Government and society cannot promote and enforce ethical behavior solely throughthe utilization of ethical codes of conduct or through the enforcement oflegislation. Communities tend to equate moral values and moral norms with values andnorms, which apply only to personal dealings. Public sector ethics concerns the moral requirements of public servants in that they are paid for and expected to offer the people. In terms of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act 108 of 1996, all government departments are required to be efficient whichincludes observing particular ethical codes of conduct (Raga and Taylor, 2008). In this regard, this essay will be discussing the ethical standards and values expected of public officials in managing public finance by defining what ethics is, recognizing the need for morality and high ethical standards in the public service, identifying the need for ethics in finance and show how ethical standards contribute towards improved service delivery.
WHAT IS ETHICS?
The question of ethics is one that is linked with the history of mankind. Ethics deals withthe character and conduct and morals of human beings. It deals with good or bad, right or wrong behaviour, it evaluates conduct against some absolute criteria and putsnegative or positive values on it (Hanekom, 1984:58).Guy (1990:06), agrees with Hanekom because he views ethics as the study of moral judgements and right and wrong conduct. Furthermore, he views ethics as different from law because it involves no formal sanctions. It is different from etiquette because it goesbeyond mere social convention. It is different from religion because it makes notheological assumptions. It is different from prudence because it goes beyond self-interests of others. Ethics is both a process of inquiry and code of conduct. As acode of conduct, it is like an inner eye that enables people to see the rightness orwrongness of their actions (Guy, 1990:06).
The ethical question is closely linked to human existence. The essence of mankind lies in the fact that he/she can reflect upon, as well as evaluate, him/herself and his/herdeeds. Heynes (1986:01), is of the opinion that ethics has to do with the actions of man.Consequently, it requires adjustments in the actions and attitudes of the public managerin relation to his colleagues and the public as well as in relation to himself.According to De Villiers (1989:162), the basis of the evaluation of human behaviour is to be found in a system of values. Ethical values and integrity as a basic value as well asthe rule of law, are key elements of every democratic society. Public officials in theirdaily execution of their functions and management of public funding, dispose ofdiscretionary competencies. These values must not only protect the citizens’ againsthaphazard use of this public power, but also the public authority itself against any improper use of this power by its public officials. The public officials themselves must beprotected against any abuse or diversion of law or authority on behalf of the publicauthority or its official bodies (Hondeghem, 1998:173).
The common denominator of nearly all people problems is to be found in the area of values. It is widely recognised that values often differ widely from person to person and from culture to culture. The influence of values on people's thinking, acting and behaviour is underestimated. According to McMurry (1977:315), the influence of values on the individual is powerful because: (i) They principally determine what he/she regards as right, good, worthy, beautiful and ethical. (ii) They provide the standards and norms by which he/she guides his/her day-today behaviour. (iii) They chiefly determine his/her attitudes toward the causes and issues such as political, economic, social and industrial with which he/she comes into contact daily. (iv) They determine which ideas, principles and concepts he can accept, assimilate, remember...