IIM Indore conducted a webinar on Ethics and Accountability in Governance in association with National Centre for Good Governance (NCGG) on November 20, 2020. The speakers for the webinar were Mr. V. Srinivas, Additional Secretary to Government of India, Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances and Professor Himanshu Rai, Director, IIM Indore. The session was moderated by Professor Prashant Salwan, Chairperson, Executive Education, IIM Indore.
Professor Salwan briefed about the topic of the webinar and shared his views on ethics. He said that in public sector, ethics refer to well based standards of right and wrong and prescribe what public servants ought to do. ‘Public servants often face difficult ethical dilemmas, such as whether to cut corners on quality to meet a deadline or whether to provide opportunities for smaller contractors. Hence, the subject of ethics, governance and accountability here is complex’, he said.
Professor Rai noted that in the ancient times, leaders were believed to be heroes or martyrs, who were born with leadership skills. However, with time, this definition of leadership changed and it was supposed that leadership is a skill that can be developed. ‘A good leader knows the difference between right and wrong and takes decisions which do justice—which aren’t based on his or her convenience’, he said. He mentioned that the annual growth rate of scams in India is 112 percent, while our GDP grows just by 4-5 percent. Hence, we need to talk more about accountability, understand the difference between right and wrong and need to bring this in the main discourse of leadership. Sharing his thoughts on the difference between morality and ethics, he said that morality is the difference between good and bad; however, ethics is the difference between right and wrong. ‘Doing the right thing consistently is the right thing to do. If you feel embarrassed, sense fear and have doubt about anything you do, it is definitely the wrong thing to do’, he said. The road to character starts with thoughts. Our thoughts define our words, our words define our actions, our actions define our habits and habits define our character. Hence, we should ensure not to do anything because we want something in return, but we should take that decision because it’s the right thing to do. ‘The future will belong to the leaders who not only did the good thing; but also took a decision to do the right thing’, he concluded.
Mr. Srinivas said that ethics, morality and efficiency is the foundation on which the ethical super structure is built. He noted that moral courage is needed to go beyond the character of public duty and public service should be built on ethical behaviour. ‘The general principals of ethics include selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. The challenges that the IAS officers face in the 21st century are no different from 20th—which is commitment to the larger public good against all odds. Facing these challenges require non-negotiable values of integrity and credibility’, he said. Sharing code of ethics for civil servants, Mr. Srinivas said that the public service values should be stipulated by law and conflicts of interest should be comprehensively covered in the code of ethics and in the code of conduct for officers. Sharing his approach to fighting corruption, he said that enhanced use of technology, increased transparency, greater stake holder engagement and robust oversight and monitoring have been very significant. He shared some important and common traits of institution builders like the aim high attitude, deep understanding of India’s institutions, having the courage, conviction and integrity to take decisions in challenging times and the ability to individually contribute to building strong institutions. ‘A constitution may indicate the direction in which we are to move, but the social structure will decide how far we are able to move, and at what pace’, he concluded.
The session concluded with a Q&A session and was attended by the students, faculty and staff from IIM Indore along with participants from other organizations.