Academic journal article Global Journal of Business Research

An Exploration of the Effectiveness of Fiji's Public Service Code of Conduct

Academic journal article Global Journal of Business Research

An Exploration of the Effectiveness of Fiji's Public Service Code of Conduct

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

In the Pacific region, public service codes of conduct establish standards by which behavior is often judged proper, or otherwise, for public service officials. However, current research indicates there is very little evidence within Pacific Island Countries (PICs) to demonstrate whether approved Public Service Commission (PSC) codes of conduct are really ensuring that public service officials are able to maintain even minimal standards of professional and personal conduct. One of the promises of the early 1990's civil service reform in Fiji was to build a highly ethical and professional civil service. A Code of Conduct for all public service officials in Fiji came into effect under the Public Service Act of 1999. This study aims to explore and describe the perceived effectiveness of code of conduct in Fiji's public service. There are in fact external controls in place to keep public officials in line; however, there seems to be limited awareness and weak monitoring of the code in individual ministries and line departments to ensure it is strictly and constantly upheld. Special measure to support understanding, awareness and adherence to code of conduct also seems to be missing.

JEL: H830

KEYWORDS: Public Service, Ethics, Code of Conduct

INTRODUCTION

Contemporary social psychological research indicates that proper codes of conduct can often guide behaviors in developing countries that are essential to a functioning civil service (White, 1999 cited in Gilman, 2005). In fact, such codes are often the first formal structure that is established and recognized when attempt is made to elevate the profile of an organization (Larmour, 2001). Within the Pacific region, public service codes of conduct establish standards by which behavior is often judged proper or otherwise. In this line, it is anticipated that an effective code of conduct will promote good governance, transparency, accountability and integrity among public officials of the Pacific Island Countries (PICs) whilst improving the reputation of the public service among the community and current and potential international partners, on who support for public officials depend. Of course, ethical codes of conduct alone are not panaceas for resolving ethical problems in organizations - but once established, such codes can help the civil service focus, and maintain high levels of professionalism and personal conduct, provided other key elements are present to support this.

Previous studies on codes of ethics or codes of conduct, (Cressy & Moore, 1983; Mathews, 1987; Weaver et al., 1999) have targeted private sectors in more developed economies like the United States of America (USA) or the United Kingdom. Only more recent studies (Svensson & Wood, 2004; Svensson & Wood, 2009) have targeted code of ethics studies in the public sector organizations of Sweden. While the above studies were mostly carried out in more developed economies, no study to this date has been carried out on the codes of conduct for public sector organizations in Fiji. Fiji's civil service has been subjected to public criticism and humiliation for unethical acts in the past and in recent years. The Commodity Development Framework scandal in the late 1990s; the Agriculture scam in 2001; and the Water and Sewerage Department mishap in 2003 are some of the many incidents that reflect unscrupulous practices in the country's public service. In aggravating the situation, most of those senior officials at the center of these scams were spared while their junior colleagues were taken to task. It is evident that such an environment is conducive to encouraging unethical conduct in the country's civil service. In light of the recurring dishonest practices in the country's civil service in the past, the numerous declarations by successive governments including the present regime to build an ethical and professional civil service; what then are the changes that have been made in recent years to combat corrupt and unethical behavior in the civil service; and how effective are such measures? …

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