Thursday, January 31, 2008

Beware of Public Sector Ethics Breakdown

A survey by the Ethics Resource Center finds that governments are at considerable risk for major ethics violations. ERC President Patricia Harned said that the "next Enron" could be a government with state and local governments being at greatest risk. While federal workers were a little more impressed with compliance programs compared to state and local governments (30% vs about 15%) but all levels of government found serious issues with the ethical climate, only 7-10% were confident in the ethical climate at any level. Additionally, over half of employees at all levels claimed to have seen misconduct in the past year. The most commonly mentioned specific problems were abusive behavior, lying to employees and self-serving behavior.

So many times when politicans or interest groups call for increased governmental involvement in affairs, there is the assumption that the government will act more nobly and with less self-interest than private businesses or organizations. The ERC survey, at minimum, calls such assumptions into question. Additionally, states and local governments, especially, need to revisit their ethics guidelines and policies and all levels of government need to do a better job of ethical monitoring.


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