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Monday, August 19, 2019



‘Ethics’ is integral to public administration.
In public administration, ethics focuses on how the public administrator should question and reflect in order to be able to act responsibly.

Ethics is a comprehensive concept, encompassing all facets of administration. Emphasis on moral and ethical norms has been an integral part of our tradition


The ethical concerns of governance have been underscored widely in Indian scriptures and other treatises such as Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagvad Gita, Buddha Charita, Arthashastra, Panchatantra, Manusmriti, Kural, Shukra Niti, Kadambari, Raja Tarangani, and Hitopadesh


1. Inspired by Aristotle
2. Inspired by Immanuel Kant
3. Utilitarian school

The first, inspired by Aristotle, holds that virtues (such as justice, charity and generosity) are dispositions to act in ways that benefit the possessor of these virtues and the society of which he is a part.
The second, subscribed to mainly by Immanual Kant, makes the concept of duty central to morality: human beings are bound, from knowledge of their duty as rational beings, to obey the categorical imperative to respect other rational beings with whom they interact.
The third is the Utilitarian viewpoint that asserts that the guiding principle of conduct should be the greatest happiness (or benefit) of The greatest number

Rawl’s theory of justice revolves around the adaptation of two fundamental principles of justice, which would, in turn, guarantee a just and morally acceptable society.


Since it appeared in 1971, John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice has become a classic.
Rawls aims to express an essential part of the common core of the democratic tradition–justice as fairness–and to provide an alternative to utilitarianism, which had dominated the Anglo-Saxon tradition of political thought since the nineteenth century
Rawls substitutes the ideal of the social contract as a more satisfactory account of the basic rights and liberties of citizens as free and equal persons.

Rawls’s theory of justice revolves around the adaptation of two fundamental principles of justice which would, in turn, guarantee a just and morally acceptable society.

The first principle guarantees the right of each person to have the most extensive basic liberty compatible with the liberty of others.
The second principle states that social and economic positions are to be

(a) To everyone’s advantage
(b) Open to all

He introduces a theoretical ‘veil of ignorance’ in which all ‘players’ in the social game would be placed in a situation, which is called the ‘original position’.


Dwight Waldo comments, the old belief that good government was the government of moral men was thus replaced by a morality that was irrelevant and that proper institutions and expert personnel were the determining factors in shaping good government.

The current discipline of public administration accords primacy to the `values’ of equity, justice, humanism, human rights, gender equality and compassion

The movement of Good Governance, initiated by the World Bank in 1992, lays stress on the ethical and moral conduct of administrators.
The New Public Management movement is more concerned with administrative effectiveness; the New Public Administration focuses on administrative ethics in its broader manifestation.



Max Weber was a 19th-century German sociologist and one of the founders of modern sociology.

He wrote The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism in 1905
Max Weber a German sociologist propounded the theory called principle of bureaucracy – a theory related to authority structure and relations in the 19th century.
According to him, bureaucracy is the formal system of organization and administration designed to ensure efficiency and effectiveness.
He suggested an ideal model for management as bureaucratic approach.

Principles of bureaucratic theory (SUMMARISED FROM TYROCITY)

1) Job specialization: – Jobs are divided into simple, routine and fixed category based on competence and functional specialization.

2) Authority hierarchy: – Officers are organized in a hierarchy in which higher officer controls lower position holders i.e. superior controls subordinates and their performance of subordinates and lower staff could be controlled.

3) Formal selection: – All organizational members are to be selected on the basis of technical qualifications and competence demonstrated by training, education or formal examination.

4) Formal rules and regulations: – To ensure uniformity and to regulate actions of employees, managers must depend heavily upon formal organizational rules and regulations. Thus, rules of law lead to impersonality in interpersonal relations.

5) Impersonality: – Rules and controls are applied uniformly, avoiding involvement with personalities and preferences of employees.
Nepotism and favoritism are not preferred.

6) Career orientation: – Career building opportunity is offered highly.
Lifelong employment and adequate protection of individuals against arbitrary dismissal is guaranteed. Here managers are professional officials rather than owners units they manage. They work for a fixed salaries and pursue their career within the organization.


In the rational type, it is a matter of principle that the members of the administrative staff should be completely separated from ownership of the means of production and administration
Weber’s analysis underscores the need to prevent the misuse of an official position for personal gains.
Although his ideal-type construct on bureaucracy is not empirical, yet it has an empirical flavour.


The Historical Context

The Spoils System in the USA during the initial phase of the American nation vitiated the ethical milieu of the American Public Administration.
Kautilya’s Arthashastra mentions a variety of corrupt practices in which the administrators of those times indulged themselves.
The Mughal Empire and the Indian princely rule were also afflicted with the corrupt practices of the courtiers and administrative functionaries, with ‘Bakashish’ being one of the accepted means of selling and buying favours.
The forces of probity and immorality co-exist in all phases of human historyThe distance between the governing elite and the citizens has been reduced substantially in the transformed democratic regimes, yet the affinity and trust between the two has not been total even in the new dispensation

The Socio-cultural Context

Values that permeate the social order in a society determine the nature of governance system
We seem to be living in an economic or commercial society, where uni-dimensional growth of individuals seem to be accepted and even valued, where ends have been subdued by means, and ideals have been submerged under the weight of more practical concerns of economic progress
The Indian society today seems to prefer wealth to any other value.

Thiru Valluvar’s Kural, written two thousand years ago in Tamil Nadu, emphasises that earning wealth brings fame, respect and an opportunity to help and serve others

The cultural system of a country, including its religious orientation, appears to have played a significant role in influencing the work ethics of its people
The family system and the educational system are influential instruments of socialization and training of the mind in its impressionable years.

Legal-judicial Context

A neatly formulated law, with a clear stress on the norms of fair conduct and honesty, is likely to distinguish chaff from grain in the ethical universe.

An efficient and effective judiciary with fast-track justice system will prove a roadblock to immorality in public affairs.

Conversely, a slow-moving judiciary, with a concern for letter rather than the spirit of the law, will dither and delay and even help the perpetrators of crimes by giving them leeway through prolonged trials and benefits of doubt

The Political Context

The political leadership, whether in power or outside the power-domain, is perhaps the single most potent influence on the mores and values of citizens

Spending millions on the elections `compels’ a candidate to reimburse his expenses through fair or foul means – more foul than fairgroups and the media also influence the orientation and attitudes on moral questions.
If politicians act as authentic examples of integrity, as happens in the Scandinavian countries, the administrative system cannot remain immune to the levels of political morality
The behaviour of politicians has a demonstration effect on civil servants

If the media is objective and fearless, its role in preventing corruption can be effective. It can even act as a catalyst to the promotion of ethical behaviour among administrators.

The Economic Context

The level of economic development of a country is likely to have a positive correlation with the level of ethics in the governance system

A lower level of economic development, when accompanied with inequalities in the economic order, is likely to create a chasm among social classes and groups.

The less privileged or more deprived sections of society may get tempted to forsake principles of honest conduct while fulfilling their basic needs of existence and security
With the advent of liberalizing economic regime in developing nations, there is a growing concern about following the norms of integrity in industry, trade, management and the governance system


While most of the focus on administrative morality is on the aspect of probity within the administrative system, there is a need to consider the issue of the responsibility of the governance system (of which the administrative system is an integral part)

It is to create and sustain an ethical ambience in the socio-economic system that would nurture and protect the basic moral values


The two issues of ethical decision-making, viz. fairness and objectivity are, in fact, integral components of administrative justice.

When administrators are true to their profession, they are expected to be impartial and fair and not get influenced by nepotism, favoritism and greed while making decisions of governance.
Objectivity should not be misconstrued as a mechanical and rigid adherence to laws and rules.
From the decision-making angle, it has undoubtedly wider ramifications encompassing a set of positive orientations.


Maxim of Legality and Rationality: An administrator will follow the law and rules that are framed to govern and guide various categories of policies and decisions.

Maxim of Responsibility and Accountability

Maxim of Work Commitment

Maxim of Excellence

Maxim of Fusion: An administrator would rationally bring about a fusion of individual, organizational and social goals to help evolve unison of ideals and imbibe in his behaviour a commitment to such a fusion

Maxim of Responsiveness and Resilience

Maxim of Utilitarianism

Maxim of Compassion

Maxim of National Interest

Maxim of Justice

Maxim of Transparency

Maxim of Integrity


The concept of ethics has been a latecomer in the realm of public administration. For too long, doing one’s duty well was considered to be an equivalent of bureaucratic ethics
Interestingly, in the United States, the original city managers’ and federal code of ethics placed notable stress on efficiency as ethical concept.
Moreover, ethics education has also permeated the discipline of public administration.

The American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) had adopted in 1984 a Code of Ethics for its members (comprising intellectuals as well as practicing administrators). It was revised in 1994.

Certain salient points of the ASPA’s Code of Ethics are as follows:

Exercise of discretionary authority to promote public interest
Recognition and support to the public’s right to know the public business
Exercise of compassion, benevolence, fairness and optimism
Prevention of all forms of mismanagement of public funds by establishing and maintaining strong fiscal and management controls, by
supporting audits and investigative activities
Protection of Constitutional principles of equality, fairness, representativeness, responsiveness and due process in protecting citizens’ rights
Maintenance of truthfulness and honesty and not to compromise them for advancement, honour, or personal gain
Guarding zealously against conflict of interest or its appearance: e.g. nepotism, improper outside employment, misuse of public resources or the acceptance of gifts
Establishment of procedures that promote ethical behaviour and hold individuals and organizations accountable for their conduct

No ethical code can provide a sure shot answer for every decisional dilemma; such a code can certainly provide broad guidelines while dealing with critical moral paradoxes in administrative decisions and actions
A judicious blend of `ought’ and `possible’ will make an ethical code a helpful instrument in sustaining an ethical order
The conduct rules should not be confined to the ‘don’ts’ of administrative behaviour but should also be helpful in resolving ethical dilemmas.


It represents a commitment to the fulfillment of one’s official responsibilities with a spirit of dedication, involvement and sincerity.
Efficiency has been a constant concern of administrative analysis and good governance

A genuinely efficient person has a regard for the higher goals of governance, including public welfare and he devotes himself to the expeditious achievement of those goals.

Thus, an `efficient person is also an ethical person
The overall work culture in public systems in India is relatively lower than that prevailing in the public sector and that existing in the government systems in most developing countries.

The major factor behind the poor quality of output of public systems is the carelessness and callousness on the part of government functionaries.

They do not put in their best in their work and are half-heartedly involved in their duties. Resultantly, there are unrealistic policies, irrational decisions, erratic changes in government systems and an indifference towards the beneficiaries of the system.

There should be prescribed specific norms of productivity and work performance for organizational units and even individuals.

A comprehensive and inclusive performance appraisal system should be adopted.

Punctuality and promptness in administrative affairs must be valued and along with the quality of work performed; these should become the criteria for reward and punishment in organizations

Seniors should motivate their juniors to take initiative, and responsibility, and also be enterprising and efficient

Administrators ought to evolve and demonstrate a higher level of emotional as well as spiritual intelligence that would make them empathetic as well sympathetic to feelings of a common person.

Ethical behaviour emanates from a pure and kind heart, and therefore, those who are in the business of serving people should train their heart to be sensitive and compassionate.
A positive and healthy approach to services entails courtesy and politeness in administrative behaviour.

Two areas where administrators ought to show an attentive and caring attitude is to provide correct and useful information to clients when they need it and to redress satisfactorily the citizens’ grievances


Openness is the enemy of corruption. Almost all countries of the world have Freedom of Information or Right to Information Acts
In India, the Freedom of Information Act of 2002 was redesigned as Right to Information Act, which was enacted in 2005.

The State machinery should be ready to punish those civil servants who obstruct the implementation of Right to Information Act.

In the American system, ‘whistle blowing’ by public employees is considered as legitimate and statutorily protected.
In Britain, a new appeals procedure for civil servants has come into effect.
Under this procedure, a civil servant could raise concerns, confidentially, with an individual outside his normal hierarchy and later to the Civil Service Commissioner
There is a need to develop a fresh perspective on these issues.


Effective accountability helps the achievement of ethical standards in the governance system.
Legislative or parliamentary control through questions, debates and committees provide ample opportunity to the people’s representatives to raise, among other things, issues of ethics and morality in the governance system

Self-accountability and external accountability are interrelated for it is the latter that imposes expectations on the former


There are certain intrinsic features of the administrative system that make it difficult for the external regulating institutions to control it and also ensure its accountability.

Special Expertise and Information

Public administrators are often experts in their specific area of functioning and it is difficult for any outside agency to surpass them in their areas of specialization.
Moreover, they generate and control crucial information that may be difficult to be accessed or even comprehended by law regulators, much less by the common citizens.

Full-Time Status

Most public administrators are full-time, while outsiders cannot devote equal amount of time in overseeing their activities – legislators, judiciary, Comptroller and Auditor General of India and even the media have relatively less time to keep a watch over the actions of administrators.

Massive Expansion of Bureaucracy

The numbers of public personnel as well as the agencies they work for have gone up so much that it is difficult for the political executive or the legislature to exercise effective control over them

Lack of Coordination

Excessive Security

Most countries grant protection to civil servants and refrain from punishing them for the common lapses in the performance of their duties.
Besides, there are no punishments prescribed for non-performance or for low productivity.
Article 311 of the Indian Constitution makes it almost impossible to remove a civil servant.
A sense of over-security pervades the personnel system and the inquiry system is so dilatory and cumbersome that it is devoid of any threat or fear

Misinterpretation of Role and Obligation

Civil servants frequently engage themselves in actions that are unethical and against public interest
There is a general tendency among administrators to view public interest from a narrow angle and tunnel vision
The Police Department, because of pressure from its political bosses is caught between the compulsion of hierarchy and the obligation of duty.

The police officials generally succumb to political pressures in order to save their own interests and that of their families

Orthodox Loyalty

It is customary in the Indian society to show respect to the superior and to refrain from criticism of one’s boss in a public organization
Any voice against the superiors is considered as an act of insubordination.
In such a cultural climate, even the honest and conscientious employees do not speak out against unethical practices of their peers and seniors

Trivial and the Substantive Ethics

In matters of administrative ethics, occasionally we tend to be ‘penny wise and pound foolish’. It means we delve into the trivial rather than more pertinent and serious issues of ethics. We need to guard against this trend

Employees’ Unions

In a political system, where employees’ unions are aligned with powerful political parties – whether in power or in opposition – administrative leadership refrains from taking a tough stand even against the culprit employees for fear of compulsive back-tracking or humiliation


It is betrayal of public trust for protecting private interests.
Corruption is currently viewed as a universal phenomenon, although the nature and quantum of corruption differ from nation to nation.
Speed money’ in India implies a fee to expedite the processing of a governmental favour;
La mordida or ‘the bite’ are popular forms of bribes in the Latin America;
Shtraff is the Russian version of a small bribe
La bustarella cannotes a little envelope (containing bribe) in Italy; while in Israel, ‘protekzi’” refers to the exploitation of personal contracts to achieve a favourable treatment from administrators
One can often witness ‘Weather-cock’ syndrome in relation to government corruption. When the top rung of the political or administrative executive gets tough on corruption, the middle and lower level hierarchy in both the systems get cautious about issues of ethics


There may be, within the government, attempts to subvert friendly relations with foreign countries. In extreme cases, civil servants may subvert certain government programmes like family planning or prevention of illegal migration


An important aspect of bureaucratic socialization is training.

The Media

In an open society, media can play an important role in highlighting unethical practices in the governance system.

How is the administrative ethics of the twenty-first century likely to be different from that of the twentieth century?

The answer is to be found in the increasing convergence of ethical concerns at the cross-national level.
Globalization of the economic order is likely to pave the way for the globalization of governance issues.
There would be universally uniform configurations of the governance systems, much less the bureaucratic systems
The mitigation of chasm among nations in the realm of the goals, philosophy and strategies of governance, the ethical concerns are likely to transcend international boundaries

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