When we often hear the term government ethics used in the media, politicians or political commentators – it isn’t always clear as what exactly is meant by this term. A useful way to approach the discussion is to begin by examining the word “ethics.” Generally speaking, ethics refers to the study of right and wrong behaviors. In our daily lives we are constantly faced with important questions about what to do. Should I keep my promise or should I not? Should I report a lost wallet, or simply keep the money inside? Should I give to the panhandler or keep my change? Ethics, as a field of study, attempts to find principles and rules for answering such questions. Government ethics refers to a particular professional code of conduct for those who work in and for government. Government ethics, therefore, involves rules and guidelines about right and wrong behaviors for a host of different groups, including elected leaders such as the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers), elected representatives (such as Members of Parliament), political staff, and public servants. These groups are faced with a variety of difficult and very unique ethical questions. Should a public official be able to hire his/her own company to work for the government? Should elected representatives be allowed to accept expensive gifts from lobby groups? How should public servants treat their co-workers and subordinates? Government ethics identifies what are correct behaviors in each of these situations and establishes rules of conduct for public officials to follow. So, why should we care about government ethics? One reason often cited is the importance of government ethics to democratic participation. Example: As a democratic nation, Cayman’s political system only functions properly if its citizens are actively engaged in the democratic process. If, however, Caymanians came to believe that politicians and government were in generalunethical or corrupt, we might develop a lack of interest towards ourdemocratic system. This, in turn, may result in people withdrawing from democratic participation altogether. You may have heard comments such as: "Why bother voting? They are all crooks anyway." Government ethics can play an important role in ensuring that this doesn’t happen. By setting out clear rules that public officials must abide by, and by holding persons accountable when those rules are broken. Caymanians can have confidence in their elected representatives and political system. It goes without saying that there will always be scandals that violate ethics. However, Caymanian’s can take some comfort in knowing that when unethical behavior does occur, appropriate actions are taken to punish the person(s) responsible. Another common argument for government ethics focuses on effective public administration. Collectively, Government is responsible for billions of dollars in public assets and property. They areresponsible for providing very important services to citizens, such as social services, public utilities, police services, and national security. Citizens, therefore, have a strong interest in ensuring that this public money and property, as well as services upon which they depend on, are managed as efficiently and effectively as possible. This requires taking precautions against activities that cause widespread government waste and inefficiency. Government ethics when properly enforced can be a valuable means for protecting against government waste and ensuring effective public administration. Such a code can prohibit many of the activities that lead to waste, including theft by public officials and use of government property for private gain. It can also address issues such as bribery and conflicts of interest; activities that can lead public officials to sacrifice the public interest in the administration of programs and services for private gain and benefit. Unethical Conduct by Public Officials
What sorts of conduct are commonly considered unethical?...
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