FEBRUARY 29, 2008
Washington may receive more national media coverage for its growing number of ethical lapses, but the problem is worse at the state and local levels where three out of five government workers admitted witnessing violations of ethical standards in the last year.
An in-depth survey conducted by a reputable research center that studies ethics, reveals that in 2007 alone 63% of local government employees observed at least one type of misconduct, ranging from abusive behavior by superiors to bribery. At the state level the figure was 57% and 52% at the federal level.
The most commonly observed types of misconduct in the federal government were abusive behavior, safety violations and putting one’s own interests ahead of the organization. In state government putting one’s own interests ahead of the organization ranked first, followed by lying to employees and abusive behavior. Abusive behavior was most common in local government, followed by putting own interests ahead of the organization and internet abuse.
Less than one third of the federal workers surveyed think their agencies have well-implemented ethics compliance programs, which have been found to greatly reduce the incidence of misconduct. A greater number of state and local government employees see ethical problems in their workplace, however, and no system to counter the crisis.
The survey revealed that, in many cases, incidents go unreported even when the workers believe the violation is quite severe. They also often remain silent when they regularly encounter situations that invite misconduct. This will create a strong risk of losing the public trust that is essential for any government to maintain, according to the investigators who conducted the survey.
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