Public or Civil Service Values

All power is a trust, that we are accountable for its exercise, that from the people, and for the people, all springs, and all must exist. – Benjamin Disraeli

 When power becomes humanly-oriented, it becomes spiritual and the man and woman who handles such power becomes a spiritual person with a socially-oriented will. – Swami Ranganathananda

 OECD commissioned study on Ethics in public life defined values as ‘the individual principles or standards that guide judgement about what is good or proper’. Public service organisations operate in environments subject to regular change and replete with competing demands and obligations. In an environment of uncertainties, values provide a compass for guiding activities.

 If the work of the public service is not driven by an appropriate set of values, it may lose the trust and respect of those who rely on it. Adherence to high-level public service values can generate substantial public trust and confidence. Conversely, weak application of values or promotion of inappropriate values can lead to reductions in these essential elements of democratic governance.

Values are often interchanged with ethics particularly in relation to addressing corruption or maladministration but such interchanging is problematic. For instance, In Canada, a distinction was drawn between both in the establishment of an Office for Public Service Values and Ethics. A similar distinction is necessary here in India.

Values in itself do not have agency i.e. they do not actually do anything. Instead it is the application of ethical codes to values that will lead to particular behaviour. For instance, civil servants may possess the value of integrity but it’s the code of ethics that transforms this value into action and behaviour of civil servants.

Ethics, therefore, are in effect the rules that translate values into everyday life. Values inform all aspects of ethical decision-making, ethical judgment, ethical choice and ethical behaviours.

In addition, Distinctions between ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ values are misplaced since values cannot be negative or positive rather. It’s the application of value that can be viewed from negative or positive viewpoints. For example, confidentiality as a value may be interpreted in a positive manner (crucial for national security) or negatively (Inhibits transparency).

There are obvious constraints to attempts to prescribe values which public services should adopt, given the variety of historical, social and cultural forces at play in different parts of the world. However, in general, public administrations were established to provide politically neutral and loyal service to governments.

For the purposes of ensuring neutrality and loyalty, rules were formalised concerning such issues as impartiality, incorruptability, allegiance to the constitution, and obedience to the law. In order to provide an environment in which these rules could be adhered to, public servants were offered security of tenure, a meritocratic career path and post-service remuneration.

In 1996, the UN adopted an ‘International Code of Conduct for Public Officials’ in response to growing concern with corruption in government internationally, and represents an attempt to identify those values which are shared by public administrations through the lens of ethical principles.

Public servant are required to perform several complex tasks. While performing these tasks, public servants employ a range of values as a means to guide their behaviour and to assist them in steering a course through multiple requirements. The complexity of public service ensures that its value system is unique and specific to its work.

Public servants play a critical role in the implementation of public policy and should understand the importance of values to all aspects of their work. Poor clarity or uncertainty about values can not only lead to ethical and decision-making dilemmas, but also affects organisational coherence by diminishing team spirit, creating organisational confusion and weak external communication.

Competing interpretations over what values are in fact ‘core’ to the public service reflect an ongoing debate over the role of the public service in a democracy. For instance, civil servants being an agent of policy implementation need to uphold values such as political neutrality and loyalty, whereas viewing the service as holders of the ‘public interest’ implies greater emphasis on fairness, transparency and impartiality.

Identifying appropriate value sets and knowing when to promote or prioritise particular values over others is a challenge frequently faced by civil servants. For instance, prioritizing equity over efficiency in job allocation due to mandate of affirmative action.

As we know, promoting a sense of equity and fairness is the defining value of public service in Indian democracy. Nonetheless, values are prioritized and emphasized based on necessity and situational demands. For example, a Department dealing directly with the public might place particular emphasis on the values of equity and transparency. However, other Departments might prioritise efficiency and effectiveness as their core values.

Sherman reviewed the public sector codes and guidelines of various countries and common set of values that turned out, are as follows;

  • Honesty and integrity
  • Impartiality
  • Respect for the law
  • Respect for persons
  • Diligence
  • Economy and effectiveness
  • Responsiveness

(These values are already discussed in detail)

Similarly, in a cross-national study of ethics measures, the OECD identified impartiality, legality and integrity as the most frequently stated core public service values.

Ethos, conduct and principles

Ethos is a collective term and shares common origins with ethics. However, while ethics is concerned with guiding judgement, an organisation’s ethos is understood by looking at its character and the manner in which it performs its tasks.

Values and ethics are understood as a guide to an action whereas conduct refers performance of the actual activities themselves. Conduct is also about the behaviour of individuals in particular situations and the decisions they make and act upon. For instance, Code of code for civil servants.

Principles are frequently interchanged with values but former is the subset of later. While principles can also be values, not all values are principles. Principles represent fundamental beliefs which should not be transgressed, and statements of principles may contain many values. Cooper defines principles as ‘general laws or rules that provide a guide for action’. For instance, principles might include justice, liberty or equality.

Organisational values emerge through tradition but can also emerge as a result of a radical change to an organisation brought about by critical events. Development of values requires considerable effort and consistency over time. Short-term measures, such as the development and publicising of values statements in offices are an important first step, but are limited in terms of their impact.

Moving beyond this level towards behavioural (or external) and eventually attitudinal (or internal) change amongst employees in an organisation requires training and the reinforcement of value sets through multiple interactions and activities.

The ultimate goal is to achieve a situation whereby organisational values are instinctively understood and form the basis of action by all members of an organisation. This is a long-term goal and therefore requires that values are constantly addressed and reinforced.

While values are absorbed through a variety of informal means, formal methods are also important in shaping them. Codes of practice and ethics legislation alone are not sufficient to ensure that public service work is performed in the context of a particular set of values. It may be necessary to develop other measures, including whistle blower protection legislation, effective auditing and reporting regimes, freedom of information legislation and training in the application of ethical standards.

The best way to promote and manage public ethics involves the following ‘vital elements’:

    • Recognise and assert the importance of ethics to good government
    • Integrate the management of ethics into the wider system
    • Exercise leadership from the centre and demand similar leadership in departments
    • Promote through a combination of standards, guidance, education and recognition of good practice
    • Allow information to flow to inform and guide devolved decision making

Heintzman suggests that several key factors promote values in the public service which are as follows;

    • Effectiveness of the organisation’s leaders in providing clear value leadership
    • Existing strength of the value culture within the organisation
    • Identification of high-risk ‘zones’ which require strong control and monitoring activity; such zones include areas of the public service where individual staff retain the power to confer or withhold a benefit
    • Strength and efficacy of the control systems within the organisation.

There are several avenues through which the values can be instilled in the public service. These are as follows; 

    • Leadership Leadership is frequently identified as a much sought-after value for civil services. Leaders influence not through their advocacy of value statements but through their words and actions. 

For example, after the failure of SLV-2 experiment, Satish Dhawan took the responsibility of failure and when the SLV-3 experiment met with success, he credited the team working on the mission under Dr Kalam. 

    • Working environmentValues are manifested informally in everyday work practices and transactions. Public servants absorb ‘traditional’ values through various means of socialisation, the most important of which is the ‘local’ organisational culture in which they work. This process can be enhanced by rewards and sanctions, although, there is an inherent danger that the intrinsic motivation for employee behaviour may be compromised by rewards or sanctions. 
    • Workable codes of conduct and values statementsValues are normally recognised formally in codes of conduct and legal frameworks as they provide a means for translating values into practice. 
    • Professional socialisation mechanisms (such as training)Induction and orientation programmes for new recruits provide an important opportunity for discussion on public service values and communicating them required standards of behaviour expected of them. 

The objective of training for public servants to train them in a way so they can think about values and ethics, how to discern values and ethical issues in the public sector, and how to deal with moral dilemmas and conflicts. Such training is particularly pertinent for those recruited directly into middle management levels and above, who may not have the same level of exposure to public service values as those who have come ‘through the ranks’.

Training in respect of values should not be a once-off event for new recruits but routine staff assessment of the performance of an organisation in respect of its values statement is a worthwhile exercise.

  • Risk reviewValues can be enhanced by reviewing potential risk areas and developing a values and ethics risk management strategy. For example, certain elements of public service work are more sensitive to value conflicts than others such as tax, customs and justice administration etc. As a consequence, specialist codes of conduct are designated for these services.
  • Controls Effective controls are arguably the dominant factor in ensuring high levels of values and ethics performance in public organisations. Such controls include:
    • Clear policies, procedures and controls
    • Separation of duties and oversight
    • Effective monitoring, audit and reporting
    • Clear mechanisms for reporting wrongdoing
    • Effective and transparent action when wrongdoing is discovered.

In an era when, internationally, trust in public institutions has been undermined by scandals and incidents of malpractice, it is timely to consider the basic values on which public organisations are built.

Confidence in the public service requires the development of a value-based culture through training, leadership and codes of conduct and values statements, combined with preventative measures and recourse mechanisms. Performance of governance can only be enhanced through meaningful integration into all aspects of the work of the service.

 

Administrative ethics refers to the professional code of morality in civil service. They constitute the moral fibre of civil servants and regulate the conduct and behaviour of different categories of civil servants.

The civil service, being a profession in the modern state, has developed a code of morality for its members. The code of ethics consists of traditions, precedents, and standards which have to be kept up by the civil servants. The civil servants are expected to set up high moral standards not only for themselves for the community at large, particularly, in the context of the growing importance of administration and its impact on the society.

Public service ethics are a prerequisite to, and underpinning of public trust, and are a keystone of good governance. Citizens expect public servants to serve the public interest with fairness and to manage public resources properly on a daily basis. Democratic values such as equality, law, justice etc. have moral connotations and require a strong commitment from civil servants. Civil servants are duty bound to uphold these values.

Highlighting the importance of administrative ethics, P.R. Dubhashi said, “It is of utmost importance that the public administration should be efficient but it is even more important that it should be ethical. It is said of an individual that if character is lost, everything is lost. It could be stated about public administration, that if ethics is lost, everything is lost.”

Now, let’s look at scholarly perspectives on Administrative ethics

Chester Barnard has described the ethical conduct or moral behaviour as “governed by beliefs or feelings of what is right or wrong regardless of self-interest or immediate consequences of a decision to do or not to do specific things under particular conditions.”

Glen Stahl (in his book Public Personnel Administration) rightly remarked, “the problem of ethical conduct of public official arises by virtue of the power and influence that he commands and the commitment that he undertakes of loyal and disinterested service to the public.”

Paul H Appleby in his book Morality and administration in Democratic Government preferred the expression Morality instead of Ethics. He argues that morality and administration cannot be separated. He remarked, “It is not merely bigger government that ultimately matters; what is significant is that morality in administration alone could ensure better government. He delineated the following attributes of a moral administrator:

    • A sense of responsibility
    • Skills in communication and personnel administration
    • Ability to cultivate and utilize institutional resources
    • Willingness to engage in problem-solving and to work with others as a team
    • Personal confidence to initiate new ideas
    • Prefers to be influenced by public needs, interests and sensitivities rather than resorting to the use of raw bureaucratic power.

 

TEN COMMANDMENTS FOR AN ADMINISTRATOR

    • Most important factor in administration is conviction, in human relationships.
    • A good administrator should try to anticipate the behaviour of people.
    • The administrator must be functionally active which means, he should have his own sources of information.
    • The administrator should be clear in communication.
    • The administrator should avoid sharp departure from the accepted policy.
    • The administrator should undertake intensive touring to be close to people and workers at the cutting edge.
    • The administrator should enlist public co-operation without being propagandist.
    • The administrator should ensure that the unity of command in a department is not disrupted.
    • The administrator is a trustee of public interest and not a ruler over public.

The administrator should equate practice with precept.

The key principles of public service ethics on which modern democratic governments are based upon, are as follows;

    • Public office is a trust so it should be used to advance only public interests not personal interest.
    • Objective decision making based on merits, free from partiality, prejudice or conflicts of interest
    • Conduct government openly, efficiently, equitably and honourably so that the public can make informed judgements and hold public officials accountable
    • Honour and respect democratic principles, and observe them in letter and spirit.
    • Safeguard public confidence in the integrity of government by avoiding appearances of impropriety and conduct unbefitting a public official.

Most modern ethics laws and public service ethics for public officials endorse the following minimum set of principles:

  • Serving the public interest – Civil servants are expected to maintain and strengthen the public’s trust and confidence in government, by demonstrating the highest standards of professional competence, efficiency and effectiveness, upholding the Constitution and the laws, and seeking to advance the public good at all times.
  • Transparency – Public officials are expected to use powers and resources for public good, under government policy. They should be accountable for the decisions they make, and prepared to justify their actions.
  • Integrity – Civil servants are expected to make decisions and act solely in the public interest, without consideration of their private interests. Public employment being a public trust, the improper use of a public service position for private advantage is regarded as a serious breach of duty.
  • Legitimacy – Public officials are required to administer the laws, and to exercise administrative power on behalf of the government. That power and authority should be exercised legitimately, impartially and without fear or favour, for its proper public purpose.
  • Fairness – Civil servants should make decisions and act in a fair and equitable manner, without bias or prejudice, taking into account only the merits of the matter, and respecting the right of affected citizens.
  • Responsiveness – As agents and employees of the elected government, civil servants are required to serve the legitimate interests and needs of the government, and all citizens, in a timely manner, with care, respect and courtesy.
  • Efficiency and Effectiveness – Civil servants and public officials are required to obtain best value for public assets deployed in or through public management, and to avoid waste and extravagance in expenditure and the use of public assets.

Acting as guardians of the public trust, professional administrators are in a central position to revive and enhance the image of the public. Some of the principles that can guide public administrators in promoting the public service goals are as follows;

  • Ethical education – Education and training in administrative ethics are most essential for public servants and it must include both personal and administrative ethics. Civic virtues, virtuous citizenship, respect for others, protection of individual rights, and other ethical values should be internalized by public servants.
  • Preservation of professional and personal integrity – Professional values should prevail over personal orders of superiors deemed questionable. This requires, knowledge, self-control, a degree of autonomy and personal independence, and subordination of private interests to the public interest and public trust.

 However, strict observance to professional interests can conflict with broad public interests, a problem that must be avoided when faced, as broad public interests are superior to narrow-based professional interests.

  • Prudence – The exercise of prudence requires self-controlled, discretionary decisions based on knowledge, expertise, and ethical judgment in a particular situation.
  • Public spirit – Private interests should be subordinate to public, community interests. In making decisions or acting as an administrator, one must think of the public trust and citizens’ interests.
  •  Exemplary behaviour – It refers to blowing the whistle and reporting wrongdoings to the right sources for corrections. However, it must be done with consultation and maximum care, because you as an administrator also have obligations to yourself and your family.

 Follow and enforce the professional code of ethics – Codes of ethics in public administration are statements of ideals, canons of action consonant with those ideals, and binding means of enforcing behaviour for public servants.`

A study by the OECD showed that all member countries give great importance to eight core values – Impartiality, Legality, Integrity, Transparency, Efficiency, Equality, Responsibility, and Justice. High standards of conduct in the public service have become a critical issue for governments across the world.

Globalisation and the further development of international economic relations demand high recognisable standards of conduct in the public service. Increased concern about the decline of confidence in government and corruption has prompted governments to review their approaches to ethical conduct.

In response to these challenges, the OECD has issued 12 principles for ‘Managing Ethics in Public Service’ to help countries review the institutions, systems and mechanisms they have for promoting public service ethics. These principles are as follows;

 

  • Clear ethical standards – Public servants need to know the basic principles and standards they are expected to apply to their work and where the boundaries of acceptable behaviour lie. For example, clear and simplified code of conduct/ethics.
  • Ethical standard should be reflected in legal framework – Laws and regulations could state the fundamental values of public service and should provide the framework for guidance, investigation, disciplinary action, and prosecution.
  • Ethical guidance for public servants – Training facilitates in ethics awareness can develop essential skills for ethical analysis and moral reasoning.
  • Public servants need to know what their rights and obligations are in terms of exposing actual or suspected wrongdoing within the public service. These should include clear rules and procedures for officials to follow, and a formal chain of responsibility. Public servants also need to know what protection will be available to them in cases of exposing wrongdoing.
  • Political commitment to ethics should reinforce the ethical conduct of public servants. Political leaders are responsible for maintaining a high standard of propriety in the discharge of their official duties. Their commitment is demonstrated by example and by taking action that is only available at the political level, for instance by creating legislative and institutional arrangements that reinforce ethical behaviour and create sanctions against wrongdoing.
  • The decision-making process should be transparent and open to scrutiny. Public scrutiny should be facilitated by transparent and democratic processes, oversight by the legislature and access to public information.
  • Clear rules defining ethical standards should guide the behaviour of public servants in dealing with the private sector. This is particularly important regarding public procurement outsourcing or public employment conditions.
  • Managers should demonstrate and promote ethical conduct. An organisational environment where high standards of conduct are encouraged by providing appropriate incentives for ethical behaviour, such as adequate working conditions and effective performance assessment, has a direct impact on the daily practice of public service values and ethical standards.
  • Management policies and practices should demonstrate an organisation’s commitment to ethical standards. Government policy should not only delineate the minimal standards below which a government official’s actions will not be tolerated, but also clearly articulate a set of public service values that employees should aspire to.
  •  Public service conditions and management of human resource should promote ethical conduct.
  • Adequate accountability mechanism should be in place within the public service. Public servants should be accountable for their actions to their superiors and, more broadly, to the public.
  • Appropriate procedures and sanction should exist to deal with misconduct. Mechanisms for the detection and independent investigation of wrongdoings, such as corruption, are a necessary part of an ethics infrastructure.

In order to manage ethics in public services, simply drawing a code of conduct is not enough but there is need for a proper ethics infrastructure. OECD enumerates the following key elements for an effective ethics infrastructure:

  • Political commitment – Politicians should say ethics are important, set an example, and support good conduct with adequate resources
  • An effective legal framework – It refers to the laws and regulations which set standards of behaviour and enforce them
  • Efficient accountability mechanisms – It includes administrative procedures, audits, agency performance evaluations, consultation, and oversight mechanisms
  • Workable codes of conduct – It should include statement of values, roles, responsibilities, obligations, restrictions
  • Professional socialisation mechanisms such as education and training
  • Supportive public service conditions such as fair and equitable treatment, appropriate pay and security
  • An ethics co-ordinating body
  • An active civic society, including a probing media to act as watch dog over government activities.

 

  • Accountability to Parliament – In India, administrators are responsible to the political executives, who in turn are answerable to the Parliament. Besides administrative accountability there is also financial accountability. For instance, legislature must authorise the executive before the latter can spend any money from the Consolidated Fund of India or the state.
  • Code of Conduct for Ministers – The Government of India has prescribed a Code of Conduct which is applicable to Ministers of both the Union and State Governments. However, steps needs to be taken towards prescribing code of ethics as recommended by 2nd
  • Committee on Ethics of the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha – Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Rajya Sabha provides for constitution of the Committee on Ethics to oversee the moral and ethical conduct of Members. Similarly, there is a Committee on Ethics of the Lok Sabha to oversee the moral and ethical conduct of Members of that House.
  • Disclosure of Interest – In India, disclosure of interest is provided in both Houses of Parliament. It has been ruled by the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha that a Member having a personal pecuniary or direct interest on a matter before the House is required to declare the nature of interest.
  • Code of Conduct for Civil Servants – Code of conduct has been prescribed for civil servants which aims to increase confidence in government by reassuring citizens that private power and interest do not subvert government decisions.
  • Legal Mechanism to Check Corruption – Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 is the substantive law to deal with corruption in India which applies to all categories of “public duty”. Besides this, other enactments to check corruption are, Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 1988, the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 etc.
  • Right to Information Act, 2005 – The Act is based on the principle that all government information is the property of people. It takes democracy to the grassroots level and is also a step towards ensuring participatory governance in the country.
  • Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 – The Act was a product of people’s movement against corruption led by Anna Hazare. It aims to prevent and control corruption through the setting up of an independent and empowered body at the central level, called the Lokpal. The Act also makes it incumbent for each state to pass, within a year, a law setting up a body of Lokayuktas at the state level, but leaves it to the states to work out the details.
  • Whistle-blowers Protection Act, 2014 – The enactment of RTI Act saw the rise in the number of attacks on whistle-blowers. In order to protect them, Whistle-blowers protection law was enacted which seeks to establish a mechanism to receive complaints relating to corruption or wilful misuse of power or discretion by public servants, to inquire into those complaints, and prevent the victimization of the complainants.
Need for legal Protection

As “part of society’s alarm and self-repair system”, whistle-blowers are valuable for organizations and the society because they call attention to problems before they become more damaging. They are “lone voices of reason, morality, and truth who speak out to protect the public from harm”. Some of the major recent cases of whistle-blowing are as follows;

Satyendra Dubey – A sincere whistle-blower in the National Highways Authority of India, Satyendra Dubey had to pay a heavy price in term of his life for drawing attention of the Prime Minister’s Office to corruption in Golden Quadrilateral Project.

Manjunath Shanmugam – A young manager with Indian Oil Corporation was shot dead for drawing attention to irregularities in the quality of fuel being marketed in some petrol pumps.

Rajiv Kumar – Professor at IIT, Kharagpur has been suspended for exposing irregularities in the IITJEE Entrance Test for admissions.

Many such whistle-blowers and RTI activists have been facing problems and there have been situations where it became difficult for them even to get police protection. Therefore, there was dire need for some kind of legal protection.

 
  • Vigilance and Investigative Mechanisms
  • Central Vigilance Commission – It is the apex vigilance institution, monitoring all vigilance activity under the Central Government. It is the “Designated Agency” to receive written complaints for disclosure on any allegation of corruption or misuse of office and recommend appropriate action. The Commission has been empowered through the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 to conduct preliminary inquiry into complaints referred by the Lokpal to it.
  • Central Bureau of Investigation – It is the premier investigating police agency in India which plays a major role in preservation of values in public life and in ensuring the health of the national economy. It is involved in collection of criminal intelligence pertaining to three of its main areas of operation – anti-corruption, economic crimes and special crimes.
  • National Investigative Agency – The Mumbai terror attack in November 2008 highlighted the need for a strong investigative mechanism and as a result, the NIA was created by an Act of the Parliament. According to the Act, the Agency is an investigation agency at the national level to investigate and prosecute offences affecting the sovereignty, security and integrity of India, Security of State, and friendly relations with foreign States
  • Right to Public Service Delivery Legislations – Every Citizen is entitled to hassle-free public services and redressal of grievances which requires Right to Service legislation to be put in place. A number of states have enacted Public Services Guarantee Act which guarantees “right to public services”, which are to be provided to the public by the designated official within the stipulated time frame.

Even at the central level, efforts had been made to pass Citizens Charter Bill, 2011 which seeks to create a mechanism to ensure timely delivery of goods and services to citizens. 

In spite of all these initiatives, morality in public administration seems to be in poor state. We need to take up more radical initiatives to strengthen moral framework for each stakeholders in governance to bring effective transformation. Some of the initiatives that can be taken in this regard are as follows; 

  • Political Commitment to Ethics and Moral Values – Political leaders are responsible for maintaining high standards of propriety in the discharge of their official duties. Their commitment is demonstrated by example and by taking action that is only available at the political level.

The culture and values of the public services to a large extent depends on the political leadership and its commitment to high ethical standards. It is time that the political leadership should focus on probity, integrity and a value-based governance.

A message of zero tolerance to corruption, unethical action and behaviour as given by PM Modi will send a strong message and help promote ethical governance.

In addition, Political will to hold public services accountable and weed out non-performers is the need of the hour. For instance, 340 non-performing officers were prematurely retired by government between 2014 and 2020.

  •  Making Directive Principles of State Policy justiciable – DPSPs are nothing but principles of Raja Dharma which means that it is the moral responsibility of the state to guarantee the quality of life of each citizen so that he can live in dignity which is a basic human right. Therefore, it is time to examine the possibility of making Directive Principles of the State Policy a justiciable right.
  • National Commission on Integrity and Transparency in Governance – The role of this Commission would be to assess the effectiveness of code of conduct for civil servants and take steps to promote ethical values among public servants.

The Commission could on a regular basis develop and review policies, procedures, practices and institutions influencing ethical conduct in the public service. It could also incorporate ethical dimensions into management frameworks to ensure that management practices are consistent with the values and principles of public service.

  •  Transparency in Delivery of Public Services – Citizens are losing faith in the service delivery mechanism due to rampant corruption and inefficiency. This requires the need for reconstruction of the image of the public service. For this the public trust in public services need to be re-established by ensuring citizens are heard and their complaints get redressed.

It is not only the legal duty of the state but also ethical and moral obligation of the state to provide effective public services to all its citizens.

  • Use of Innovative Technological Tools – Technological tools can help in promoting ethical and moral governance by reducing avenues of corruption and narrowing down the scope of discretion. New innovation technology needs to be adopted in governance which makes the system much more transparent, accountable and inclusive.

The recent initiatives of DoPT to move towards a paperless office is to be welcomed. However, care has to be taken that digitalization process doesn’t lead to exclusion errors as seen under PDS scheme wherein some old age people couldn’t take benefits due to limitations associated with AADHAR linked distribution system. 

  • Abuse of Discretionary Powers – Absolute discretion is a ruthless master and highly destructive freedom than any of man’s other inventions. However, discretionary power by itself is not pure evil but gives much room for misuse. Therefore, remedy lies in tightening the procedure and not in abolishing the power itself. 

2nd ARC in this regard recommended that all government offices having public interface should undertake a review of their activities and list out those which involve use of discretion. Further, well defined regulations should attempt to restrict the discretion and decision making on important matters should be assigned to a Committee rather than individuals. However, Care has to be exercised that this practice is not to be restored to when prompt decisions are required. 

  • Protection and Incentives to Honest Public Servants – In the quest for making systems and structures of governance ethical, moral and accountable, we need to provide protection to honest civil servants. For example, Transfers and postings should be based only on merit and performance. 

Governance and the citizens suffer a serious setback when corrupt and incompetent public servants are rewarded on considerations other than merit. Such postings, when based on political cronyism or nepotism, are a form of corruption that tends to lead to other forms of corruption related to mismanagement of public resources and abuse of authority.

  • Permanent Civil Service and Re-employment – There should be restrictions upon former public servants with respect to re-employment and the rendering of services to private organizations. It is generally seen that the quid pro quo begins even before retirement. It is equally important that people holding high constitutional posts should be barred from both public and private re-employment. 

In addition, there is an urgent need to examine permanent civil service and protection given to civil servants under Article 311 of the Constitution. Under the garb of protection, a large number of civil servants continue to bleed the system. There should be a mechanism to filter those with doubtful integrity. 

  • HRD Training in Ethics and Moral Values – Ethics training for public officials is one of the instruments for building integrity in state institutions and ensuring good quality public governance. 

UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) requires that the States “promote education and training programmes to enable them public officials to meet the requirements for the correct, honourable and proper performance of public functions and that provide them with specialized and appropriate training to enhance their awareness of the risks of corruption inherent in the performance of their functions”. 

Ethics training must consist of awareness raising for rules, codes and principles, dilemma-training, leadership training, conflicts of interest etc. Training facilitates ethics awareness and can develop essential skills for ethical analysis and moral reasoning.

In addition, one public agency needs to be assigned the task to develop overall framework for ethics training, for central planning, coordination and evaluation of results. Institutions like Indian Institute of Public Administration should play a leading role in designing modules for ethics training. The Department of Personnel and Training should explore the feasibility of setting up a Centre for Excellence in Ethics and Values for a continuous assessment, evaluation and research in this area.