamilnadu, India. E-mail:
[email protected] com. Accepted 23 February, 2012
The modern world has seen an increase in interest in the areas related to the ethics of the sovereign good. A number of studies have focused on this subject matter and several academicians have exposed a number of ethical and philosophical dilemmas related to the concept of ethics in public administration. Despite the increasing number of studies that have focused on the importance of administrative ethics, there has been very little effort spent on identifying what exactly constitutes the crux of ethics in administration.
The objective of this paper is to review the implications of the basic principles of ethics for public administration in the context of new public governance and discuss their impact on different administration imperatives which in turn act as the determinants of ethics in public administration. This review will also focus on the importance of ethics in new governance practices (privatization, decentralization, debureaucratization, devolution of budgets etc. ,) with reference to the push and pull of ethics and administration and how ethics mindsets and basic approaches to administration and governance can be changed.
Key words: Ethics, public administration, ethical imperatives,
ethics and public administration, ethics and morals. INTRODUCTION
Since the 1970s there has been a great deal of change associated
with the implementation of administrative ethics. These changes
have been promoted and motivated by the concept of public
administration in the new era. An important position is given to
the concept of ethical issues in today’s civil governance. There
has been a great deal of research associated with this concept
which has been supported by translation of evidences and theories
into practice across different continents.
Frederickson and Ghere (2005) address both the managerial and individual/moral dimensions of ethical behavior as well as new challenges to administrative ethics posed by globalization. As promoted by Cooper (2001) ethics in public administration is not a transient concept but has proven to be an approach which has shown a great deal of sustainability which is fundamental to the area of public administration. Public administration has certain issues with regard to ethics implementation and finds it troublesome to come to terms with them. One reason for this is because ethics is embedded in an intellectual framework.
This framework is based on stable institutional as well as role relationship levels, among both public employees as well as the organization. According to the views of a number of researchers (Bang and Sorensen, 1999; Keast et al. , 2004; Rhodes, 1996; Sorensen, 2002, 2006; Sorensen and Torfing, 2004; Stoker, 1998), current government perspectives believe that clarity and stability at these levels would be problematic. Despite the increasing number of studies that have focused on the importance of administrative ethics, there has been very little effort spent on identifying what is exactly the crux of ethics in administration (Cooper, 2004).
This lack of directed research in the dynamics of operations with regards to ethics in public administration along with constant changes in the principles and policies associated with administrative ethics need to be examined. These developments have raised new topics for concern in this field. One example which can be cited at this juncture is the emergence of the concept of egovernance which would require the identification of a whole new paradigm of ethics in public administration. This article tries to identify the ways in which administrative policies in public organizations can be 24 J.
Public Adm. Policy Res. promoted and managed by adopting an effective and novel ethical approach. It would be prudent to mention the “ethics framework” here. The ethics framework (Bosseart and Demmke, 2005) is a voluntary, non-legally binding European Code of Ethics. It reflects the basic common values and standards which member states consider important for the proper functioning of public service. It comprehensively discusses the general core values, specific standards of conduct, actions to safeguard integrity and measures on handling situations where there has been possible violation of ethics.
It helps to structure the discussion on public-service ethics and it serves as a toolkit or general guideline for the development of codes of conduct at a national and subnational level. Originally, the ethics framework identifies general core values that should be common to all member states. These values are the rule of law (“lawfulness”), impartiality/ objectivity, transparency (“openness”), accountability, professionalism (“expertise”), and duty of care, reliability (“confidence, trust”) and courtesy (“service principle”).
If it is believed that these are the core values, then they should be fully recognised in every country. Public-service ethics is an issue that is taken seriously in every member state of the European Union. However, member states are at different stages of development and measures that are considered necessary in one country may be deemed irrelevant in others. The ethics framework has had a greater impact on those new member states that are currently fighting against corruption.
In the case of old member states, the Framework has had smaller impact since the core values have traditionally been an integral part of their administrative culture and many of the tools proposed in the Framework were already in use. For example if one considers Portugal, an old member state where the administrative culture is traditional and core values are already a part of the administrative framework there are alterations in the form of codes of conduct which can be proposed in order to promote ethics in public administration.
However the norms and regulations associated with the old administrative culture were not modified or removed. This resulted in two different viewpoints being promoted by the same government. This has resulted in a great deal of tension between traditional administrative culture and the new concepts of quality in public administration. NEW PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION AND ETHICS Globally the concept of privatization has been promoted in new public administration. It is seen that this concept is related to the measures which promote establishment of efficiency and efficacy leading to evelopment of quality deliverance of public services. In the research conducted by Savas (2000), the concept of “privatization in new public management”, is promoted. Further identified by Walsh et al. (1997) introduction of new market mechanisms which promote effective implementation of public services in organizations is identified. Walsh in his research has identified that privatization in governance in the United Kingdom has resulted in a new paradigm, which has promoted transformation of both organizational and cultural needs.
The purpose of these reforms include reduction of cost relating to the actions of the governments, identification of measures to reduce the direct impact of action of public employees and bringing about a variation in the overall views of the government by the public. This type of privatization maneuver not only challenged the current realities associated with ethics in public administration, wherein administrators were considered as technical professionals, but also identified the type of functioning that does not take into account good judgment on the part of employees.
Accordingly, intellectual proponents of the ethical perspective were responsible for the first noteworthy approach of public administrators’ ethical obligations and the importance of citizen participation in administrative decisions (Cooper, 2004). This has long been in place in developed countries across the world as seen with the NPM concepts promoted by Ronald Reagan in USA and Margaret Thatcher in the UK. REINVENTING GOVERNMENT As seen by Osborne and Gaebler (1992), it is observed that reinventing the government assumed importance in Bill Clinton’s administration.
In his era, new concepts of public administration with regards to two different areas were promoted. The first, involved identification of factors which promoted the productivity of governance and the second involved setting a new vision and mission policy. It was proposed that the productivity of governance can be increased by adopting more ethical measures in terms of distinguishing between the results and quantity of resources used. The use of a new mission policy will satisfy the needs of the general public. These measures may be identified to be less drastic when compared to the concept of privatization of governmental organizations.
However this idea can be promoted and productivity increased only when there is a change in attitude towards current concepts of established hierarchy in governance. A move should be made toward promotion of methods to identify flexibility, centralization and concentration of public administration aspects. These aspects may be considered to be an intermediate solution to privatization. If it is not possible, delegation mechanisms can be a solution. With regard to the ethical position, the researcher advocates that privatization may not alter the fact that the responsibility of the state towards its citizens will be met.
Radhika 25 Different processes which are to be supervised and controlled need to be realized by the government because ultimately the accountability and ethics of the action of the government to its citizens is needed. The scope and responsibilities of public administration changed due to the dynamics of new public management systems such as privatization, decentralization, debureaucratization and citizen partnership that are essentially new public management techniques and practices drawn mainly from the private sector and increasingly seen as a global phenomenon.
These concepts shift the emphasis from traditional public administration to public management which accorded ethics a central position. The purpose of public service is to essentially fulfil a citizen’s basic requirements. Rocha (2000), observes that groups calling for professional management of public administration argue that they are more efficient and effective than the existing framework. They call for breaking down large institutions into manageable centres, thus allowing for independent functioning as part of the new economic institutional ideal.
MORALS: THE RISE OF ETHICAL REASONING ABOUT MORALS Snell (1976) has maintained that it was Socrates, the founder of moral philosophy who enquired into the nature of ethics as his thoughts led him to the inner person rather than the external physical factors in 5 B. C. Morality’s choice of good and sound ethics was a natural means of developing a strong moral fibre. Socrates also felt that knowledge and morality were interrelated and one could not be moral if one did not know what morals were and what was good for mankind. Thus, he thought of virtue as being the centrepiece of nowledge and reasoned that virtue was knowledge. All thought and action therefore had to emanate from the knowledge of what was good or bad and then, be judged by ethical and moral standards. This would then lead to true happiness. (Vlastos, 1991), states that it was Socrates’ idea that morality be linked to happiness because he felt ethics was about knowing what was good. Socrates’ thoughts also reached the common man through discourses and debates, and intense conversations, which constantly probed, questioned and thus, evoked reactions and insights while testing his views and theories through his now-famous dialogues.
He felt constant engagement with the questions of virtue. He believed that morality would make people better as they would focus more on their own moral standards. DETERMINANTS ADMINISTRATION OF ETHICS IN PUBLIC public sector include: 1) The political construct of which public administrators are a part 2) The legal framework 3) The administrators and public employees who are responsible for the provision of public services 4) The citizens and users of public services that are a part of the civil society.
First, the determinants of ethics in public administration with regard to the individual attributes of public/civil servants include ethical decision-making skills (Richardson and Nigro 1987), mental attitude (Bailey, 1964), virtues (Dimock, 1990; Dobel, 1990; Gregory, 1999; Hart, 1989), and professional values (Van Wart, 1998). Secondly, the organizational structure dimension is explained by clear accountability, collaborative arrangements, dissent channels, and participation procedures (Denhardt, 1988; Thomson, 1985).
Third, the political organizational culture includes artefacts, beliefs and values, and assumptions (Schein, 1985). Leadership is important in the development, maintenance, and adaptation of organizational culture (Scott, 1982; Schein, 1985; Ott, 1989). Ethical behavior is encouraged when organizations have a climate where personal standards and employee education are emphasized, where supervisors stress the truth, and where employees regularly come together to discuss ethical problems (Bruce, 1995, 1994). Finally, societal expectation includes public participation, laws, and policies.
The advanced set of fundamental principles or criteria that integrate the process of dealing with ethical dilemmas in public administration are: 1) Democratic accountability of administration, 2) The rule of law and the principle of legality, 3) Professional integrity and 4) Responsiveness to civil society. This can be described as the ALIR model of imperatives of ethical reasoning in public administration. The research by Parsons (1964) presented the concept of ‘evolutionary universals in society’; wherein there are aspects associated with the identification of issues related to public administration ethics.
In his Evolutionary Universals Parsons tied his functionalist theory to an evolutionary perspective and argued that, like biological organisms, societies progress through their ‘capacity for generalized adaptation’ to their environment. This is achieved mainly through processes of structural differentiation; that is, the development of specialized institutions to perform the social functions necessary to meet increasingly specialized needs. However, this increasing complexity then requires new modes of integration, in 1 The major determinants of administrative conduct in the ALIR- Accountability, Legality, Integrity, Responsiveness 26 J. Public Adm. Policy Res. order to co-ordinate the new and more specialized elements. This is achieved via the principle of the ‘cybernetic hierarchy’ or the increased information exchange or the growth of knowledge. Evolution is then from traditional to modern societies, and progress can be charted via the development (structural differentiation) of evolutionary universals such as bureaucratic organization, money and market complexes, stratification, and the emergence of generalized universalistic norms.
Each of these enables a society to adapt more efficiently to its environment. The concepts of ALIR and Parsons’ evolutionary universals have some commonalities from the point of view of public administration. The identification of a new type of governance which promotes evolutionary universality will be vital in democratically identifying the rule of law which is capable of carrying out its role as well as taking into consideration the tasks of the civil society. The researcher feels that this type of interdependence and connection will help in distinguishing between various concepts of ethics in public administration.
This will also help extend morally and effectively the following four functional concepts: 1) Accountability of public bureaucracy which helps identifies the relationship between legitimate actions and its link to administration. 2) The rule of law and legality wherein public administration should be governed by the law. 3) Concepts of professional integrity and autonomy among public administrators which will ultimately help promote the principle of meritocracy. 4) Concepts of responsibility and immediate action of public administration to its citizens.
Consequently, the artful application of such a set of moral commands in concrete situations and circumstances will bear witness to the particular kind of ethical reasoning that a specific administrative system or public institution is able to achieve and sustain. PRINCIPLES OF ETHICS It is important to concentrate on the two leading models(ethics of the sovereign good and ethics of the service of goods) that are involved with ethical thoughts and actions within the public sectors. Furthermore, we will also compare and contrast them with the collaborative ethics that were mentioned above.
It has to be kept in mind that we are not taking any particular or specific approach but rather will be taking the modern understanding of could be called “vulgar Kantianism” or a “vulgar utilitarianism” (Harmon, 2005). Ethics of the sovereign good The ethics of the sovereign good is nothing but the set of guidelines based on which an individual acts. The ethics of the sovereign good is identified to be a set of values from which the different views on ‘what is good’ can be judged. It can be commonly seen in real world scenarios that many people have different versions of the same ethical concept.
People try to twist the concept to fit their needs based on their conception of the “good”. Therefore it is important to identify the viewpoint that holds the true spirit of the ethical guidelines. Michael (2005, 2003) makes a compelling argument in “The public administration”, with regards to the ethics of the sovereign good. According to him it can be called ‘principled morality’. In his argument he talks about why one should not act on the principles set by the ethics of the sovereign good. An important reason is the issue of opposing principles.
According to him, not all conflicts can be resolved by basing it on the ethics that are subscribed in the sovereign good. This is because ethics does not take into account a large number of variables that other principles apply to that particular scenario. The primary issue with the ethics of the sovereign good is the fact that it refers to itself as the absolute last word when it comes to ethical decisions. Another issue is that it tends to assume an attitude that is raw linguistic positivism.
One reason why the ethic of the sovereign good is so appealing is that it tends to transcend beyond the individual and looks at the bigger collective when it comes to defining proper ethics. Therefore it will not solve the individual issues but will rather lead us into an unrecognized and impossible (from its perspective) aporia. Ethics of the service of goods The values that are promoted by the ethics of the service of goods are mainly efficiency and maximization of the inputs to outputs. Basically there are three aspects which are important when it comes to the service of goods.
They are logic of reciprocity, its view of the collective, and its criteria for judgment. It can also be clearly seen that the ethics of the sovereign good are mainly targeted towards the market. At the very core, service of goods is based on mutual exchange. Basically it assumes that people are rational and have the freedom to choose what goods or services they want. Thus, if an individual likes a particular good/ service; he/she can enter into an agreement with a suitable trader on the terms for the purchase of the same service or good.
In exchange the individual can offer monetary resources to compensate the trader for the services and goods that they have provided. This is an amicable process that is disrupted only when someone fails to deliver the goods as per the terms agreed to. This will result in the decline of the social good. However in the case when everything is going smoothly, what is good for the individual ends up being good for the collective Radhika 27 whole. There have been a lot of questions that have been directed towards the ethics of the service of goods.
The questions that are raised are often related to the presumption of self-interest and about the ability of people to know their true interests. These questions are considered to be problematic for reasons both empirical and logical. According to different researchers (Bauman, 2001, 2005; Catlaw, 2009), viability is an issue since the ethics of the sovereign good tends to legitimize everything as long as it promotes trade and therefore in the long run has a tendency to wear away minimal stability . This stability is needed for an intelligible world with better ethics.
It neglects the problem that one must always ask “efficient to what end”? “Or “good for whom”? Following this line of thought different imperatives need to be understood in the context of ethics in administration which are discussed subsequently. ACCOUNTABILITY IMPERATIVES The distinction between politics and administration, which forms one of the most classic doctrines of modern political science and public administration (Easton, 1953), connotes not only their division of functions and their structural separation but also the subordination of the latter to the former.
This stream of thought also feels that politics is superior to administration and that the government controls the administrative machinery. Bureaucrats are loyal to their ministers, who in turn are loyal to the legislature, which is loyal to the people as they are their countrymen. Thus these ‘people’s representatives’ hold the administration accountable in the interests of the general public. Ministers are accountable to the Parliament and not civil servants and hence civil servants have to act as per the orders of their ministers whether they are in agreement or not as long as the law is not circumvented or breached.
Subordination of civil servants to elected representatives who act as law-makers and policy-setters forms a sine qua non precondition of democratic politics. When the bureaucracy and administration usurps power, which does not belong to it; the bureaucracy (civil or military) enters the political arena, undermines representative democracy and subjugates politics and government to its own interests and commands. Thus, it falls upon the civil servants to work diligently under the legislature as these representatives actually reflect the will of the people. They also have to apply considerable restraint in partisan politics nd while expressing their personal views. Thus, democratic virtue is not a part of the core value of public administration and neither can the parliament usurp public service institutions for its own political ends. Modern governance celebrates the different roles and responsibilities of politics and administration as it leads to higher efficacy of both functions and that is an important part of moral and personal integrity-the ability to be able to tell the truth to the powers that be. LEGAL IMPERATIVES Administrators have to respect the legal framework and act within its bounds thus rendering all government action legitimate.
Law is a universal concept in both politics and society. (Reichstadt, Etat de Droit). Max Weber sees the action of a state within the law as the third way of legitimizing authority with the other two being, charisma and tradition. Once the administration works within the realm of the law, it automatically sets forth for itself a series of controls and regulations. Power flows from the people and thus all power must be used for the good of the people, a fundamental requirement of most democratic constitutions. Governments and administrations therefore have no choice but to work within the legal framework.
Thus, the way the judiciary implements these laws which are there to ultimately serve the people forms the core of the legal determinants. Brown and Duguid (2000) state that courts ensure that the law will be followed during the discharge of public duty and that no injustice or partiality will do and that power will not be abused. Constant monitoring and protection of the law has to be a priority if administrative reforms are to take place. Even Aristotle commented that the law should be supreme in the eyes of the people and should operate without any interference.
THE INTEGRITY IMPERATIVE Chapman (1959) states, as professional ethics entered the administrative space so did the need for studying public administration and defining its scope and determinants. The nation states of Europe among others 2 have taken steps to professionalize the government. (The ethics framework and the European code of ethics) Ministers guide the bureaucracy which discharges its public duties in conformity with the law. They are chosen on the basis of special criteria and procedures which govern their recruitment, career path, discipline, and scope etc.
Professional virtue brings with it integrity and acceptance of the hierarchical dominance of the government but works under the authority of the law. Argyriades (1996) observes that civil servants are the permanent officers of the transient politicians in Parliament. Their competency from experience, knowledge, depth etc. , helps them assess ground realities and advise the parliament and implement public policies in an effective manner in the interest of the public. The essential 2 The ethics framework: Available on https://allaplusessays.com/order. europa. eu. int/ 28 J. Public Adm. Policy Res. eatures of a professional public service which would include knowledge of expertise, of judgement and conduct in accordance to standards, as well as commitment to the field comprise the following: 1) Recruitment should be carried out on the basis of tests and merits conducted by separate bodies and governed by regulations that are independent of politics and political systems. It should take place impartially and solely consider merit and achievements. Merit, therefore is a huge determinant of integrity and autonomy. 2) Self governance should be stressed on by administrative councils to promote corporate spirit and professionalism.
Experience and length of service as well as achievements and performance must be taken into account for promotions. 3) Training and education should increase professionalism in government and administration as a whole. Professionalism in public service can be seen in people who have a very good knowledge of the job in which they are working at, their expertise and talent and their ability to adhere to the highest ethical standards. Thus a true professional is one who has an adequate mix of expertise, knowledge and experience and also those who can meet the public’s expectation of them.
The general public and society have certain guidelines for various professionals who are expected to adhere to these standards. For example, corruption is frowned up on by the general public and therefore a true professional would be expected to follow such practices. Otherwise, the profession is deprived of an essential precondition of its claim to legitimacy. Corruption can be a major obstacle in the process of economic development and in modernizing a country. The greater recognition that corruption can have a serious adverse impact on development has been a cause for concern among developing countries.
In a survey of 150 high level officials from 60 third world countries, the respondents ranked public sector corruption as the most severe obstacle confronting their development process (Gray and Kaufmann, 1998). Countries in the Asia and Pacific region are also very worried about this problem and they are in substantial agreement that corruption is a major constraint that is hindering their economic, political and social development, and hence view it as a problem requiring urgent attention at the highest level.
An example of how corruption can affect a nations’ stability that can be cited at this point is the pandemic bureaucratic and political instability in Nigeria which is the main cause of democratic instability in the country. Ogundiya (2010) argues that democratic stability will be difficult to attain as long as corruption remains pandemic and unchecked. According to Hegel (1967), “What the service of the state really requires is that men shall forego the selfish and capricious satisfaction of their subjective ends; by his very sacrifice, they acquire the right to find their satisfaction in, but only in, the dutiful discharge of their public functions”. It may be inferred from the aforementioned that there exists a link between the universal and particular interests. The government employee would then be expected to follow a code of ethics consolidating professional virtue and integrity. Another advantage of this is that by doing so, their self confidence and motivation will rise. This is applicable for any professional in any country. Integrity can be achieved through self control in administrative conduct based on ethical standards.
THE IMPERATIVE FOR RESPONSIVENESS According to Hegel (1967), public servants worked solely for the state and not for society as it was the first, which determined the choice of citizens. The society as opposed to this was viewed by Hegel as being a total of specific and contrasting desires. This then became the sphere of the particular, of concrete persons with their own private ‘systems of needs and the efforts to satisfy them. Whereas the state served the general interest, civil society was the state of partial interests.
In this somehow dichotomous idea of social construction, individuals actualize themselves while partaking in various activities in civil society and ‘in becoming something definite, that is, something specifically particularized’ (Hegel, 1967). The state, however, with its system of governance and law provides the underlying conditions by which individuals and their actions may find their fullest fulfillment. For that reason, the state was for Hegel the ‘actuality of the ethical idea’, that is the unity of the universal and the particular.
Hegel’s ideas could be more properly comprehended if it is considered that he lived in a nation where many of the people were basically subjects with no role in the functioning of the government and hence a political life and convention such as the English have had was almost negligible. His work was an effort to spread awareness among the Germans about the political aspects of life. Gellner (1996) and Argyriades (1998) observe that without an expressive and self-sufficient civil society, no political life and even less democratic polity is likely to grow and flourish.
Hence, civil society has been thought of as one of the most crucial requisites for freedom and democracy. The idea that was advocated by the beginning of the twenty-first century was that the state must neither direct civil society nor be submissive to it. Rather it should stress and pitch in the task of building social capital to the advantage of the human race which is involved. Hence, juggling an alert state and an active civil society poses a good plan for improving the standards and the future for democratic tasks.
In this respect, the ‘civic virtue’ of ethical reasoning in state action entails that public institutions be responsive Radhika 29 to society and pay attention to the needs and demands of the people, facilitating access to services and creating an enabling environment for sustainable human and social development. (Bovens, 1998) states, alertness is not confined to market authorities but is majorly involved in the citizens’ role in to every extent and in every tier of the government, and it also involves giving power to people in human groups.
Responsiveness also entails consultation in governance and the promotion of a kind of ‘communicative ethic’ (Habermas, 1987) in societal affairs. The transition, however cumbersome it may be, from the command type of authority over people to more communicative types of