Historically, public trust in the government was always at low. A recent Gallup Poll indicates that disapproval of the way that federal legislative branch is handling its job is at 81%, as of February 2018 (Gallup, 2018). Politicians can influence the people’s lives, and in fact, that’s why they are elected. With such a power comes great responsibility. Politicians supposed to do what is at best for the citizens, but that sometimes that comes into tension, where they own needs and desires compromise their work ethic. There were many efforts through the history of administration, that attempted to define the ethics in administrative field, “yet there is no single answer to the question of what is ethical behavior?” (Malkovich and Gordon, 2013, p.216). American Society for Public Administration formally adopted the Code of Ethics that requires public administrator to serve the public, beyond serving oneself; to conduct themselves in the manner that inspires public confidence and trust, to strengthen organizational capabilities to apply ethics, efficiency and effectiveness in serving the public (Milakovich & Gordon, 2013).
Politicians are supposed to make decisions based on what’s best for the people they serve. But they often have outside interests that could reasonably be expected to sway their decision-making. For example, Operation Tennessee Waltz comes into to the light. An FBI investigation of Tennessee corruption, code named Operation Tennessee Waltz, resulted in the arrests made to 12th state and local public officials., including several state senators, a state representative, two county commissioners, and two school board members (FBI, 2008). The arrested were involved in the scandal regarding pseudo-company E-Cycle, which supposed to function as the disposal of outdated computer equipment (FBI, 2008). The government employees were accused of taking money for the job not done. According to FBI archives: FBI employee who posed as a lobbyist was approached by an employee in the office who claimed to be a close acquaintance of several state legislators. The employee advised the lobbyist that he was a “bagman” for these politicians—and that, in exchange for money, these lawmakers would vote on legislation that would benefit the lobbyist’s clients (FBI, 2008).
The FBI investigation lead to indicting the officials, but also to creation of the new state ethics laws, and creation of an independent Ethics Commission in Tennessee (Comprehensive Governmental Ethics Reform Act of 2006, 2006). This ethics commission was to be built from appointed representation of three Democrats, and three Republicans to provide same party representation. This commission had the authority to review and audit lobbyist contract with employees. Legislation set up the new requirements for the lobbyists applying for government contracts, and government employees per diem regarding meals and travel paid by the lobbyists. Lobbying in the state of Tennessee became very restricted, and the ethics laws one of the hardest in the US. However, the new independent ethics commission did not stay independent for long, according to media, due to a high burden on citizens and accusation to the director of commission of turning the works into police state, legislature voted and passed the merger of the commission into the campaign finance registry (Scheizig, 2015).
It appears that only aware, concerned, and active citizens can assure ethical, efficient, and economical state government. There is no silver bullet to prevent ethical misconduct in the administration, and to provide full accountability. We hope that people we trust with decision making process are doing it to their best ability. Ethical committees, ethical codes, or policies and procedure against such misconduct do exist, currently even in the State of Tennessee, however, it comes down to integrity of the person in power. But there are few things that government can do to protect citizens and make progress toward the fight against corruption. Government entity requires strong legal framework, effective court systems, and disciplinary measures. Effective law enforcement is essential to ensure the corrupt government employees, or lobbyists are punished, and face the accountability. Government requires administrative reform to function properly in the world of temptation, to provide check and balances. They should implement reform in the financial management system that will strengthen the role of auditing agencies, implement public budget disclosure policy, provide citizens with availability of the budget for view (posted on the government website), encourage communities to take an active part in town hall meetings, or allow wide community board participation. Another thing is to simplify the procedures, and minimize the steps and paperwork, required to receive the contract for the outside bidders. Government should promote transparency, and provide access to information for citizens, regarding the decisions they make. Access to information increases the responsiveness and accountability of the governing body to their citizens. Citizens should hold their government accountable for the decisions. There should be mutual trust. Government corruption can be curb if the state or local communities have transparency in the government, with freedom of press, and social media, and citizens access to the meetings.
Ecclesiastes 5:8 (King James Version [KJV]) states: “If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they.”
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