Promoting Ethics in the Public Service

Promoting Ethics in the Public Service

“Serve the public with an awakened mind” was the call to public officials by a one-time senior administrator at a TISL workshop to promote good governance held in Kurunegala recently.

Addressing government officials and representatives of Community Based Organisations (CBOs), former District Secretary of Kurunegala, Jayantha Bulumulla said that the day a government official could hear after his or her retirement that he or she had been honest and free from corruption while in service, is the best that a public officer can achieve during his or her public career.

“The leader of any organization should be a clean and honest person, otherwise it is not possible to lead a team. The enthusiasm demonstrated by all ranks of officials at the time of reorganizing the District Secretariat gives evidence to the acceptance of a leader who is honest and clean. Sometimes honesty may be performed at your personal expense,” she stressed.

Among other points she stated were:
– All government servants must keep in their mind that he/she has to perform a certain amount of service by him/herself. It is similar to the pot that fills with drop by drop of water. Unless each government servant adds his/her contribution the government service will never be filled

– Honesty alone is not sufficient. It should be spread out. First and foremost the government servants must respect “Time”. The time schedule fixed for the government officials should be strictly adhered to. Working according to the time is a good ethic that everyone must practice. Many public servants are ignorant of the value of time. It is the first element of their corruption. If the leader does not come on time it is a waste of time for all the others who are invited to attend the meeting. The result is waste of public funds.   The action that led to the waste of public funds is equal to corruption.

– All government servants must remember that they are in that position to serve people and not the other way about i.e. the people are there to serve the public officials.

–  The government officials have their origin in the village and therefore it is not possible for them to disregard or ignore that link. They are given a number of facilities such as salaries and wages, pension facilities, vehicles, houses, leave, and uniforms. All that is provided through the money given by the public of this country. The officials who enjoy such facilities should remember that such facilities are coming from the sweat of the people who work hard. When a person comes to meet them for some reason the officials must be ready to serve him without wasting his time and resources as people come with pain and hardships.

– Bribery is not only an act that is reported and handled by the Bribery Commission. For some officials the day begins with Corruption. That is the time that they steal by reporting late to office, wasting time for taking meals, tea, chatting with friends etc. The salary these officials earn is a curse even on their children.

–  There are various types of people coming to government offices for various needs. They may be engulfed with a battle between life and death. If you are a concerned official you will be able to read what is written in the face of the person coming to meet you. There may be rogues and other groups as well. However, the officials must be able to identify the need of the person in its correct context and then to build confidence among the people that their need will be provided by the officer concerned. It is not enough to have neat and clean office like a bride. The service provided in the office too shall be equally pretty.

– The “Citizen’s Charter” is the main guidance for the officials to provide services to the   public.

– There are ways of receiving bribes in the public service. For instance, when a birth certificate is requested the required documents can be hidden in order to ask for “something” to “search” those missing documents.

– “Knowledge” is the key to ethical conduct. Some public officials are in the practice of avoiding issues because they do not know the subject. However, she believes that knowledge should be built and enhanced in order to perform a good service to the people. That is why Kurunegala District has the highest number of training programmes.

– It is observed that some officers behave like enemies. For instance “Grama Secretariat” is a concept to house Grama Niladhari (GN), Samurdhi Niladari and Agriculture Research and Extension Officer in one building. This will facilitate an efficient service to the public as three of these officials can cover up the functions of each other in case of an urgent requirement. Despite constructing such a building in Polpithigama, the Agriculture Officer did not join the team. This attitude is detrimental to the public service. No one should build separate empires for her/his service. This is one common “Public Service”. It has different and several dimensions and expertise.  

– Another good ethical conduct is the “Minimization of delays” The undue delays implies the need for bribe.

– It is very important to have a disciplined character for every public official. In this respect it is very necessary to separate the “Good official” from the “Bad official”. Why are Grama Niladharis  known for corruption? They are the closest government servant to the people. There is an increasing trend of females entering the public service. They must remember to behave well.

– The hierarchy of the service is another key concern that should be respected by all the public officials. The Establishment Code clearly stipulates in black and white that GN is not supposed to write direct to District Secretary bypassing the Divisional Secretary. This should be strictly adhered to.

– It is reported that the behavior of some of the officials itself is negatively affecting this hierarchical order. One good example is the consumption of alcohol by public officials. When all ranks of officials involve in the habit of consuming alcohol it may result in various other negative effects. The Public Service is an honorable service. All those who are in such honorable positions must respect and protect its dignity and credibility

– The government always respects the agreement we entered with the government when we joined government service. Our salaries and other emoluments were paid despite the wars faced with the JVP, LTTE etc. The public officials too should ask the question – ‘To what extent do we reciprocate our duty respecting that agreement?’


– It is noted that only few officials are involved in corruption although they hold the same position and earn the same salary. Why? This is because these officials are inclined to engage in unnecessary requirements. They do not have proper plans for their lives. They plan their needs expecting money from somebody else, a third party. Instead one should plan to live with what you earn rather than involve in sinful activities to meet one’s  own needs.

– Misusing government funds also amounts to corruption. It is not your money – even you will be able to repay that later.

/ Capacity Building, English

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