The Corruption Challenge: A Response from Civic Leaders

There is a maxim often attributed to Winston Churchill, “If a man is not a socialist before he is 25, he has no heart. If a man is not a capitalist after he is 30, he has no brain.”

This encapsulates the cynicism with which many people regard civic leadership. While few people are wholly blind to the inadequacies and inequities that exist within many American cities, an even smaller number of them feel that any action on their part could make an appreciable difference.

However, others feel differently. In 2012, first-time graduate enrollment for public administration and services climbed 5 percent and had increased 3.6 percent on average over the previous five years, according to a study published by the Council of Graduate Schools.

The Corruption Challenge, A Response from Civic Leaders
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Despite this increase in graduate education in government, an innate distrust of the system and the leaders within it persists. The new set of public administrators and staffers have an important job ahead of them: to show the public they are trustworthy and that the government is effective. Winning the trust of the communities they serve should be any public leader’s top priority.

If you desire to hold an office of civic leadership, there are two main ways to win your constituency’s trust. Both ways are rooted in a practical commitment to fight corruption and address the matters of public concern

Enact Laws and Codes of Conduct

Once an organization or government office has lost the public trust, extraordinary efforts must be made to show that standards and practices can and will change. Once trust has been lost, the organization must go above and beyond to get back in the public’s good graces.

Codes of conduct are critical for successful for transparent business especially when all adhere to them. When corruption is alleged, evidence suggests that these codes have either been compromised or they weren’t set up in the first place.

Proactive organizations prevent the loss of public trust by adopting codes of conduct. They’re proud of them, and the codes work. Problems arise when these codes are neglected and fade away through a lack of commitment from senior leadership.

If the public sees an office as corrupt, new leadership is required and codes of conduct must be revisited with a process in place to allow community oversight and a means of enforcement. Having an enforceable code of conduct is not a matter of government efficiency but a means of establishing trust. . This can go a long way toward creating an ethical and transparent organization in which employees are held accountable for their actions.

Set Up Oversight Mechanisms

Rules, laws, or codes of conduct cannot be effective when lacking oversight mechanisms. Without oversight people may not be held accountable. A lack of oversight prevents people from being held accountable.

In order to minimize questionable ethical behavior, oversight helps. Those who are tempted to commit an ethical violation might be persuaded with greater oversight.

Ethics committees provide a measure oversight of behavior. In some state governmental situations, secretaries of state or attorneys general are charged with the oversight of other departments within the state. Battling corruption, these lines of ethical oversight must be inspected to see if and where the chain of command broke down.

It’s hard to imagine a general electorate without a little healthy skepticism toward government. In recent years, however, the amount has become unhealthy. Civic leaders constantly strive to meet the highest level of integrity and honesty. To limit corruption and encourage the electorate to trust government as whole codes of conduct and oversight mechanisms must be enacted and enforced. By implementing this approach to combat corruption, civic leaders can begin to gain the trust and respect necessary to be effective.

In today’s political environment, it is important for recent graduates to be equipped with the resources to fight and resist corruption. Learn more about how an online MPA degree can help by visiting University of San Francisco online.

Sources: http://siteresources.worldbank.org/CGCSRLP/Resources/VRCCourseoutlinepartII2-7-05.pdf http://www.cmi.no/publications/file/3343-institutional-arrangements-for-corruption.pdf http://www.ncsl.org/research/ethics/oversight-ethics-commissions-and-committees.aspx http://www.governing.com/blogs/by-the-numbers/gov-student-interest-in-public-sector-grows.html

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