Ethical Behavior Among Employees in the Malaysian Public Sector

Even though unethical behavior happens in all areas of society including business and government, much of ethics research has focused on private companies [9, 25– 27]. One survey has showed that the organization that has the most instance of unethical behavior is the government [28]. However, little effort has been put in studying unethical behavior in public organizations. According to Abdullah et al. [29], many complaints have been made towards Malaysian public sector especially with regard to unethical behavior and corrupt practices among public employees. For example, the auditor general revealed that financial malpractices were rampant in local councils, whereby 13 officers were among the 252 civil servants that were arrested for corruption in 2005 [30]. On a similar note, the Royal Malaysian Police, being a law enforcement public agency, has received a lot of criticisms regarding the unethical acts performed by their personnel.

In order to overcome these negative public beliefs, public employees need to be ethical in their conduct. Realizing the need to mitigate misbehaviors and boost the image of the public sector, the government undertook a two-pronged program: first, cultivating ethical values among the public servants and, second, strengthening the work process so as to reduce the opportunity for corruption to occur. Following that, a special committee was formed, known as the Special Cabinet Committee on Government Management Integrity or in Malay it is called “Jawatankuasa Khas Kabinet Mengenai Keutuhan Pengurusan Kerajaan” (JKKMKPK). Additionally, the “Malaysian Code on Corporate Governance” (MCCG) has been introduced by the government to enhance the integrity in other sectors of the Malaysian economy. In enhancing the integrity in all sectors, the National Integrity Plan (NIP) has been launched on 23 April 2004. Along with that, the Institute Integrity of Malaysia (IIM) was formed in order to monitor and coordinate the Plan. Furthermore, given the increasing public concerns regarding the extent of misconduct, unethical behavior, and dishonesty amidst police personnel in the country, the government has established two commissions, namely, the Royal Commission and Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to look into complaints against the police force.

From the preceding discussion, it can be surmised that ethical behavior is the key to organizational excellence. Therefore, an understanding of the determinants of ethical behavior is deemed fruitful since this exercise would enable organizations to cultivate ethical behavior among their employees. Hence, the objective of this paper is to review past literatures and propose a model on the determinants of ethical behavior with special emphasis on the public sector.

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