Public service value and Public service ethics

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).