(Online Course) Pub Ad for IAS Mains: Personnel Administration - Administrative Ethics (Paper -1)

(Online Course) Public Administration for IAS Mains Exams

Topic: Personnel Administration: Administrative Ethics

The ethical and moral ideals underlying the philosophy of administration in many countries have meant that public servants exhibit such traits as setting a high standard of conduct, espirit de corps, self-sacrifice, public duty and general concern for the social good.

Unfortunately, such ideals have come into conflict with the narrow outlook which is characteristic of unions and employee associations. The latter have rather emphasised the view that the public service is merely a job. They would rather not accept the traditional role of public servants wherein duty to serve the community at all times, and sacrificing even one’s personal life for the higher cause were considered more important than the union’s approach to work ethics. Thus modern public administration faces an inherent-conflict between the traditional expectation of those officials who serve the State, and the alternative expectation of government employees who believe that their obligations to serve are restricted only to those duties that are part of their job classification, and for which they can be held legally, but not necessarily morally, responsible.


The administrative culture of the third world nations is based on its colonial legacy, and other influences which has charged its character since independence.

While the colonial administration was known for efficiency, loyalty, impartiality and high ethical standards; it also suffered from excessive self-importance, indifference (to common man’s needs and aspirations), and an obsession with status and rules/regulations.

Bureaucracy is known for traditional values as obedience, integrity, anonymity, political neutrality, chain of command, fairness, professionalism, and considering public service as a vocation. The moral foundation of any public service organisation in a democracy is based on the concept that administrators and public officials must show a genuine case for their fellow citizens. Otherwise, devoid of such moral basis, a situation akin to Nazi bureaucracy may emerge where job security and personal ambition became watchword, sacrificing moral obligation of acting as a “public servant.” Democratic values, such as equality, law, justice, rights and freedoms have moral connotations, and demand an unwavering commitment from those who govern.

The contemporary pre-occupation in ethics in government has arisen due to several factors:

1. The continued growth in size, scope and complexity of government and its resultant negative attributes (generally referred to as Leviathan of the Administrative State);
2. Insistence of public towards open accountable government;
3. Demand for enhancing and protecting individual rights and freedoms;
4. A general feeling of disappointment with the conduct of elected public officials and frustration with the erosion of the concept of service and dedication among government employees;
5. Growing cynicism about the capacity of government leaders to protect the quality of environment, and their ability to enhance human dignity; and
6. A deep feeling that people in politics and administration are not to be trusted.
7. Increasing corruption at various levels- “The state is now in peril. As the saying goes, if the fence begins to devour the field no one can possibly protect. This is happening to the Indian state. Many of those incharge of its machinery have begun to use it to advance their petty interests at the cost of the future of the country. To say that corruption has become a way of life is to understate the magnitude of the problem. There was corruption before. It has now become loot.”

Modes of Corruption

The Central Vigilance Commission had once identified 27 modes of corruption as follows:

1. Misappropriation of public money or stores;
2. Incurring pecuniary obligations of persons with whom/ the public servants have official dealings;
3. Showing favours to contractors and firms;
4. Borrowing money from contractors/firms with whom one has official dealings;
5. Claiming false TA, HRA, etc;
6. Possession of disproportionate assets;
7. Acquiring immovable property, etc., without prior permission/intimation;
8. Causing loss to government by negligence or otherwise;
9. Abuse of official position/powers;
10. Acceptance of illegal gratification in recruitments, postings, transfers, promotions, etc;
11. Misuse of government employees for personal work;
12. Production of forged certificates of age of birth, of community (caste/tribe certificates);
13. Irregularities in the reservation of seats in Railways/Air;
14. Non-delivery of money orders, insured covers, value payable parcels;
15. Replacement of new postage stamp by old ones;
16. Irregularity in the grant of import/export licences;
17. Misuse of imported and allotted quotas by various firms with the connivance of public servants;
18. Irregularity in the grant of telephone connections;
19. Moral turpitude;
20. Acceptance of gifts;
21. Under assessment of income tax, estate duty, etc., for pecuniary gain;
22. Misuse of advances sanctioned for purchase of scooters/cars or other advances;
23. Abnormal delay in settlement of claims for compensation to displaced persons;
24. Wrong assessment of claims of displaced persons;
25. Cheating in connection with the purchase/sale of plots for residential purpose;
26. Unauthorised occupation/sub-letting of government quarters; and
27. Acceptance of sub-standard stores/ works.

Standard in Public Life

Concerned about the status of standards in public life in Britain, the Prime Minister announced setting up of a Committee on Standards in Public Life. In the House of Commons on October 25, 1994.The Committee was headed by Lord Nolan. The Committee recommended the following seven principles of public life required to ensure the highest-standards of propriety:

1. Selflessness: Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.
2. Integrity: Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.
3. Objectivity: In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choice on merit.
4. Accountability: Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.
5. Openness: Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.
6. Honesty: Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interest relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.
7. Leadership: Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.
These principles apply to all aspects of public life. The Committee has set them out here for the benefit of all who serve the public in anyway.

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