Government Ethics


Keeping Faith and Living Up to the Public's Trust

When the public no longer trusts its government institutions and officials, when it thinks government officials lack integrity, and when it feels alienated and powerless, it isn't long before the mechanisms of public administration become dysfunctional or break down.

Tax dollars are sent to government in trust. The public expects them to be used wisely. Politicians and public employees at all levels have an obligation to meet that expectation. Public employees don't merely have "jobs with the government," but rather they are public servants.

Elected officials, as overseers of government, have a heightened obligation to meet the public's expectations. With a plethora of competing interests vying for pubic resources, this is not always easy to do, and sometimes elected officials and staffs lose their way and become captives of the mechanisms that put them in office. The forces that bear down on elected officials (and their staffs) are, in their complexity alone, of a different order than those that bear down on executives in business firms and on executive directors of not-for-profit organizations. 

That's why the need for help reaching ethical decisions is heightened in the public sphere. That's why allowing ethics to become marginalized is an extreme danger in government. Yet, with the incessant pressures of meeting constituent and public expectations, that is precisely what happens, all too often.

But it need not be so.

BGEI can help create and, just as important, maintain an annual  ethics program for government agencies and the offices of elected officials that addresses the need to take the public's expectations of integrity and probity into consideration, a program that keeps all relevant government guidelines, policies, and procedures in the center of policy deliberations. BGEI can help to educate public employees in targeted, non-intrusive modalities throughout the year -- something crucial for maintaining a culture of ethics. 

As for the political dimensions that we take into account in our consulting engagements, we are fully aware of the saying, "Politics ain't bean-bag." But neither does politics require breaking the public trust, or that the politician devolve into something that he or she should never become.


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Dr. David E. McClean