Chapter 1-5 Project ETHICS AND ACCOUNTABILITY IN NIGERIA CIVIL SERVICE
A STUDY OF FEDERAL INLAND REVENUE SERVICES, LAGOS
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1.1 Background to the Study
A group of people, an association, organization or even a settlement stays together due to norms they accept as a binding guide. Every society forges ahead in its daily activities because it has some laid down rules (the dos and the don’ts) that guide the people. These rules may gradually become the way or pattern of lives of the people in such society. According to Feluni (1997), the rules are yardstick upon which members conduct or behaviors are adjudged as good (ethical) or bad (unethical). Hence, if the works we perform determine our entire survival, then we must have the right attitude to work (Ekhator, 2002). Civil servants, who are successfully practicing ethics, will be able to defend their actions and inactions.
Thompson (1985) defined administrative ethics as involving the application of moral principles to the conduct of official responsibilities and duties. Chapman (1988) on the other hand has defined civil service ethics as the application of moral standards in the course of official work. So it is expected of civil servants to apply and exercise certain ethical considerations when carrying out orders of political bosses and when they are faced with a situation where they have to make value judgment that have implications for their professional standing. Ethics in the public service are therefore the broad norms that stipulate how public servants should behave and exercise judgment and discretion in carrying out their official duties. Central to administrative ethics are attitudes, standards, and systems of values which have been internalized in the civil servant. Its foundation is the belief that what public officials and employees do has a central and inescapable normative component involving values, morality and ethics (York, 1984).
Even the members of the society expect the civil servant to act with unwavering integrity, absolute impartiality and devotion to the public interest and the state (Rohr, 1976). This becomes important because the public service is often seen as an extension of the government and the logic of modern government depends increasingly on the acceptability of those who govern to those they govern, acceptability which is further enhanced if those who are governed have confidence in the moral uprightness of those who govern (Baker, 1971). The failure or the jettison of every ethical standard will inevitably lead to corruption and corrupt practices in the public service as well as the lowering of efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery. Concerning corruption, the distinction must be made from the onset between political and bureaucratic corrupttion. This distinction is more than a mere academic exercise as the failure to delineate between both has led to mystification and the inability to find solution or to systematically address the issue. Hope (1985) has attempted to trace the genesis of bureaucratic corruption by stating that; With the politicization of the bureaucracy in the third world has come bureaucratic corruption. Political corruption has laid down the ground rules for bureaucratic corruption in the third world.
The fact that the prevalence of ethical standards and accountability of civil servants in Nigeria is the veritable means of ensuring the commitment of Nigerian government to the norms of good governance and responsible leadership is very clear. Ethics and accountabilities are the criteria for good governance which brings about legitimacy and popular support from the people. The economy of any nation cannot develop when its members lack sense of duty and accountability. In creating an administration that will be responsive to the yearnings and aspirations of the people by the government, the role of ethics and accountability cannot be overemphasized. Ethics serves as amoral parameters within which the civil servant operates. It involves defending and recommending concept of right and wrong conduct.
Civil servants as officials employed rather than elected in the civil service capacity to carry out the statutory responsibility of service delivery in government can only be achieved if they are conscious of the rules of conduct established to ensure accountability and effective service delivery (Rasheed, 1995). This simply mean that accountability in the civil service can only be ensured if the regulatory mechanisms like the constitution and public service rules are put in place. Those who are expected to render services must account to the people for their successes and failures; and those who are entrusted with the custody and disbursement of public fund must appropriately account to the people for their use (Okigbo, quoted in Ozor, 2000).
Accountability in the above assertion can be informed if regulatory mechanisms are put in place. In our contemporary society, civil servants pay negligence to ethical conduct thereby engendering unaccountability, bribery and corruption, impartiality and poor service delivery in the civil service. The unresponsiveness of the civil servants to their constitutional assignment has received numerous adverse comments from the right thinking nationals of Nigeria. Ethical deficit and the problem of accountability feature noticeably in the action of the civil servants. Their dominant principle of action is selfish and mercenary interest.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The permeating and pervasive influence of unethical behavior in the civil service like, embezzlements of public funds, bribery and corruption, tribalism, and other fraudulent acts portrayed by the civil servants have culminated in their poor image and service delivery. The aforementioned ethical deficit actions in the civil service have been worsened by weak institutional arrangement for enforcing ethical and accountability standard. They have not been effective in monitoring standards of professional ethics and accountability in the civil service (Thompson, 1985).
As a matter of fact, the poor working conditions and miserable pay of civil servants should not be shelved out. It has contributed to the loss of integrity and deplorable service record of Nigerian civil servants (Adamolekun, 1983).
Lacks of trained and competent workers have also accrued into the existence of unethical behavior in Nigeria civil service (Agarah, 1989). As a result of lack of training which exposes them to rule of conduct, civil servants, therefore pay negligence to ethical conduct in carrying out their duties. The activities of the Nigerian civil servants is believed to be affected by corruption and other forms of unethical behavior like embezzlements of public funds, bribery and other fraudulent acts, this is assumed to result to lack of accountability the Nigerian civil service.
1.3 Aims and Objectives of the Study
The general objective is to examine ethics and accountability in Nigeria civil service. The specific objectives are to:
- Find out if ethical behaviors have effect on the productivity of FIRS workers.
- Factors responsible for ethical behavior and accountability in Federal Inland Revenue Services.
- Ascertain the disciplinary measures taken against those who engage in unethical behaviors in Federal Inland Revenue Services, Lagos.
- Recommend what can be done to improve ethics and accountability in Federal Inland Revenue Services, Lagos.
1.4 Research Questions
Based on the above assertion, the question this research sets out to tackle are:
- To what extent will ethical behaviors affect the productivity of FIRS workers?
- What are the factors responsible for ethical behavior and accountability in Federal Inland Revenue Services?
- What are the disciplinary measures taken against those who engage in unethical behaviors in Federal Inland Revenue Services?
- What are the recommendations that will improve ethics and accountability in Federal Inland Revenue Services?
1.5 Research Hypotheses
The following research Hypotheses was stated for the study:
HO: Ethical behaviors have no effect on the productivity of FIRS workers.
H1: Ethical behaviors have effect on the productivity of FIRS workers.
1.5 Significance of the Study
The significance of the study can be viewed from two perspectives.
The study of administrative ethics and accountability is indispensable for good governance. And the knowledge of ethics informs accountability. This knowledge will help to proffer veritable course of action that can deter the problems of ethics and accountability in Lagos state civil service such like corruption, impartiality, absenteeism and other forms of unethical behavior.
The greater the quality of accountability the greater the quality of good governance and vice versa. The sound knowledge of this study will help law makers in making an outstanding and achievable law for the nation accountability in the state civil service. It will expose different cases of ethical and accountability problems in Federal Inland Revenue Services, Lagos and ways of shelving them out. It will also unveil the factors that caused these problems.
The research will serve as reference material for future researchers in the field of ethic and accountability in the Nigeria civil service. Academically, it contributes to the existing knowledge by explaining why civil servants exhibit unethical and lack of accountability behaviors in the discharge of their functions and their remedial measures.
1.6 The Scope and Limitation of Study
This study examines ethics and accountability in Nigeria civil service with specific reference to Federal Inland Revenue Services, Lagos. The major factor for opting for Federal Inland Revenue Services, Lagos a unit of study is because the researcher is familiar with the area. Hence, it would be easier, less expensive and more convenient for the researcher to obtain relevant information from the sector to ensure efficient and effective research.
Initiating and concluding a research work successfully is not always a rosy ride to bliss. As a matter of fact a lot of factors acted as a clog in the wheel in the smooth research on ethics and accountability in Federal Inland Revenue Services, Lagos. These factors include:
- Inadequate Literature: The inadequate materials on the subject matter really threatened the success of this research.
- Attitude of the Respondents: Attitudes of the respondents in the various departments chosen for this study were discouraging. They were in many occasions very reluctant in supplying relevant information for security reasons as expression of being afraid to expose their vital official secretes.
- Financial Cost: The researcher cannot overemphasized how problematic the cost implication of this research was. It was really a big task sourcing for funds as money was limited in supply, bearing also in mind that the researcher is a student.
- Time:The fact that effective researcher needs ample time dedication is undoubtful. But to the researcher, dedicating such time must be at the expense of other numerous issues competing attention such as her course work, consequently, minute time was hared between the research and other contending issues. The researcher therefore, did not have the whole supposed time for this work as required. Despite all odds, the researcher made frantic efforts to collect sufficient data for the analyses upon which reliable inference was made.
1.7 Definition of Terms
Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS): The Federal Inland Revenue Service is responsible for assessing, collecting and accounting for tax and other revenues accruing to the Federal Government.
Ethics: Moral principles that govern a person’s behaviour or the conducting of an activity.
Accountability: The obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner.
Civil Servant: A civil servant or public servant is a person employed in the public sector employed for a government department or agency.
Behaviour: The mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.
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