Academic journal article The Public Manager

In Pursuit of Ethical Governance: New Approaches Are Emerging to Fight Corruption, Including the Use of Measurement Tools

Academic journal article The Public Manager

In Pursuit of Ethical Governance: New Approaches Are Emerging to Fight Corruption, Including the Use of Measurement Tools

Article excerpt

Do you recognize these headlines?

* "Former CIA Official Is Sentenced to Prison for Fraud"

* "Despite Red Flags About Judges a Kickback Scheme Flourished"

* "Corruption Undercuts U.S. Hopes for Improving Afghan Police"

* "Federal Judge Accepts Deal, Ending a Sexual Abuse Case"

* "'Where's Mine?' Mentality Pervades Corruption County"

* "Graft in China Covers Up Toll of Coal Mines."

What about these?

* "Bribery Case Will Cost Siemens $1.3 Billion"

* "Governor Accused in Scheme to Sell Obama's Seat"

* "Wide Inquiry on Rigged Bids in Municipal Bonds"

* "Former First Lady of Taiwan Admits Laundering $2.2 Million"

* "Pennsylvania Ex-Lawmaker Is Convicted of Fraud"

* "In Illinois, a Virtual Expectation of Corruption."

All were in the news over six months in 2008-09.

Has a new wave of unethical governance swept across the world? It would certainly seem so. Ethical governance may be an "idea and ideal" to many citizens, but it is not wishful thinking. Many agencies and organizations worldwide have been pursuing ethical governance for a long while. This article describes and assesses the efforts undertaken by international organizations, especially nonprofits, to foster ethical governance and concludes with an overview of emerging initiatives and strategies.

Governing Good and Governing Well

Good governance is an inclusive concept and practice, encompassing the most routinized tasks that every public organization performs day in and day out, but it also includes results that make a positive difference in the lives of ordinary people. The spectrum of results includes clean air and water, parks and recreation facilities, safe and functional highways and transportation infrastructure, fire and police services, and others too numerous to mention. Of course, these outcomes are expected to be produced with efficiency, effectiveness, and economy. Affordable they must be. A range of other vital products and practices defines good governance: fairness, due process, justice, social equity, responsiveness, accountability, transparency, fiscal and environmental sustainability, and respect for human rights and diversity.

Good governance is not a one-way street: it includes the mix of values and practices that animate the business and nonprofit sectors as well as the communications and media industry. A government that works well is only part of the equation that defines good governance.

Where does ethical governance fit into the enterprise of good governance? Is it imaginable that you could have one without the other? Possibly. In the 1930s, Germany and Italy were quite effective at "getting things done," but their accomplishments fell far short of ethical governance.

What do we mean by ethical governance? The values above are central to ethical governance: openness, transparency, fairness, equity, respect for human dignity, and citizen access and participation, to name a few. Many people believe that ethical governance is the key to production of affordable, high-quality public goods and services. As is commonly illustrated in non-democratic (and some developing) countries, the lack of ethical governance can result in the production of goods and services unaffordable to most of the population. Moreover, ethical governance is vital to democratic governance.

Approaches to Strengthening Ethical Governance

Three basic, often complementary, approaches have been pursued to advance ethical governance. The first focuses on ending corruption utilizing various strategies such as encouraging citizen access and transparency in governance. The second, which can be labeled "public integrity," emphasizes practical education, training, and citizen activism. The third accents building the ethics infrastructure of a country, especially a nation's laws and institutions of governance. …

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