by Ridwan Nugraha

The concept of integrity

The terms of ethics and integrity are often used together. Ethics refers to the collection of norms, values, and moral principles that build integrity (Kolthoff, Cox & Johnson 2015). Whereas, integrity is a solid character of an individual in compliance with norms and relevant values (Feldheim 2018; Huberts & Lasthuizen 2014). Both terminologies are regularly used interchangeably since acting based on integrity is equivalent to ethical behaviours (Tremblay 2018). In the context of the public sector, it is reasonable to say that citizens demand public officials and civil servants to present their behaviours in ethical ways. The reason is that public workers fundamentally act and work on behalf of the people. Hence, displaying ethical behaviour or integrity is an obligation of public personnel. Ethics is essential for public officials and civil servants since they are part of a democratic process that aims to benevolent objectives for society (Lynch & Lynch 2015). Therefore, individual ethics and integrity are critical because they can drive public personnel to act following norms and values in achieving public interests.

Source Picture : euroscientist.com

On the contrary, unethical behaviour means the actions of the organisation’s members that violate moral norms in society (Kish-Gephart, Harrison & Treviño 2010). Three occurrences of unethical behaviours in terms of integrity violations are corruption, misconduct, and maladministration (Monaghan & Graycar 2016). Indisputably, corruption is one of the integrity violations types that is broadly seen, tangible, and attract public attention. History records that corruption can be considered as a parameter of integrity violations in the public sector. However, this notion does not reduce the importance of other violation types because they are not sufficiently recorded when compared to corruption cases. Kolthoff, Cox and Johnson (2015, p. 198) assert that discrimination, theft, or careless use of organisational resources are as necessary as corruption or fraud within the context of integrity violations. After all, integrity violations are like an iceberg phenomenon; corruption merely displays some symptoms of hidden unethical behaviour (OECD 2005). Thus, all types of integrity violations are unethical behaviours that bring numerous disadvantages.

Indeed, unethical behaviour results in many losses. If workers involve in negative deviant behaviours, organisational integrity becomes problematic – ultimately resulting in poor performance (Appelbaum, Iaconi & Matousek 2007). For example; it impedes public administration operations, loss of financial and governance capacity, as well as damages the values in society (Graycar & Villa 2011). Moreover, in a broader perspective, the impact of corruption as an integrity violation will distort public expenditures, such as poverty and education programs and it will slow down the economic growth (Kaufmann 1997). The worst is that corruption can cause adverse effects that cause social distrust, that is when citizens think other people cannot be trusted (Richey 2010). Therefore, unethical behaviours bring many disadvantages in societal life.

Efforts have been made to safeguard public integrity and overcome unethical behaviour in the public sector. Head (2012) summarises the efforts in improving ethics in the public sector. According to the study, there are several approaches in protecting public integrity, including through National Integrity System Framework (developed by Pope in 2000), Ethics Infrastructure and Anti-Corruption Mechanism (proposed by the OECD in 2000 and 2004). It uses a variety of oversight and regulatory mechanisms involving integrity agencies (e.g. ombudsmen, auditors-general), anti-corruption agencies, watchdogs, media, and public participation. Equivalently, the public sector also utilises the internal ethical-improvement mechanisms, such as code of conduct as well as ethical human resources and financial management. These approaches aim to achieve a well-developed system of public integrity by spreading ethical promotion through social, economic, cultural, legal and political institutions to strengthen and endorse good governance.

Measuring integrity by its violation

Over the past few decades, the science of public administration has generated various studies related to ethics and integrity in the public sector. These endeavours have been carried out to deliver a better understanding of the importance of ethics and integrity in public organisations. One way to understand the ethical issues in public agency is by measuring integrity through the typology of integrity violation as constructed by Huberts. The taxonomy consists of ten types of unethical behaviours: (1) corruption through bribery; (2) corruption through nepotism or favouritism; (3) fraud and theft of resources; (4) conflict of interest through gift; (5) conflict of interest through sideline activities; (6) improper use of authority; (7) misuse and manipulation of information; (8) indecent treatment; (9) waste and abuse of organisational resources; and (10) misconduct in private time (Huberts 2018; Huberts & Lasthuizen 2014; Lasthuizen, Huberts & Heres 2011).

Several studies have been done to validate the types of integrity violation. In these studies, unethical behaviours are measured by observing the frequency and acceptability of integrity violations in one particular area of the police force in the Netherlands using a typology of integrity violation (Lasthuizen, Huberts & Heres 2011). The typology is also used to measure unethical behaviours in a comparative study between the American and Dutch public employees (Kolthoff, Cox & Johnson 2015). Furthermore, the integrity violation measurement is utilised to compare the role of ethical leadership and ethical climate in The Netherlands, Serbia, Montenegro and the USA (Kolthoff, Erakovich & Lasthuizen 2010). From this point, this study will employ Hubert’s typology of integrity violations because the framework is in line with the Government Regulation of the Republic of Indonesia Number 42/2004 on Esprit Corps Development and Ethical Codes of Government Employees. This law regulates ethics in the level of state, organisation, and society, as well as control self-ethics among civil servants in Indonesia.

Integrity violations in the context of Indonesia

So far, the public sector in Indonesia still must deal with integrity violations involving their personnel. For illustration, one type of well-documented violation is related to corruption. In 2016, The Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) recorded 482 corruption cases, 1011 suspect, approximately 103 billion USD of state lost, and around 21 million USD of bribery cost (ICW 2016). These figures increased in 2017; the ICW records 576 corruption cases, 1298 suspect, roughly 462 billion USD of state loses, and about 15 million USD of bribery cost (ICW 2017). In the same year, The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) conducted 19 times “hand-catch operation” with 72 suspects consisting of law enforcer, public officials, legislators, regional heads, civil servants, and private parties. Further, the KPK handle numerous cases throughout 2017, comprising of 93 bribery cases, 15 government procurement cases, and five money laundering cases (KPK 2017). In the following year, the case handled by the KPK increased to 178 with 28 red-handed operations involving 229 individuals, including civil servants, lawmakers, regional councillors, and regional leaders (Kahfi 2018a).

Likewise, since its establishment in 2016, the “Saber Pungli” task force carried out almost a thousand raids on illegal levies, they managed to confiscate around 1,25 million USD. Most of the case involved government officials and civil servants across Indonesia (Sapiie 2017). Recently, one of the cases that have attracted public anxiety is the poor integrity of public officials in the case of Malang’s house of representative. In this incident, 41 of its 45 members of the representatives have been detained by the authorities for being suspected of having committed “congregation corruption” by accepting bribes (Kahfi 2018b). Furthermore, integrity violations even occur before people become public workers. A study by Kristiansen and Ramli (2006) unveils a “black market” phenomenon in the selection of civil servants in Indonesia. People must spend money to pay corrupt public officials to be accepted as civil servants. As a result, these new employees tend to be corrupt in their agencies because of the desire to return the capital that has been spent. This finding is confirmed by the Bertelsmann Stiftung Transformation Index report which affirms that the recruitment of civil servants in Indonesia is habitually not based on fair competition, whereas the position is sold to applicants or selection is done by nepotism through prioritising relatives and partners or by seniority (BTI 2016). Therefore, the issue of the integrity of government employees in Indonesia is still an important subject that is continually needed to be understood.

(*This article is a duplicate of this page)


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