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Ethics in
Learning Objectives:
At the end of this chapter, students should be able to understand and

1. Values in Administration
2. Guidance and control continuum
3. Micro and macro level of
administrative ethics
4. Personal aspects on ethical
1. Values in Administration
◦ There can be little doubt that public
administration is a field where values not
only matter, but where they regularly
produce conflict and “create dilemmas
(Buchanan and Millstone 1979: 280).
◦ Because resolving values conflicts is a central
feature and activity of the field, there has long
been intellectual debate about the role of values
in public administration and which value or set of
values should form the foundation of and guiding
treatise for the field (Nabatchi, 2011)
◦ Therefore, it can be said that public value or
value in administration consists of appraisal of
managerial activities and actions conducted by
government agents and officials, and as social
standards, principles, and ideals to be pursued
and upheld by government agents and officials
(Nabatchi, 2011)
◦Public service has its own values and
the most important of them is integrity.
◦It can be interpreted to cover a broad
range of bureaucratic behavior, but it
is used also to refer to administrative or
public service ethics, to principles and
standards of right conduct for public
◦ Certain principles and standards of ethical
behavior (e.g. honesty, promise keeping) are
of such enduring importance in all walks of
life that they can be described as ethical
◦ These ethical values can be used to resolve
conflicts between such public service as
responsiveness and efficiency; they can also
be applied to clashes between public
service values on one hand, and social
values like liberty and equality on the second
(Karnaghan and Siegel, 1995)
Ethics and Public Administrators/Civil Servants
◦ Every country has certain legal framework with provisions
to cover various unethical and corrupt practices such as
the breath of official trust and duties, abuse of power,
misappropriation, and extortion, corrupt practices,
acceptance of undue advantage and abuse of officials
◦ Public servants presently subject to greater public
scrutiny and increased demands from citizens; they also
face stricter limits on resources.
◦ They have to assume new functions and responsibilities
as a result of: devolution and greater managerial
discretion; increased commercialization of the public
sector; a changing public/private sector interface and
changing accountability arrangements.
◦ In short they have to adopt new ways of carrying out the
business of government (Dmochowski et al, 2005)
Ethics and Public Administrators/Civil Servants
While public management reforms have realized
important returns in terms of efficiency and
effectiveness, some of the adjustments may have
had unintended impact on ethics and standards
of conduct.
This is not to suggest that changes have caused
an increase in misconduct or unethical
behaviour. But they may place public servants in
situations involving conflicts of interests or
objectives where there are few guidelines as to
how they should act (Dmochowski et al, 2005)
Problems/Impacts that may occur:
Major scandal - loss of power – ruin political system

Weaken the system – government unable to fulfill their roles in efficient, effective &
ethical ways

Increase public's suspicion & disappointment with the government

Ethical problems may become habits/routine and will not be recognized unless
the effect will jeopardize their lives/career

Punishment will be prioritized instead of improvement because misconduct

happens regularly (especially in developing countries). Punishment is only a short
term solution
• Ethical problems faced by the government are complex.
The solutions discovered by public administrators must take
into consideration at least:

i. The general public interest

ii. The goals of policy towards which he/ she is working
iii. An understanding of the organization with & in which
he/ she must work
iv. The personalities of specific individuals with whom he
must interact
recommended by OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-
operation and Development), 1998.

Management policies, procedures and practices should promote ethical

Management policies and practices should demonstrate an organisation’s
commitment to ethical standards. It is not sufficient for governments to have
only rule-based or compliance-based structures. Compliance systems alone
can inadvertently encourage some public servants simply to function on the
edge of misconduct, arguing that if they are not violating the law they are
acting ethically. 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 resources should
promote ethical conduct.
Public service employment conditions, such as career prospects, personal
development, adequate remuneration and human resource management
policies should create an environment conducive to ethical behaviour. Using
basic principles, such as merit, consistently in the daily process of recruitment
and promotion helps operationalise integrity in the public service.
Adequate accountability mechanisms should be in place within the public
Public servants should be accountable for their actions to their superiors and,
more broadly, to the public. Accountability should focus both on compliance
with rules and ethical principles and on achievement of results. Accountability
mechanisms can be internal to an agency as well as government-wide, or can
be provided by civil society. Mechanisms promoting accountability can be
designed to provide adequate controls while allowing for appropriately flexible
Appropriate procedures and sanctions should exist to deal with misconduct.
Mechanisms for the detection and independent investigation of wrongdoing
such as corruption are a necessary part of an ethics infrastructure. It is necessary
to have reliable procedures and resources for monitoring, reporting and
investigating breaches of public service rules, as well as commensurate
administrative or disciplinary sanctions to discourage misconduct. Managers
should exercise appropriate judgement in using these mechanisms when
actions need to be taken.
The decision -making process should be transparent and open to
The public has a right to know how public institutions apply the power
and resources entrusted to them. Public scrutiny should be facilitated
by transparent and democratic processes, oversight by the legislature
and access to public information. Transparency should be further
enhanced by measures such as disclosure systems and recognition of
the role of an active and independent media
Public servants should know their rights and obligations when exposing
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
• Some public managers success – recognizing & dealing
with ethical dilemmas – aware of ‘DEMOCRATIC
ESSENCE’ as the anchor & focus for analysis & action –
most basic values for studying ethics in public

• Micheal Harmon &Richard Mayer(1986) - Public

Administration deals with decisions that:

i. Affect peoples lives  implementation & formulation

ii. Were made in the name of the public of public policy
iii. Use public resources  As an actor – follow guidance
(rules, regulation, discretion
 However volatile, conflicting or
complex and that can difficult
the situation, a DECISION has
to be made.
• Problems faced:
– Tragic choices (Calabresi & Bobbitt, 1978)
– Wicked problems (Horst Rittel& Melvin Webber)

• Tragic choices:
– Scarce good must be distributed to the society
– The distributions of some goods sometimes requires great suffering &
even death
– It reveal conflicts between, the source of the scarcity and the values
used to determine the recipients of the scarce good
• For example, the waiting system used in kidney transplant
• Making tragic social choices in the least offensive way requires
choices derived from a rational decision-making process
• In policymaking at a given time, the mixture of methods for making
a choice is a compromise that minimizes the tragic outcome of not
being able to satisfy all the conflicting fundamental values
• Wicked Problems:

– A wicked problem is a social or cultural problem that is difficult or

impossible to solve for as many as four reasons: incomplete or
contradictory knowledge, the number of people and opinions
involved, the large economic burden, and the interconnected
nature of these problems with other problems
– Every wicked problem is a symptom of another problem. The
interconnected quality of socio-economic political systems
illustrates how, for example, a change in education will cause new
behaviour in nutrition.
– Solutions to wicked problems simply better/worse or good
enough/not good enough. The determination of solution quality is
not objective and cannot be derived from following a formula
– Homelessness, women’s right, affordable healthcare are examples
of wicked problems

Retrieved October 6, 2013 from
Public administrators are in the ‘hot seat’ because:

– Mandated to make decisions, to regulate, to act -

carry public responsibility – if not they fail

– Not allowed to be ‘wrong’: accountable for the

consequences of the decisions – use public resources
– impact on society

– Faced with situation with two or more competing

values (good & desired – variety & may conflict) -
ethical dilemma is a uniquely personal experience –
practice “hierarchy of value” – recognize values of
larger society/political system
• P.A cant operate immorally and based purely on
situational environment
• Interpretation & application of guidelines –
create ethical dilemmas
• Based on different set of fact, internal & external
pressure – made decision under pressure of
politics, time and limited resources.

Unwritten code of Written statement
behavior/ conduct

Individual responsibility Enforceable within law

“ Formal control of public sector”

Accountability to others
“cant avoid the enforcement”

◦ Theories relating to ethical guidance and

◦ Governmental – Legal theory
◦ Societal – Group theory
◦ Organization – Structure & Authority
◦ Individual – Responsiveness theory
• Based on needs for a legal foundation for governmental
activity ( esp. civil service reform)
Relate with government – ultimate formal authority –
power over our lives
• Central ideas:
– Laws are an expression of the will of the people (created by chosen
– Harmful activities is best stopped by passing a law (e.g: conflict of interest)
Political system’s prestige on ethical control depends on the establishments of
these control.
Most people obey law- believe the best behavior for society
Not all covered by law – create ethical dilemmas

• Responsibility for guidance & control placed upon

various sectors of society (to influence government
decision making based on their expertise, based on
their common interest)
• Ethical standards formulated & sustained by the various
organizations & groups
• The best way to guarantee an ethical & responsive
public bureaucracy is by making sure that the
processes of government are open to everyone (not
only achieve balance need, demand & value – also all
interest being represent in the arena)

• Forms of organization & position available to

specific individuals will have a major impact on
organizational values.
• It will also decide what is ethical & unethical.
• Regardless of what values an individual holds,
organization & position given will decide how
far he/she can be influenced.
Interest & ideas being considered from stakeholders

◦ No attempt can provide adequate guidance

& control for public administrator’s behavior.
◦ Impossible to establish law for every action.
◦ Informal systems of ethical control- based on
human nature, social & political system.
◦ Assumes a responsive bureaucracy is a
representative bureaucracy
Public Administrators
Consideration in Ethical issue
1. The general public interest
2. The goals of public policy he or she is
working on
3. Understanding the major actors in the
larger scenario
4. Dynamics of the organization
5. Personalities of the individuals with whom
he or she must interact.
◦ Macro  dilemmas that involves major
segments of a community or a society

◦ Micro  dilemmas have impact on the

careers or well-being of the individuals
who are faced with the choices (but do
not have broad impact on society)
• Applies formally
• Impact decisions on society
• Often involve large group of people
• Decision made has both positive & negative impacts

• Thus, ethical dilemmas are much complex because

of the “open system” type of interaction involves –
ripple effect (information can be disseminated and
passed from community to community) make it
extremely difficult to understand the ultimate results
of a choice or set of choices
◦ Calabresi and Bobbitt (1978) “tragic choices” – no way to
avoid to make decision – who lives while other dies

◦ A right decision according to individual may be ‘wrong’

when judged by an opposing person

◦ Hugh Helco (1977) - relative dilemmas of public

administrator : obedience & independence, stability &
adaptability, power & restraint on power, cooperation &
resistance – require changeable balance rather than
absolute solution

◦ Dilemmas of identity & roles – on loyalty to democratic

ideals – “how to act”
• Relevant for the bureaucrats
• the careerists – who usually operate from the middle or
lower levels of the public agency – who exercise some
power but does not extend far beyond the individuals
and immediate environment
• Decisions made by bureaucrats will influence their own
perception of themselves and their personal worth
• They also have impact on effectiveness of a segment of
the overall organization
• Level of ethical consideration is relatively limited
• Middle level bureaucrat seldom have great influence on the policies
of their organizations – expected to carry out their tasks in efficient
and effective manner

• Ethical problem they face:

1. They are pressured to carry out tasks that they considered wrong
2. They are asked to ignore the wrong actions by someone else
3. They gain information that appears to be useful to the government /
organization in general but cannot get anyone to listen to them

• Primary conflict on personal integrity VS organizational pressure to

conform – effect overall morale and sense of values among public
employees and trust and respect for government by citizen at large
Bailey (1965) in “The relationship between Ethics
and Public Service” states that three (3)
essential mental attitudes and three (3) moral
qualities must exist in all civil servants if they want
to be successful in facing numerous ethical
dilemmas existing in public service:

1. Moral ambiguity
1. Every person-mixture self-interest & self-sacrifice
2. Constitution – create structure of government,
separation of power (check and balance)
3. Public policies for public interest + special interest
also served
2. Contextual forces affect moral priorities
Situational ethics – need flexibility (must look beyond) because rigid
obedience to set of values may destroy the opportunity to
accomplish the greatest good

3. Paradoxes/inconsistencies of procedures
1. Standard operating procedure are necessary for order,
predictability, efficiency, equity of treatment for all
2. Incompetent obedience to such procedures may destroy
individuals, programs, policies and deny ability to achieve
public interest
(3) Moral qualities:
1. Optimism
1. Not giving up in search for public interest
2. Believe in the government that they can operate
constructively, competently & for common good
2. Courage
1. Ability to do the right thing even though difficult
2. Numerous force try to influence our action – such influence
must be considered, give way when appropriate and resisted
in many cases
3. There must be commitment to objectivity, due to process and
the law
3. Fairness with charity
1. Most important moral qualities
2. Essential to maintain a balance between fairness to all
and reaction to individual needs.
Why these characteristics so
important for public servants?
• York Willbern (1984) – SIX increasingly complex levels of
morality which must be recognized and dealt by public
1. Basic honesty and conformity to law
2. Conflict of interest
3. Service orientation and procedural fairness
1. P.A attitude and behavior are morally significant
2. Exercise power – easily become arrogant, look for their own
convenience rather than client they serve
3. Lead to authority rather than service – affect citizen attitude
towards government
4. Serve complex society – groups oppose one another – need to
follow procedure and fair to all – if not – no trust an faith
4. Ethics of democratic responsibility
1. Need to fulfill need of people which sometimes unclear +
2. To be truly responsive - must able to balance public desires
with the knowledge, standards and values of society and their
professions in order to achieve long-term goals of society
5. Ethics of public policy determination
1. What & how to achieve particular program
2. This conflict will continue at all level of formulation and
3. Thus, P.A need to be active participant regards to
interpretation of general policy statement, procedures, benefit
and cost
6. Ethics of compromise and social integration
1. “To some morality means uncompromising obedience to
2. “It is necessary upon occasion to rise above principle and
make a deal”
End of Chapter 6