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By : Dadan Sidqul Anwar3
Centre for International Administration Studies4 National Institute for Public Administration Studies, Indonesia
Telp./Fax. 62-21-3504658; Email: Dadan_sa@yahoo.com
Paul R. Leonard, Lt. Governor of Ohio said: “Ethics must come first. Without it, there is little or no respect for elected officials. Without respect, there is no credibility. Without credibility leadership is impossible. And leadership is necessary to address the tough issues in the years ahead.” (http://www.alaska.net/~jdonahue/ethics.htm)
The growing concern of new public management (NPM) reforms in developed and developing countries has been seen as a positive direction toward better services for the public. However, it has also been realized that its existence is not enough in assuring better public services because it might be seen as still ‘value free’. Even the fundamental values might be undermined by the reforms (OECD, 1996). High degree of autonomy in public management, for example, might be beneficial for improving public services only if the officers’ effort is maximizing the autonomy for their public interest. On the contrary, it might be unbeneficial or even costly if the officers maximize it only for their own interest. Sometimes, civil servants also might be in ‘dilemma situation’. The civil servants might see the truth but the organizational environment might not allow them present it. It is there fore the idea of ethic5 has emerged and even implemented in many
This paper is written in a Book “Bureaucratic Reform in Indonesia: Unrealized Hope” (Reformasi Birokrasi di Indonesia: Harapan yang Tak Kunjung Bergulir), published by Lembaga Administrasi Negara (National Institute of Public Administration), Jakarta, 2005. Page 379-389. 2 For Knowledge and Wisdom Lovers 3 Researcher and Advocator in the field of ethics in Government Management at Center for International Administration Studies 4 Pusat Kajian Administrasi Internasional-LAN 5 In Indonesia’s terms: Etika, Etika Pemerintah, Etika PNS, Etika Pelayanan Publik.
countries including United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand in which the new public management have been pioneered. It seems that in some developed countries the idea of “E”-government (ethic-government) essentially is seen to be important because it might be the soul of public management. However, there are some other countries in which ethical dimension of public management have been neglected compared to the political, legal, technical and financial dimensions (see Kernaghan, 1993).
This paper would be looking at: What are the real and potential effects of NPM reforms on ethics in the public sector? Why codes of ethics necessary and what are are its infrastructures?
The effects of NPM reforms on ethics in public sector
Despite NPM reforms have been done significantly in many countries, especially developed countries, the reforms may have unintended on ethics in public sector which in turn may undermine the performance of public servants and their quality of services. The reforms have resulted in some new environments may affect the ethics of public sector. The new environment includes: working with limited resources; the increase of citizen demands; restructuring the public sector; a devolved and discretionary management environment; working in a fishbowl; changing social norm; and changing international environment (OECD, 1996). Each of those aspects in the real practices might have consequences on ethical pressure and contradiction which would be elaborated in following parts.
Working with limited resources
The reforms have forced public sector to be efficient by reducing public expenditure. However, despite it may indicate organizational success, it also may imply more limited budget for public sector in producing the same or more burden of services. It might also be reflected in downsizing policy which has happened in some countries including in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, its phenomena may make the public servants feel
insecure, underpaid and in the risk situation which in turn may affect their morale. As it has been quoted by OECD from Gilman that in United States’ experience: 2
“Downsizing creates insecurity to the extent that Federal employees view their positions as being at risk. Reduced resources may create greater work demands. Tighter agency budgets may mean delayed promotions or compensation levels that fall behind those of the private sector. All of this may have an adverse effect on employee morale.” In such situation, some less morale (unethical) behaviors may be done by the public servants. They might do a minimalist effort in job and have another job for extra money (moonlight phenomena). The downsizing might also result in post-employment restriction and potential conflict of interest (OECD, 1996). Specifically, in the course of privatization or contracting out, retired employees may give inside information to the private.
The pressure to be clients oriented also may result in unintended situation. In the real practice, the clients’ expectation for public services may be more than government can provide because of its economic limits. It might be worsened by the publication of expected service standards (Citizen Charter, for example) which in fact, it may not be met by provided public services.
The conflict might also occur in internal provider. On one side, public servants might feel they have to serve their real customers which are citizens, on another side they must serve their seniors within their organization. It would be problematic when the seniors’ objective is not customer orientation.
In those conditions, the public servants are in dilemmatic situation between to produce the expected services (customer oriented) or to produce services under their economic limits (provider oriented); to serve their real customers (public) or their seniors (in case, there is a conflict of orientation). Furthermore, it may undermine the quality of services and the government may experience less integrity and confidence in carrying its role.
Restructuring the Public Sector
The new structures such as corporatisation, privatization and autonomous agencies have been produced through the reforms. However, moving to the new structures may mean the public servants should adjust their behavior to the new values which may collide with the pas values. The new values (which may be more private values) may not accommodate public’s norm and ethics which have been adopted in the past. Deciding which one is the better is still debatable. But, at least, the public servants should know which value (it may be a synthesis between the new and the past) they should refer to needs to be clarified For example, in the United Kingdom, the duties and responsibilities of operators at arm’s length from government has been set up by the Treasury Code of Practice of Board Members of Public Bodies.
A Devolved and discretionary management environment
Another part of NPM reform is the devolution of decision making in resource allocation from central government bodies to line ministries or departments and agencies; from the top to bottom line within ministries; from central to local governments; and from government to private. It might true to say that in some countries devolution has resulted in the improvement of managerial accountability, result oriented and a better use of resource. However, the greater of managerial flexibility might also result in the greater erosion in traditional values. The new adopted values might not accommodate the good ethos of past values. There fore, for assuring the adoption of public ethos (or national ethos), the general guidelines need to be set up. in some countries as derivations from national ethos. For example, New Zealand has overall Public Service Code as general guidelines for line ministries to set up their code according their particular task.
Beside the implication of erosion in traditional values (which may have a good ethos), a devolved and discretionary management environment may also result in unclear public accountability. There might be ethical conflict confronting the administrator whether he should act obediently towards his superior, while at the same time it is he who ultimately is responsible for action (Larsen, 2000). Besides, public servants are not only facing increasing public accountability but are also facing the dilemma of reporting of wrong
doing of others (OECD, 1996). There fore in devolution, the public accountability should be supported by the mechanism to expose unethical activities. For example, in the case of challenger disaster in the US, 1986, it was not only because technical matter but also unclear public accountability of some agencies (Hult and Walcott, 1990).
Public/Private Sector Interface
The direct and indirect contact between public sector employees and private might also have an impact on unethical behavior. In making any contracts, for example, the public and private employees may be tempted to do corruption, collusion or nepotism (usually because it is related with the money). Usually, the contract that may offer more opportunities for getting more money is procurement’s contract. It may attract private and public employees to do corruption. As Nyarko (2003) has pointed out that : “Corrupt ties between government and business are usually formed or created at the interface between government and the private sector typically over procurement, which also feeds into political party financing and bureaucratic corruption. The players are usually public servants, politicians, business people and multinational businesses”. Another form of interaction between public and private sectors is competition in providing public services. Public sector may be forced to compete with private sector as a mean of improving efficiency. But, it may not be achieved as long as the same level of playing field as well as ethical behavior does not exist. Adopting almost the same as private values may be unethical for government to do so. In privates, for example, they may bribe or offer gift to others to influence others’ decision which in public sector it is misconduct and unethical. Another important thing is the new employees in public sector who are recruited from private sector may have different value and norm from the standard value and norm of public sector.
There fore although private sector may also have good value, involving them in public sector activities should be bridged by internalizing the value and norm of public value.
Working in a fishbowl
The public servants are working in more transparent environment. They seem like a fishbowl, their actions could be seen by the public and media. As a consequence the government should be accountable because their performance is easily watched and criticized by public and media. For example through UK Citizens’ Charter, the public may challenge the government in equity, fairness, or any other values. Another example is despite the truth of misdeed is still questionable, Indonesia the government of Indonesia has been criticized not only by local media but also international media. As it has been reported by The Jakarta Post (2005), Indonesia purchased a controversial villa in Geneva, Switzerland, which its price is over $8 million. Many, particularly Swiss media, have raised concerns over the price amid financial difficulties faced by the country especially in the aftermath of the tsunami disaster.
Changing social norm
The dynamic change of social norm may also influence the standards and values of public sector. In many countries, the issues of sexual harassment, racism, pluralism have become some forces of redefining the standard and values in public sector.
Changing international environment
The public servants have also been pressured by international environment. They have to interact with public servants from other countries as well as multinational companies’ workers who have different values. For example, even though they may have different values, they have to agree certain standards of values in contract agreement. They also have to build the trust through sharing common value, for example in combating bribery, the many countries have agreed to put good governance as their common value.
In short, as noted earlier, implementing NPM reforms in the public sector is not operating in the vacuum environment which would result as good as intended. Instead, some aspects of reforms such as the limited resource, the increase of citizen demands; restructuring the public sector; a devolved and discretionary management environment; working in a fishbowl; changing social norm; and changing international environment
may result in blurred standards and values of public sector. It might place the public servants in conflicts of interests and objectives especially when the guidelines is only few. In the worse condition, it may imply on the erosion of ‘sense of public morality’ (Staat cited by Denhardt, J.V. and Denhardt, R.B., 2003).
The necessity of code of ethics
Many literatures in the ethics of public services believe that the exercise of discretionary power is the entry point of ethics in public service (Chapman, 1993). As Rohr (cited in Chapman, 1993) argues that ‘the bureaucrat’s discretionary power has become the pivotal justification for the consideration of public service ethics’. In their practices, the bureaucrats or ‘public servants exercise discretionary power in their everyday work in several ways; in their stewardship of public resources, at the interface with citizens, and in the context of their policy making functions (OECD, 1996). It seems that NPM reforms have also resulted in more discretionary power. It may work and has been designed under assumption that the ethical perspective as a consequence is not needed to be considered because the public servants would do in ethical manner as it is the paradigm of de-ontological theory of ethics (see Lawton, 1998). As it is argued that: “A core, but unstated assumption underlying theoretical work on the role of the public sector is that public sector officials (both policy-makers and civil servants) are knowledgeable, neutral and impersonal in their pursuit of the social welfare. But are they? What do officials see as the pursuit of the social welfare and what do they, themselves, consider to be "corruption"? And what of their willingness-or otherwise--to take action against it? These questions are all too seldom asked”. (http://www.transparency.org/sourcebook/02.html ) However, as it has been elaborated earlier, the reforms have positioned the public servants in ethical dilemma and uncertainty. It is in line with Chapman’s (1993) argument that: “Despite problems associated with questions of bribery or the ideological commitment of officials having been resolved, there still remains a large area of the work of government where officials having been resolved, there still remain a large area of the work of government where officials encounter ethical dilemmas and where they are responsible for the judgments they make as part of their regular work in government.”
Furthermore, in ethical dilemma situation where there are no guidelines how to act within the organization, the public servants may decide to choose the way in which they can get more benefit even if it is unethical behavior. It may happen, for example, when, on the one side, the public servants are employed under the contract which no certainty that they would be employed again in the next period of contract. On another side, they have more discretionary power. In such situation, they may maximize their limited opportunity to get rent as much as they can. It may lead to unethical behavior such as corruption and collusion in public sector. In the real practice, it happens in many countries. For example corruption, it is not only becoming the developing countries’ problem as it has reported in much media but also developed countries. It happened in many countries including United States, United Kingdom and Italia (see in http://www.gdrc.org/u-gov/docbusiness_gg.html).
Those matters have made many countries including some OECD countries are not confidence in delivering public services (see Whetnall, 1995; Maas, 1995; Jones, 1995 and Gilman, 1995). For example, UK government has been shocked that ‘in 1994, 64% of people in a survey agreed that "Most MPs make a lot of money by using public office improperly", while only 28% agreed that most MPs have a high personal moral code"; in 1985 the proportions had been 46% and 42% respectively’ (Whetnall, 1995). It motivates many countries to create and maintain confidence in their government management as it has been indicated by Maas (1995) that: ……."The government either has integrity or it does not. You can't just have a little integrity. An administration stands or falls with the integrity of the government; any diminution of the integrity of the government means that the government loses the confidence of the public. And without the confidence of the public, democracy cannot work. Then there is no more democracy. That is a frightening picture." Because the huge discretion of power may not free from unethical behavior and the governments need to maintain their confidence, the discretion of power needs to be checked and balanced. At this point, the ethics may have an important role because it is ‘concerned with systematic thought about character, morals, and right action’ (Adam and
Balfour, 1998) . So, ethics could become a checker and balancer for the unethical behavior of the public servants. Implementing NPM without character or ethics may trap the public servants into ‘dehumanization and destruction in the name of public interest’ (Adam and Balfour, 1998). ‘When the character of nation is lost, the nation has lost everything’ (Soepomo as quoted by Anwar, 1996).
The term of ethics might be used interchangeably with ethos, values and conduct. However, in the context of public service, it has been defined by OECD (1996) as follows: ethos is the sum of ideals which define an overall culture in the public service; values is the individual principles or standards that guide judgment about what is good and proper; ethics is the rules that translate characteristic ideals or ethos into everyday practice, and conduct is the actual actions and behavior of public servants. Hence, to be operational, the ethos in public service should be derived into the code of ethic and then it should be conducted in public servants’ daily activities.
As a derivation from ethos the ethos, in its implementation, the code of ethics may have some contributions. It is not just contribute to monitoring and policing behavior, but also promoting integrity and good conduct, seeking some consensus on what is good behavior, and giving public servants some guidance as to how they should act, make decisions, and use discretion in their everyday work (see OECD, 1996). The ethical code may also be not only guidance but the spirit in its implementation. As it has been a justification in building ethical code in Canada. Afterwards, it may promote public trust and confidence.
In short, it is clear that NPM reforms should be complemented by code of ethics. Otherwise, the public servants would be in dilemmatic situation among to be accountable, transparent and more clients oriented, but also working under limited resources, private public partnership values and the pressure from international values. So, if there is no some behavioral guidance from the management of ethics, they may do for their own profit which may undermine the quality of service. Instead, the ethical code may not only give the guidance but also the spirit to be more confident in managing public services.
The infrastructures of ethics in the public sector
A comprehensive effort needs to be addressed in order to ensure that the code of ethics in the public sector would meet current and future values and ethics challenges as consequences of NPM reforms. The challenges may cover various aspects which depend on the context of countries. However, OECD (1996) has identified some important functions to be considered in implementing code of ethics based on literatures and references from OECD countries. Implementing ethical value may be built based on three important building blocks (infrastructure) of functions which are control, guidance, and management.
It covers three elements: a legal framework which ensures independent investigation and prosecution; effective accountability mechanisms; and public involvement and scrutiny. The legal framework limits public servants behavior through laws and regulations which are enforced through the system of investigation and prosecution. For example, criminal codes in the UK are implemented for dealing with public servants’ serious illegal actions including bribery or theft. Whereas accountability mechanism, it is not only set up through legislation and regulation but also through administrative policies and procedure which controls day-to-day public servants’ activities. It has role as preventive control (e.g. regulations and procedural guidelines) and performance-related ex-post control (e.g. internal and external audits and investigations as well as internal and external reporting and appeals process). It also has role in clarifying competing
responsibilities and Objectives, and integrating ethics into a management framework. Control is also could be functioned by public involvement and scrutiny. It may become a powerful disincentive to public services’ corruption and misconduct behavior. In public involvement and scrutiny, the accessibility of laws information is needed as a mean in encouraging public involvement in policy process. For example, the laws of “government in the sunshine” in the USA force the public servants to consult their policy to their stakeholders through public hearings, focus groups, client satisfaction surveys, etc.
It covers codes of conduct, and professional socialization and a well-articulated commitment from political leadership. The codes of conducts may be in the form of a legal document or administrative statement which sets public servants’ expected level and performance quality. It may cover the organizational values and role including the responsibilities of public servants as well as their legal obligations (e.g. declaring of interest, restraints in making public comments, and restrictions on political activities) and procedures including procedure for whistle-blowing and minimum performance standards. According to its coverage, codes of conduct could be applied to the general level of public service or individual level of departments or agencies. For example, in the case of Australia and New Zealand, it exists either in general level (public service) or individual agency levels (based on their organizational missions and functions). More decentralized codes of conducts (departmental level) have been implemented in the Nederland. In The UK, even it is incorporated into a public servant’s employment contract. In its development, staffs participation should be involved in order that it would be agreed and committed by all levels of public servants.
Producing codes of conducts is not enough. It needs to be socialized professionally. Education and training as well as good role models (leading by example) at senior levels are key social mechanism (Kernaghan, 1993). They may become the media of learning the codes of ethics by public servants as well as promoting the ethics to various stakeholders. Specifically induction training, it may be a revolving door between the indigenous employees and the new employees who are coming from private sector. There are various examples of professional socialization. As the have been reported by OECD (1996) : “In New Zealand, Chief Executives share with the State Services Commissioner the responsibility to provide leadership in ethics and to model good conduct. In Norway, courses in ethics and value-based decisional behavior are targeted to managerial staff and others having responsibility for personnel and development. In the Netherlands, public servants occupying managerial positions are charged with the protection and promotion of ethics. As such, managers setting a good example is viewed as the foremost socialisation mechanism. Special courses are targeted at them.”
The implementation of ethics would not start unless there is political commitment from the top leader. The commitment could be expressed through rhetoric (speeches, public announcements, written statements by leaders), performing an example, and allocating adequate resources. It could be seen, for examples, in the process of establishing the Nolan Committee in the United Kingdom (1994) and the President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency in the United States (1991).
It covers public service conditions and coordinating ethics bodies. Public service conditions may cover external and international conditions which make the environment of ethics are conducive or not conducive. External conditions have been discussed earlier which related to some forces of NPM reforms on ethical issues. As it has been discussed, the external forces may have an impact on the demoralization of public servants who are working under the pressures such as limited resources, public demand and accountability. Internal condition is highly related with human resource policies. It determines the basic life of public servants including recruitment, training, supervision, career development, reward and discipline, pay and job security which may have a significant influence on organizational culture as well as the morale of public servants. Another important part of policy which may be categorized as crucial part because it may contribute to feeling secure (or confidence) of public servants is the protection of whistle blowing in reporting wrong doing. There fore, deciding which human resource policies may contribute to the incentives or disincentives of good conduct is needed, because they may affect other aspects of ethics infrastructure.
Coordinating Ethics Bodies may include various organizational stakeholders, parliament, central agencies, departments, or independent agencies (for example, US Office of Government Ethics) that have a responsibility to oversee ethical dimensions in public service. They may have roles as watchdog, counselor, or promoter. Their influence could be coercive in dealing with a scandal or a crisis; and educative in dealing with a general ethic program.
In short, the big challenge of implementing ethics is how to build ethics infrastructure (a comprehensive approach) which should strengthen each others rather than partial approach which may result in counter productive each others.
It is clear that NPM reforms should be complemented by code of ethics. Otherwise, the public servants would be in dilemmatic situation among to be accountable, transparent and more clients oriented, but also working under limited resources, new private public partnership values and the pressure from international values Which may force them to be demoralized. Besides, their discretionary power may also attract them to do unethical behavior. There fore, the code of ethics as behavioral guidance is needed. However, in its implementation, to be effective, the codes of ethics or conducts can not go alone. It must be a part of comprehensive ethical efforts which may be called ethics infrastructure. It covers not only control function but also guidance and management which should strengthen each others. Otherwise, the ethical efforts would be useless and it may undermine NPM reforms.
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