A Professional Civil Service Bound by Ethics

– extracted and adapted from RAKAN Sarawak April-June 2020 –

In rapidly changing society, there is a need of good public administration to tackle many new challenges, including issues around demographic change, employment, mobility, security, environment and many others.

The Civil Service is an essential part of the government. It supports the government of the day in developing and implementing its policies, and in delivering public services with the main purpose of developing public value.

It is an integral part of democracy because it serves as the neutral administrative structure which carries out the decisions of elected representatives of the people.

Civil servants are servants of the public, of government, of their immediate organisations and of the law. Their role is traditionally conceptualised as part of an interconnected structure existing alongside but outside of the private sphere.

Civil servants have special obligations to the community because of three reasons.

First, they are responsible for managing resources entrusted to them by the community.

Second, they provide and deliver services to the community.

Third, they take important decisions that affect all aspects of the community life.

The community has a right to expect that their civil servants’ function honestly, efficiently and open-mindedly.

It is essential for the community to be able to trust and have assurance in the reliability of the civil servant’s decision-making process.

The decisions and actions of civil servants should reflect the policies of the government of the day and the standards that the community expects from them as government servants and they are expected to maintain the same standards of professionalism, openness, and fairness.

Effective and successful civil servants recognise their multiple roles and prepare for them. These include maintaining secrecy, acting in the public interest, regulating, providing quality advice, adjudicating, avoiding conflicts of interest, guaranteeing accountability to a range of actors and treating all colleagues equitably.

To execute such tasks, civil servants employ array of values as a means to guide their behaviour and to assist them in steering a course through multiple requirements and smooth functioning of civil service administration system.

Poor intelligibility or uncertainty about values can not only lead to ethical and decision-making problems, but also affects organisational coherence by lessening team spirit, creating organisational confusion and weak external communication.

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