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  • Published on: 21st September 2019
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Ayee (1998) notes that though there is no universally agreed definition of the term “ethics”, the question of ethics is linked to the history of mankind. Ethics deals with the character and conduct of morals of human beings. In Eurocentric perspective it evaluates conduct against some absolute criteria and puts negative or positive values on it (Khuntia & Suar, 2004). Ethical practices are associated with indicators such as truth, honesty, equity, fairness and justice. Some ethical practices have legal implications that stakeholders must be aware of and adhere to. These include adherence to organisational policies and mission, in the conduct of the day-to-day activities. Ethical practices also relate to justice and integrity in the conduct of tasks by all stakeholders (Goodstein & Aquino, 2010). In certain scenarios stakeholders have also to uphold confidentiality and privacy in addition to exhibiting self-control (Culnan & Williams, 2009).

In the African perspective what is (un)ethical is contingent upon diverse factors and circumstances. Murove (2009) and Metz (2015) notes that the African ethics are founded upon communal/relation Ubuntu philosophy or the humanistic worldview and is distinct from the Eurocentric view of ethics which is more individualistic. Nyasani (as cited in Kimmerle, 2006) contends that African ethics extend beyond just the living as they are determined by ancestors, and even the unborn spiritual connectedness. Further, Rushton, (2002) argues that ethical practices in the African context differ across age groups noting that what may be unethical to the older generation may be considered ethical by the younger generation. This perception of ethics has a strong bearing on the nature of what passes as ethical practices in public entities.

1.1.3 Concept of Accountability

According to Keohane (2008), accountability includes standards that those who are held accountable are expected to meet information available to accountability‐holders. Further the ability of these accountability‐holders to impose sanctions for the failure to meet the standards is also a concern of accountability. Further, Sharma (2008) said that accountability has become increasingly important over recent decades particularly given the paradigm shifts being witnessed in the public sector aimed at better governance and responsibility taking.  Accountability in the African context is delineated under three broad perspectives – afro optimism, afro pessimism and afro realism. Afro optimists argue that the accountability structures, processes and institutions are doing well while the Afro pessimists hold the contrary view). The Afro-realistic view has however observed progress in the last 50 years toward strengthening of accountability, while also pointing out deficient areas that need improvement (Metz, 2015).

Accountability in the public entities is characterised by the obligation of leaders to answer to the public for their actions and decisions to deliver efficient services (Bratton, 2006). Accountability in public entities includes peoples voice, their choices, access to information, representation and responsibility is expected to hold leaders answerable and responsible for the social, environmental and economic outcomes arising from the actions of their organisations (Bovens, 2010). Alexander (2010) notes that the failure of accountability among leaders of decentralized government units has seen an increase in protests and demonstration where the public use militant means as a way of demanding answers from the leadership of the public entities to ensure better services.

1.1.4 Service Delivery

Service delivery concept is derived from the process of providing satisfactory services. The service delivery concept has been defined in many different ways. Bass (2007) referred to it as customer benefit package or the things that provide benefit and value to the customer. Further, Fox and Mayer (1995) define service delivery as the provision of public activities, benefits or satisfactions to the citizens. This study argues that ‘service delivery’ as a variable is widely used in developmental studies in the public sector. Service delivery in public entities is defined by political promises and commitments by the government agencies and other political players whose credibility is largely shaky (Keefer, 2004).

Harris and Wild (2013) argue that where promises by governments and political leaders to provide broad-based public goods are not seen as credible by voters, policy platforms become less relevant and service delivery-based political competition tends to operate on the basis of the fulfilment of clientelist dynamics with developmental solutions being hindered. Kobia and Bagaka (2013) point out that to achieve better service delivery, political, fiscal and administrative powers were devolved from the national government to 47 counties. Unlike other countries where the devolution process of the three powers has been sequentially attained, in Kenya the experience has been a ‘big bang’ where the three types of decentralisation were achieved at once with the ratification of the constitution, bringing to light challenges of leadership, ethics and accountability.

The public sector in Kenya comprises the national government, county governments and public corporations. They provide basic goods and services to the economy that either are not or cannot be provided by the private sector. According to Kervasdoue (2007), evaluation is necessary for efficient service delivery in the public sector. Governments and their bureaucrats must be accountable to their citizens about the use of taxes and other public funds and assets.

According to Schutte (2014), the public service can also be defined as a body of government officials employed in civil occupations that are neither political nor judicial. The reform strategies the government of Kenya has adopted since 2003 in order to improve service delivery in the public service include: Rapid Results approach, Contracting, Transformative Leadership, Values & Ethics and Institutional Capacity building (GOK, 2006). Since the 1990’s the Government of Kenya has been implementing Civil Service Reform Programs with the aim of reducing the Government wage bill streamlining and rationalizing Government ministries and departments, strengthening personnel and payroll controls and building capacity (GOK, 2006). This culminated in the new constitution 2010 which introduced two forms of government; The National Government and County Governments (Ghai, 2011).

1.1.6 County Governments in Kenya

A County government in Kenya is one of the two forms of government. The other form is the National Government. Article 1(4) of the Constitution says that people exercise their sovereign power at both the national level and the county level. Article 6(1) divides the territory of Kenya into the counties specified in the First Schedule. The governments at the national and county levels are distinct and inter-dependent but conduct their mutual relations based on consultation and cooperation (Article 6:2). Devolution of power is also one of the national values and principles of governance under Article 10.

Therefore, in exercising peoples’ power, the Constitution assigns functions to the County Governments in Kenya to perform. Counties may perform other functions assigned through an Act of Parliament. The County Governments Act expounds further on the functions that county governments in Kenya should perform. Section 5 of the County Governments Act tries to expound on Article 1(4) of the Constitution with regard to the functions of the County Governments in Kenya (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devolution).

The study will offer insight to the policy makers with regard to strategic leadership and its interaction with service delivery which will lead to better policies. The findings can aid the audit, review and strengthening of existing policies aimed at ensuring accountability and good ethical practices in public entities. This will enhance the African perspective and voice into the policies and thus enhance ease of application and relevance to Kenyan and African contexts. The research will contribute to application of the NPM, the Upper Echelon Theory and the agency theory on issues related to strategic leadership, accountability and ethical practices and their interaction with service delivery and the ensuing challenges. The theoretical contribution will be in the context of public entities locally with a focus of county governments.

The foregoing chapter provides a background of the research study. The chapter begins by devoting a discussion linking theoretical arguments and the concepts upon which the study is grounded. The chapter then gives a brief discussion on each key concept under consideration in the study including service delivery, strategic leadership, accountability and ethical practices.  The chapter goes on to present the conceptual, contextual and methodological research issues which will be the concern of this study. The chapter then outlines the objectives which will guide the study. The chapter goes on to discuss the value of the study. The next chapter will review the literature relevant to the issues under study.

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