This study is clear evidence that we need to STRENGTHEN ethical standards in Tennessee, not weaken them. Public confidence in government is extremely low. Its time to start rebuilding that trust.
Washington, DC – With employees at all levels of government witnessing a high incidence of ethical misconduct – and with many local and state entities, particularly, failing to establish strong ethics programs – the public sector is at considerable risk of seeing major ethics scandals unfold, the Ethics Resource Center's National Government Ethics Survey (NGES) shows.
"The next Enron could occur within government," said ERC President Patricia Harned, Ph.D. "Almost one quarter of public sector employees identify their work environments as conducive to misconduct – places where there is strong pressure to compromise standards, where situations invite wrongdoing and/or employees' personal values conflict with the values espoused at work. Government – especially at the state and local levels – simply is not doing enough to address the problem."
Slightly less than one-third (30%) of federal workers surveyed believe their organizations have well-implemented ethics and compliance programs, which ERC has found greatly reduce the incidence of misconduct. Only one in 10 said there is, indeed, a strong ethical culture in their federal workplace. But the results were considerably less impressive at the state level (where only 14% saw strong ethics programs and a mere 7% perceive a truly ethical culture) and in local government (where the figures were 14% and 9%, respectively).
Almost two thirds of local government employees (63%) said they observed at least one type of misconduct in the previous year. At the state level, the rate of reported misconduct was 57%, while 52% of federal workers had witnessed ethics breeches. In the aggregate, 57% of public servants surveyed had observed misconduct in the past year. There has been no improvement since ERC's last survey of government employees in 2005, and the rate is worse than that of the biennial survey in 2003.
Local government had the highest level of workers who witnessed misconduct but did not report it – 34%. That compares with 29% at the state level and 25% within federal agencies.