Q. Have public accountability, audits and performance-based indicators undermined the 'ethic' of public service and professionalism? Are these tools necessary for maximizing efficiency and cost effectiveness? IntroductionUnethical practices involving public servants have made headlines all over the world in the recent times. Most of the malpractices are due to the diminishing ethical standards of public servants as they indulge themselves into all manner of corruption. It is therefore in order to demand that government as well as private sector institutions should scale up transparency, ethics, accountability, integrity and professionalism so as to adequately protect public resources and ensure sound performance of the public sector.
This discussion paper is therefore based on the concepts and needs of accountability, ethics, integrity, and transparency to maintain high levels of professionalism in the public sector (Ahmed, 2004). There is also an attempt to explain some malpractices that undermine the ethical requirements and expectations from public servants. It is a fact that the mentioned concepts are much interrelated thus there is no distinct boundaries between them hence lack of any of them have to either positively or negatively impact on the whole system.
This demonstrates that civil servant of character and virtue should practice all the concepts. Essence of the concepts in professionalismEthicsEven though there is no agreed definition of ethics. The fundamental need of ethics is as old as human beings. Ethics basically concerns conduct and character of morals. It therefore evaluates conduct in relation to some parameters and hence put positive or negative values on it. Ethics has been fundamentally defined as the main principles of the right action as well as rules of conduct.
Ethics can be found in written form such as circulars and legislation or through interpretation by a person concerning what may be acceptable and what may not. For instance, the Charter for most public service in the world refers to ethics as standards that guide the actions and behaviors of people working in the public institutions. The ethical values that defines most of the public service charters in the world include but not limited to professional efficiency, discipline, equity, fairness, dignity, equity, impartiality and courtesy in the dispensation of professional duties. Public service ethics therefore defines how public servants should exercise discretion and judgment in going about their mandated duties (Ahmed, 2004). AccountabilityAlthough it broadly believed to be very essential in the public service, the concept is more often used in an abstract way.
Accountability may be defined as the process through which people who are vested with power are able to demonstrate that they exercise their mandate and discharge the given duties in the right way. Accountability is also regarded as a total commitment expected from public servants both at the individual level and group level to accept public responsibility as if they are their own.
Accountability in the public sector is very broad in the sense that there is stratification of accountability that stretches from the minister to employees and finally to the citizens who use the services of the state. Therefore accountability for performance compels the civil employees to give proper explanations in relation to exercise of authority, power, and resources that are in their jurisdiction on behalf of the public. Accountability is therefore an obligation to make sure that the assigned duties are done in a responsive and responsible way and consequently being held answerable for any failure or success.
Public service accountability calls for transparency in every level in the organizational hierarchy thus public servants should be accountable to their seniors and vice versa. Accountability is therefore a virtue of ethics as it concern rules and principles that govern the moral composition and value of the behavior of individual’s thus improving ethics is very critical in the enhancement of accountability (Kuye & Mafunisa, 2003).