Ethical and moral values in governance

Ethical and moral values in governance

The notion of “Good Governance” has become the buzzword these days in wake of globalization. Good governance is commonly described as a style of governance that is efficient, effective, responsive, corruption free and citizen friendly for ensuring people’s trust in government and promoting social harmony, political stability and economic development. Good governance is strictly connected with institutionalized values such as democracy, observance of human rights and rule of law and greater efficiency within the public sector.


Accountability has numerous meanings which vary from country to country. In socialist and many developing countries, accountability refers to compliance to rules, laws and regulations. Once this is well established, the accountability that people can expect at the next level is relying on an honest and ethical character of public servants by the citizens, and from there move to satisfying the needs and demands of citizens in relation to contract and reporting requirements, as well as the financial and ethical policies and procedures.

There are three fundamental principles of public accountability of the government. First and foremost is that ‘sovereign power resides in the people’. The second which derives from the first is that: ‘Where the public’s power is entrusted to institutions and officials for the purposes of government, they hold that power of the people to be exercised for the people. They are the public’s trustees.’ The third, which links the second back to the first, is that: ‘Those entrusted with public power are accountable to the public for the exercise of their trust.’

The avenues of public accountability can take three forms:

  • To members of the public directly, either as individuals (e.g. through the administrative law system), or as a community (e.g. in elections);
  • To agencies such as the Auditor-General, the Ombudsman and the Parliament which act, or should act, for and on behalf of the public; and
  • To official superiors and peers


Transparency in governance basically means people should be able to access public information when they want it. They should be able to know what public officials are doing and how the policies are being implemented. Citizens demand greater transparency from governments and require information on who, why and how of decision making. Other aspects of transparency in the public service require clarity, that there is integration with other decisions, that it is logical and rational, accountable, truthful and accurate, and open. If citizens have a problem with getting information, in public service delivery, then they may expect presence of an effective and efficient complaint redressal channel. Greater transparency is also key to upholding integrity in the public sector by reducing the risk of fraud, corruption and mismanagement of public funds. All the departments and public bodies should have computerised information counters so that information and assistance is available to the public on various essential services and approvals.

Rule of Law 

The rule of law primarily means that everything must be done according to law. Applied to the powers of government, this requires that every government authority which does some act which would otherwise be a wrong or which infringes a man’s liberty, must be able to justify its action as authorised by Law and in nearly every case this will mean authorised directly or indirectly by legal provisions. However, the rule of law demands something more, since otherwise it would be satisfied by giving the government unrestricted discretionary powers, so that everything that they did was within the law. The secondary meaning of the rule of law, therefore, is that government should be conducted within a framework of recognised rules and principles which restrict discretionary power.



Citizen’s Participation

Citizen’s Participation in governance is fundamental to democracy as ultimate power vests with the people. Interaction is one important aspect in governance. There are complex ways in which public, private and social organizations interact and learn from one another. It is also the manner in which citizens contribute to the governance system, directly and indirectly through their collective participation in civil, public and corporate institution.120 Greater participation is crucial for good governance in two ways: greater participation by citizens in the decision-making process allows greater transparency and can help ensure that political decisions are adapted to the needs of the people affected by them. Second, greater participation is important for democratic legitimacy, which depends on the investment people have as citizens in their own governing.


This is a corollary of the participation principle and the transparency principle. Responsiveness implies that the governance regulations enable the institutions and processes of governance to be able to serve all stakeholders within a reasonable timeframe.


This principle involves ensuring that all members of society feel that they have a stake in it and do not feel excluded from the mainstream. This particularly applies to ensuring that the views of minorities are taken into account and that the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making. This requires mechanisms to ensure that all stakeholder groups have the opportunity to maintain or improve their well being.

Efficiency and Effectiveness

Efficiency of course implies the transaction cost minimization whereas effectiveness must be interpreted in the context of achievement of the desired purpose. Thus for effectiveness it is necessary that the processes and institutions produce results that meet the needs of the organisation while making the best use of resources at their disposal. Naturally this also means sustainable use of natural resources and the protection of the environment.


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