Survey finds government workers’ ethics lacking
Most of you out there have probably spent a good deal of time trying to convince your constituents that “ethics” and “government” are not mutually exclusive ideas. I’m sure many of you feel frustrated by the hand-in-the-cookie-jar stereotype under which most government employees labor. A few bad apples, you say, have spoiled everybody’s cobbler.
Well, I hate to be the one to break this to you, but now there seems to be some proof that the place occupied by the people who run cities is not always the moral high ground. That is if you believe the recently released Nationwide Study on Business Ethics.
According to the survey, the field of public administration is an ethical quagmire in which managers are up to all manner of nastiness, and worker bees look the other way. (The survey was conducted by Indianapolis-based Walker Research, which bills itself as “a global resource for measuring and managing stakeholder relationships.”)
In fact, 57 percent of government employees said they were aware of an ethical violation at work in the past two years, according to the survey. Those “lapses” run the gamut from sexual harassment (the most common) to environmental violations. They include conflicts of interest, drug and alcohol abuse, discrimination, theft, improper accounting and improper acceptance of gifts and entertainment.
Of all the industries surveyed (public administration made up just 13 percent of the total), public employees were by far the most likely to know of a violation and the least likely to report it. That means that, for every finance director you read about who takes a trip to Las Vegas compliments of some underwriter, there are many lurking behind the wall just waiting until the lights go out, and no one is looking. You know, like roaches.
Now the good part: According to the survey, when compared to other industries, public administration appears “to be slightly more advanced in its implementation of ethics resources.” For example, most (89 percent) government workers say they have a code of ethics, and fully 61 percent have an ethics officer. On the other hand, just 52 percent feel that those resources are useful in making decisions that have an ethical component.
I’m wondering if maybe government workers are so attuned to what constitutes an ethical violation that they are tougher on their bosses than workers in other industries. As a voter and a taxpayer, I hope so.