Ethics and Human Interface:

16. Accountability and ethical governance; strengthening of ethical and moral values in governance

IAS Exam preparation

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Accountability ensures those in position of power or decision making are held responsible and answerable for their actions. Ethics in governance is required for a welfare society. To contribute to a better society in terms of freedom, equality, fraternity and social justice, it is important for the body of governance to inculcate ethics and moral values through society, education, family, friends, etc.


Accountability in Governance is ensured through

  • Constitution – Democracy, DPSP’s, bodies like CAG.
  • Checks and balances through judicial review, parliamentary control over executive.
  • Legislative – Right to information act (RTI), Prevention of corruption Act (PCA).
  • Citizen charters, Social Audits.

It can be contended that accountability is the fundamental requirement for preventing the abuse of power and for ensuring that power is directed towards the achievement of efficiency, effectiveness, responsiveness and transparency.

On the other hand, by ethical governance we mean not just ethical principles in formulating policies but ethical display in behavioral terms by people manning these governing institutions.

Performance consequence reflecting true ‘ethical governance’ comes neither from those who do it with ‘I am sacrificing’ attitude nor from those who do with ‘I do sacrifice for the world to know’ attitude. This is major difference between ‘ethical governance’ and other forms of ‘governance’ including activities of CSR and Charities. The regulatory mechanism can only provide a favourable environment for this to happen.

Various measures to ensure accountability bring in ethical governance with display of values like Equality, Dignity, Honesty, Fairness and Compassion.  

  • Mechanisms like social audit in MGNREGA, Gram sabha involve people in decision making process. This ensures accountability as well as equality principle as decision making is not left in the hands of few people.
  • DPSP’s are fundamental in the governance of the country. They ensure vulnerable and marginalized are not left out. Law makers with responsibility to ensure socio-economic democracy come out with legislations and affirmative action leading to inclusive society.    Ex: Rights of persons with disability Act 2016, Maternity Benefit Act, NSAP.
  • Legislative means like RTI, PCA make administrative system transparent and minimize corruption in the system.
  • System of checks and balance makes sure there is no concentration of power and each organ accountable for their actions. Thus, governance is carried in the interests of people. Ex: Judiciary through Review power(A-32) strikes down laws which are inconsistent with constitutional values

Strengthening of Ethical and Moral Values in Governance

Ethics is an effort to direct human conduct and it helps individual in leading good life by applying moral principles. Ethics is elucidated as well based standards of right and wrong that prescribe what humans ought to do, usually in terms of rights, obligations, benefits to society, fairness, or specific virtues. In present scenario, ethics in governance are attracting attention of researchers, people who talk of good governance. The spread of democracy in various countries of the world has highlighted the issue of ethics in governance.

The Overall purpose of ethics is to ensure good governance with prime concern for ethical principles, practices and behaviour. Governance is described as the way an organization takes itself and the processes and structure that are used to realise its goals. Governance is also crucially concerned with how organizations relate to each other, how they relate to citizens and the way in which citizens are given a voice. The essential duty of governance is to effectively and equitably implement what is called the social contract. Changeover to liberalization and economic reforms, and to new types of managerial set-ups is a complex and difficult task which demands a highly competent, well informed and caring administration.

Role of ethics and moral values is significant in bringing good governance. There are numerous ways to strengthen the moral values in governance.

  1. Principle of Selflessness: Officers of public offices should take decision solely in terms of public interest. They should not do anything to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family or their friends.

  2. High Integrity: Holders of public life should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organizations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.

  3. Objectivity: In conducting public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices only on merit.

  4. Accountability: Owners of public offices should be as open as possible on all the decisions and actions that they take. They should record reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interests clearly demand.

  5. Honesty: Holders of public offices have a duty to declare any private interest relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interests.

  6. Leadership: Holders of public offices should promote and support these principles by way of leadership and examples.

  7. Sense of belongingness with the Public: In order to implement ethics in governance, the elected representative like village Panchayat members, Block Samiti members, Zilla Parished members, Elected members to the local bodies, MLA’s and MPs should develop a sense of belongingness with voters of their constituencies; and listen and redress their grievances by visiting them periodically . There should not be any communication gap between the two.

  8. Responsible and Responsive Civil Servants: Each Ministry is headed by a senior level bureaucrat who is a link between the public and the government. These high level officers should give proper feed-back on the problems faced by the public to the concerned Minister and suggest the feasible measure which can be taken to solve the problem within the ambit of law. If possible they can also suggest to amend the law to address the problem properly.

  9. Friendly relation with people: If there are cordial relations between the government and the people at different levels, then governance will transform into good governance. People will feel that they are part of the administration, and they shall better understand the position of the government if any of their critical demand is not met with, due to any technical reason.

Practice question:

  1. How are accountability and ethical governance interrelated? Illustrate with the help of suitable examples.