The problem of ethics and lack of values-based cultures within Papua New Guinea (PNG) public sector organisations has, for many years, been blamed for the country’s inefficient and ineffective public sector. To rectify the endemic incivility in the PNG public service, selected groups of PNG public servants have been attending ethics and leadership courses at the Pacific Institute of Leadership and Governance (PILAG) every year since 2015.
A recent study based on inteviews of some of these public servants found training PNG public servants on ethics and values-based leadership will not necessarily improve their ethical behaviours at their workplaces. This finding was based on an assessment of the Australian Government-supported intervention and captured in the PNG NRI Discussion Paper No. 189 titled “The contribution of ‘Precinct’ training to ethical and values-based leadership in Papua New Guinea public service: Empirical evidence from a Tracer survey”.
The study compared the outcomes (in terms of demonstrating six ethical values: honesty, integrity, accountability, respect, wisdom, and responsibility in the workplace) for public servants who took part in the ethics and leadership courses with their counterparts who did not.
The authors (Dr. Francis Odhuno, Associate Professor Eugene Ezebilo and Mr. Jeremy Goro of PNG NRI) found no significant relationship between taking ethics and leadership courses and demonstrating any of the six ethics and values-based leadership traits among PNG public servants. Thus, practising ethics and values-based leadership in the workplace may not be different between participants who completed ethics and leadership courses and those who did not.
“Some PNG public servants can, however, demonstrate integrity, respect, and responsibility if they believe that they learnt something new, not necessarily from the ethics and values-based leadership courses, during their time at PILAG. Taking ethics and leadership courses does, therefore, not seem to be a determining factor in PNG public servants’ demonstration of ethical leadership traits. Instead, some public servants are able to consistently demonstrate integrity and respect without attending ethics and leadership courses,” the authors stated.
The implication, according to the report, is that public servants could be facing barriers to the extent that ethics and values-based leadership training alone may not be sufficient for inculcating individuals ethical behaviours, or for building ethics and values-based cultures within their workplaces. And this is likely to derail the implementing of the Ethics and Values-based Executive Leadership and Management Capability Framework championed by the Department of Personnel Management.
The report suggests some options for improving and/or supplementing and assessing the impact of future ethical leadership training or similar interventions.
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Authorised for release by:
Dr. Osborne Sanida
PNG NRI Acting Director