Ethical Concerns Regarding Public Officials

Ethical Concerns Regarding Public Officials

The seven major concerns regarding public services are 

1.    Theft & Fraud by Public Officials 
2.    Improper Use of Government Property 
3.    Bribery & Influence Peddling 
4.    Conflict of Interest & Self-dealing 
5.    Divulging Confidential Information 
6.    Improper Conduct Post-Employment 
7.    Immoral Conduct by Public Officials 


Ethical Concerns Regarding Public Officials
•    Theft of public property by public officials is one of the most serious ethical issues in government. 
•    Theft can range from the minor, such as taking home office supplies, to the massive, such as stealing millions of rupees from the government coffers.
•    Fraud is one of the most common and costly types of public-sector theft. Fraud, also known as theft by deception or trickery, occurs when a person intentionally deceives others in order to gain unjustly money, property, or services. 
•    Public officials attempt to defraud the government and taxpayers in a variety of ways. They may, for example, submit fictitious expense reports for expenses they did not incur or inflated work invoices for services they did not provide. 
•    In the most extreme cases, government officials may engage in elaborate deception schemes to divert large sums of public funds away from government programmes and services and into their own pockets.

2.    Improper Use of Government Property

•    Another significant issue is the use of public property for private gain by public officials
•    For example, using one's office phone for personal long-distance calls or using government vehicles for personal transportation are examples of this. Such misappropriations of government assets aren't exactly theft.
•    The government employee isn't stealing the office phone or the government vehicle. Instead, the issue revolves around the purpose for which government property is used
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•    It is expected that equipment and transportation will only be used for activities related to the performance of public duties, rather than for purely personal reasons or private gain.

3.    Bribery and Power Bribery 

•    It occurs when a person in a position of authority is offered and accepts a personal benefit in exchange for performing a task. A public official may be offered money, property, or free services, for example.
•    In exchange, he/she agrees to do something that benefits the bribe giver, such as vote a certain way on a piece of legislation or turn a blind eye to illegal activity
•    Influence peddling is a type of bribery in which a government official actively sells his or her ability to sway government decision-making. Bribery is when a private individual or group approaches a public official and offers to buy their interests. 
•    Influence peddling, on the other hand, involves the official approaching others in an attempt to sell access to government, whether through services or otherwise.

4.    Self-dealing and Conflict of Interest

•    A conflict of interest occurs when a public official's private interests interfere with the performance of his or her public duties.
•    The same concerns apply here as they do with bribery and influence peddling. When performing official duties, public servants and elected officials are expected to be impartial and objective, and to act in the best interests of the public. 
•    When a public official has a conflict of interest, however, there is concern that he or she will favour a special interest over the general public.
•    Conflicts of interest can arise in a variety of situations. One of the most obvious is self-dealing. This occurs when an individual's official activities include dealing with himself or herself in a private capacity, often for personal gain. 
•    A classic example is a government official who uses his or her position to hire their own private firm to work for the government. The concern is that a public official may choose his or her own company over other, better options simply because they want the government contract's profits.
•    Furthermore, he or she may be lax in ensuring that the public receives full value for their money. Concerns about conflicts of interest can arise when public officials deal with people they know well, such as family members, close friends, and business partners. 
•    The concern here is that the public official will prioritise the interests of this specific individual over the larger public good.

5.    Confidential Information

•    Public servants and elected officials have access to a wide range of sensitive information, including military/security secrets and personal information about citizens (criminal records, tax information, and medical histories). 
•    The conduct of public officials in relation to this sensitive information is an important area of government ethics. Generally speaking, it is assumed that public officials will keep this information private and will not reveal it in an inappropriate manner.
•    Depending on the situation, confidentiality is important for a variety of reasons. Confidentiality is often seen as critical to the nation's and people physical security in the case of military secrets. 
•    Disseminating such secrets (commonly referred to as "treason") is considered so unethical in some countries that it is punishable by long prison sentences or even execution. 
•    Confidentiality is critical in the case of personal information, as it protects one's privacy and dignity. 
•    Individuals in many countries have the right to keep their personal information private, and government officials are required to respect that right.

6.    Inappropriate Behaviour Post-Employment: 

•    There are a variety of potential issues here, including conflicts of interest, improper use of confidential information, bribery, and influence peddling.
•    A public servant or elected official, for example, may grant favours to certain individuals or groups as a means of securing future employment before leaving office. 
•    Another source of concern is government officials' actions once an individual enters the private sector. Former officials may be able to use information obtained in the course of their public service duties, which is not available to the general public.
•    Such individuals may have confidential information about future government policy; this information could provide the former public servant with a significant competitive advantage in the marketplace, for example, when it comes to investing.
•    Former officials may also use their connections after leaving office to gain preferential treatment or privileged access to government. This is especially concerning if the former official joins a private lobbying firm and is able to take advantage of his or her connections to gain unfair advantages for others.

7.    immoral conduct by officials

•    Sexual harassment, discrimination, drug abuse, and extramarital affairs are examples of immoral conduct by public officials.
•    The central question here is whether the public servant or elected official has a good moral character and is qualified to hold public office.


The concept of ethics has grown to encompass all major aspects of human life. The following maxims can be used to summarise the most important aspects of public administration ethics: 

Ethical Concerns Regarding Public Officials
1.    Maximum Legality and Rationality: A manager will abide by the laws and rules that govern and guide policies and decisions. 
2.    Full Acceptance of Responsibility and Accountability: An administrator would accept full responsibility for his decisions and actions. He would hold himself morally accountable for his actions as well as his decision-making discretion. Furthermore, he would be willing to be held accountable to higher-level government officials as well as the people who are the ultimate beneficiaries of his decisions and actions. 
3.    Highest Level of Work Commitment: An administrator is dedicated to his job and performs it with zeal, intelligence, and dexterity. As Swami Vivekananda observed: “Every duty is holy and devotion to duty is the highest form of worship.” This would also imply a respect for the passage of time, punctuality, and the keeping of promises made. Work is viewed as an opportunity to serve and contribute positively to society, rather than as a burden. 
4.    Excellence at its Finest: An administrator would ensure the highest quality in administrative decisions and actions, and would not scrimp on standards for the sake of convenience or complacency. An administrative system should adhere to the requisites of Total Quality Management in a competitive international environment.
5.    Maxim of Fusion: To help evolve unison of ideals, an administrator would rationally bring about a fusion of individual, organisational, and social goals and imbibe in his behaviour a commitment to such a fusion. When competing goals are present, ethical considerations should guide decision-making.
6.    Maximum Responsiveness and Resilience: An administrator would be able to effectively respond to both external and internal demands and challenges. He would adapt to environmental change while maintaining ethical standards of conduct. In situations where the administrative system deviates from the prescribed ethical norms, it would show resiliency and quickly return to the accepted ethical mould.
7.    Utilitarianism's Maximum: When making and implementing policies and decisions, an administrator will ensure that the greatest good (happiness, benefits) is achieved for the greatest number of people.
8.    Maxim of Compassion: An administrator would show compassion for the poor, disabled, and weak while exercising discretion in making decisions, without violating the prescribed laws and rules. At the very least, he would not grant any benefits to the more powerful members of society simply because they are powerful, and he would not deny the weak due consideration simply because they are weak.

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