Filling the Gaps: Thinking Broadly about Compliance

By Wickersham, Mary Eleanor | Public Management, November 2011 | Go to article overview

Filling the Gaps: Thinking Broadly about Compliance


Wickersham, Mary Eleanor, Public Management


TAKEAWAY

Compliance is about more than money. Effective programs to root out and prevent wrongdoing involve all aspects of the organization and should take into consideration the values of the residents a manager serves.

Higher standards rewarded with higher performance

A WELL-EDUCATED PUBLIC ADMINISTRATOR writes a grant-funded check to his wife for consulting services, endorses the check, and deposits it. Her pay for consulting services: $3,000 per day, although she lacked necessary credentials and the fee was well above market price.

In Bell, California, the police department set up a "ball game" with quotas for impounding cars in order to raise revenue to fund the exorbitant salaries of city officials. They brought in three times as much money as Los Angeles for the same violation.

A county supervisor, well known for his demands for on-time performance by employees, including strict limits on lunch and break times, watches porn in his corner office.

These real-life situations can show that it is difficult to explain the thoughless and unethical acts of public officials, most of whom should have known better. The big question from the public's point of view is always about the motivation, the why. Was it one of the seven deadly sins: wrath, envy, pride, greed, lust, gluttony, or sloth? Was h ignorance? Stupidity? Habit? Oversight? Too often, the question is never answered, and the wrongdoing is blamed on a person's bad character.

Check Whether Compliance Is in Place

Perhaps a more practical starting point for rooting out and avoiding future ethical wrongdoing is figuring out the gaps in the organization's compliance program--or starling one if there is no such program in place. Princeton psychologist John Darley wrote in a 2005 Brooklyn Law Review article that "people are ethical, but only intermittently so." If a manager is really serious about ethics, then it is vital to minimize opportunities for wrongdoing and to always be intolerant of unethical behavior.

The slippery slope is the unethical behavior that gets by undetected or, worse, the one that gets rewarded. Atlanta Public School Superintendent Beverly Hall got bonuses and a national school superintendent's award while the systems' teachers and principals were changing answers on students' tests to show the "improvement" that was rewarded.

Compliance is viewed by many public managers as an after-the-fact way of checking up on the work of the organization. Financial audits are the most familiar means of demonstrating compliance. In many organizations, the annual audit is the only type of check and balance, but ethical issues in the public and nonprofit sectors clearly involve more than handling of money.

The first step toward an ethical organization is conducting what amounts to a gap analysis of the organization. As you begin to think about where the gaps are, consider every department. Ask yourself where things could go wrong and where the organization or agency could get into trouble or break laws or regulations. Then go one step further When you identify the ideals your constituents expect you to uphold, other gaps will become obvious and can be addressed through a program of monitoring and auditing.

A Proactive Plan Is Important

Financial audits are, of course, essential, but they are only the beginning of a proactive plan. If we consider the values of public managers in the United States, then we broaden the range of ethical interests. A representative bureaucracy, for example, is a widely held value in this country in communities where people of several ethnicities live. Because most people tend to hire people who look like themselves, over time there can be a demographic shift in an organization. Setting up an annual review of employees' ethnicity, age, and gender can at least create an awareness of trends that might not otherwise be obvious. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Filling the Gaps: Thinking Broadly about Compliance
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.