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Public Management Ethics

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A Teaching Topic in Ethics and Accountability   

Public Management Ethics

This topic explores the tension between accountability and efficiency. It asks whether certain accountability mechanisms have ensured that civil servants work is in the public interest, or whether these mechanisms go too far, misunderstand what can be achieved, and put at risk other important goals, such as efficiency, privacy, innovation, and public value (Saskatchewan-Regina JSGS 801). A key element of this topic is the examination of the principal-agent problem. It deals with the major issues related to professional ethics with which future public servants may encounter during their careers. This topic also examines the efficiency-equity debate (George Washington PPPA 6000).

Recommended Reading

Toronto: PPG 1001 The Policy Process

Efficiency, Effectiveness, Ethics, and Morality

Anderson, Charles. 1979. “The Place of Principles in Policy Analysis.” American Political Science Review 73: 711 - 23. American Political Science Review 87, 2: pp. 334 - 47.

Kelman, Steven. 1981. “Cost-Benefit Analysis: An Ethical Critique.” Regulation 5, 1: pp. 33 - 40.

Kolbert, Elizabeth. “The Calculator.” The New Yorker 25 November 2002, pp. 42 - 49.

Williams, Allan. 1974. “The Cost - Benefit Approach.” British Medical Bulletin 30, 3: pp. 352 - 356.

Amy, Douglas. 1984. “Why Policy Analysis and Ethics are Incompatible.” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 3, 4: pp. 573 - 591.

MacIntyre, Alasdair. 1992. “Utilitarianism and Cost - Benefit Analysis: An Essay on the Relevance of Moral Philosophy to Bureaucratic Theory.” In The Moral Dimensions of Public Policy Choice: Beyond the Market Paradigm, eds. John Martin Gillroy and Maurice Wade. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, pp. 179 - 194.

Saskatchewan-Regina: JSGS 801 Governance and Administration

Accountability, Transparency, Ethics and Public Value

Textbook Chapter 3 Allan T upper and Lori Turnbull “The Ethics of Public Service and the Challenges of Public Service Ethics “

Textbook Chapter 11 Mark D. Jarvis and Paul G. Thomas. “The Limits of Accountability: What Can and Cannot Be Accomplished in the Dialectics of Accountability.”

Savoie, Donald J. 2004. “Searching for Accountability in a Government without Boundaries.” Canadian Public Administration 47(1): 1 - 26.

Moynihan, Donald P. et. al. 2011. Performance Regimes Amidst Governance Complexity. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 21(1): 141 - 155.

Dobell, Peter and Martin Ulrich. 2006. “Parliament and Financial Accountability” Commission of Inquiry into the Sponsorship Program and Advertising Activities Research Studies V. 1: 23 - 61. http://dsp - psd.pwgsc.gc.ca/Collection/GomeryII/ResearchStudies1/CISPAA_Vol1_2.pdf

Malloy, Jonathan. 2006. “The Standing Committee on Public Accounts,” Commission of Inquiry into the Sponsorship Program and Advertising Activities Research Studies V.1 http://dsp - psd.pwgsc.gc.ca/Collection/GomeryII/ResearchStudies1/CISPAA_Vol1_3.pdf

Saint-Martin, Denis. 2004. “Managerialist Advocate or ‘Control - Freak’? The Janus - faced Office of the Auditor - General.” Canadian Public Administration 47(2): 121 - 140.

Benoit, Liane E. and C.E.S. Franks. 2005. “For the Want of a Nail: The Role of Internal Audit in the Sponsorship Scandal,” Commission of Inquiry into the Sponsorship Program and Advertising Activities. Research Studies V. 2: 233 - 303. http://dsp - psd.pwgsc.gc.ca/Collection/GomeryII
/ResearchStudies2/CISPAA_Vol2_6.pdf

Langford, John W. 2004. “Acting on Values: An Ethical Dead End for Public Servants,” Canadian Public Administration 47(4): 429 - 450. Paul G. Thomas. 2005. “Debating a Whistle-blower Protection Act for Employees of the Government of Canada,” Canadian Public Administration 48(2): 147-184.

George Washington: PPPA 6000 Cross-Sectoral Collaboration

Morality and Public Administration

Ghere, R. K. 1996. Aligning the ethics of public-private partnership: The issues of local economic development. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 6(4), 599 - 621.

Etzioni, A. (2008). The denial of virtue. Society, 45, 12 - 19.

Bagby, L., and Franke, J. (2001). Escape from politics: philosophic foundations of public administration. Management Decision , 39(8), 623 - 633.

Hart, D. (1984). The virtuous citizen, the honorable bureaucrat, and “public” administration. Public Administration Review, 44, 111 - 120.

American: PUAD 612 Public Administration in the Policy Process

Administrative Ethics, Values, and Democratic Constitutionalism

Frederick Mosher, Democracy and the Public Service (1968), selections.

Dwight Waldo, The Administrative State (1948), 12 - 21.

David Rosenbloom, “Public Administration Theory and the Separation of Powers” (1983).

Paul Van Riper, History of the United States Civil Service (1958), excerpts on the Pendleton Act.

Romzeck and Dubnick, “Accountability in the Public Sector” (1987).

Case: Just Try to Fire an Air Traffic Controller. Retrieved from http://seattletimes.com/html/nationworld/2015736968_controllers27.html 

Rutgers: 26:834:215 Introduction to Public Administration

Holzer, Marc and Richard Schwester. 2011. Public Administration: An Introduction. M.E. Sharpe, Armonk, New York. Chapter 11: Ethics and Public Administration.

Syllabi Cited

Toronto: PPG 1001 The Policy Process

Saskatchewan-Regina: JSGS 801 Governance and Administration

George Washington: PPPA 6000 Cross-Sectoral Collaboration

American: PUAD 612 Public Administration in the Policy Process

Rutgers: 26:834:215 Introduction to Public Administration

Possible Assessment Questions:

  1. What is the principal-agent problem, and why is this an important concept for public servants to understand?
  2. Provide one example of a recent effort by a government to promote accountability within the public sector, and assess the success of that effort. Include an analysis of the impact on accountability, as well as at least one other public priority such as efficiency, innovation, or public value.
  3. Describe one ethical dilemma that an unelected public servant may face during their career.

Page created by: Sean Goertzen and edited by Ben Eisen, 21 October 2014.


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© University of Toronto 2008
School of Public Policy and Governance