Imagine that you have been recently appointed as the head of the accounts department in a municipal corporation. Soon after you assumed your duties, you discovered that a clerk in your department was falsifying the payroll account by continuing to carry the names of some employees who have already been terminated. When the clerk picked up the payroll, he would pull out those cheques, endorse and cash them and keep the money. You have no difficulty in recognizing that this clerk is not only involved in unethical conduct but is also clearly violating the law. In this situation, the following two options are available to you. Which amongst these two would you choose as your response? Give logical arguments in support of your answer. (15 Marks) (1) Your responsibility for the image of the corporation may suggest firing the clerk quietly, involving as few other people as possible. (2) Your responsibility for maintaining the public trust may demand you to consider formal charges and prosecution.

1st Approach

  • It is not difficult to recognize that this clerk is not only involved in unethical conduct but is also clearly violating the law. Both moral and legal sanctions against stealing are well established and generally accepted. You are immediately aware that his behavior is unacceptable and must be stopped, although you would probably pause to think carefully about the best course of action. 
  • While your responsibility for the image of the organization may suggest firing the clerk quietly, involving as few other people as possible, but your responsibility for maintaining the public trust may lead you to consider formal charges and prosecution.
  • While the ethical situation, in this case, is quite clear, but the demands of administrative responsibility for resolving it are much less so. The ethical issue and its implications for administrative responsibility are complex and ambiguous.
  • While you are responsible for ensuring the image of the organization, it needs to be remembered that your obligation to the public as a whole entails an additional and more rigorous set of standards and constraints associated with the concept of public trust. In this case, your precepts about loyalty to the organization do not help.
  • Here the best way is that you begin to reflect on the things that you value most. You will probably realize that if you are to remain true to your profession, you must maintain your obligation to a central principle – the public trust. You must have taken an oath to uphold the public trust when you accepted the position. All other commitments and values must be viewed in relation to that responsibility to a basic principle.
  • The right of the people to know the details of the issue must be upheld. Ultimately the principles of democracy and the integrity of democratic governance are also at stake. People need to know what is going on in public agencies and organizations if they are to truly participate in governing. Information about matters that concern the public in any way should not be withheld from reaching the people. 
  • The orderly conduct of public services requires that subordinates as well as their superiors exhibit accountability and efficiency. Loyalty to the organization is not an end in itself; it exists for the ultimate benefit of the citizenry, for the public interest.

2nd Approach

I will proceed with the formal charges and prosecution because of the following reasons.

  • Any organization cannot sustain without public trust. There may be short term gain without it.
  • The clerk should get fair and free chance to defend himself. He might get a smaller punishment than losing the job. Thus, organizations will not lose an employee.
  • My image in my subordinates will be strengthened that I believe in justice and fair play. Thus my authority and leadership will be enhanced.
  • If I fire him quietly, he becomes a means to achieve the others’ goals.
  • I cannot expect that any situation might arise where I do not get a fair chance to defend myself.
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swetha K
swetha K
3 years ago

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