Probity in Governance

Last Updated: June 2023 (Probity in Governance)

Probity in Governance

This article deals with a topic titled ‘ Probity in Governance .’ This is part of our series on ‘Ethics’. For more articles, you can click here.

What is Probity?

Probity in Governance
  • The dictionary meaning of probity is uprightness, integrity and incorruptibility. In a broader sense, probity is the superset that includes all good qualities, including integrity. 
  • It is an Ethical Value (i.e. wrt society) in contrast to integrity, which is Moral Value. Integrity is defined as doing the right thing that is correct to yourself, but probity is doing the right thing that is correct according to all, including you. Hence, to ensure probity, one should take preventive measures so that no one ever questions one’s actions. 

Importance of Probity for Civil Servants

Probity is very important for Civil Servants because 

  1. They work under the doctrine of public trust. Probity in governance helps in maintaining that trust. 
  2. Civil Servants enjoy a lot of discretion. Probity in governance can help civil servants to take their decisions objectively.
  3. Probity in governance is important to uphold the legitimacy of the system and the belief that the actions of the state will be for the welfare of the beneficiaries. 
  4. Checks and Balances: These help in checking the abuse and misuse of power by various organs 
  5. Reduced Politicization of Bureaucracy: It helps address nepotism, favouritism, political partisanship etc.

Philosophical basis of Probity

1. Western Philosophy on Probity

1.1 Virtue Ethics

  • Virtue ethics emphasizes cultivating moral virtues as the foundation of ethical behaviour. According to virtue ethics, individuals should strive to develop and exhibit probity in their personal and professional lives.

1.2 Deontological Ethics

  • Deontological ethics, often associated with the philosopher Immanuel Kant, focuses on moral duties and principles. Deontological ethics emphasizes that individuals have a moral obligation to act with probity, regardless of the consequences.

1.3 Utilitarianism

  • Utilitarianism, developed by philosophers like Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, advocates for actions that maximize overall happiness or utility. From a utilitarian perspective, probity can be seen as promoting the greater good by fostering trust, fairness, and accountability in personal and societal interactions.  

1.4 Social Contract Theory

  • Social contract theory, developed by philosophers like Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, proposes that individuals enter into a social contract, implicitly or explicitly, to establish a just and orderly society. Probity can be seen as a fundamental principle within the social contract, as it involves individuals fulfilling their moral obligations and adhering to agreed-upon norms for the collective benefit of society.

2. Indian Philosophy on Probity

2.1 Dharma

  • Dharma is a fundamental concept in Indian philosophy, which emphasizes the idea of righteousness, honesty, and integrity in all actions. In the context of probity, adherence to dharma requires individuals in public life to act ethically, transparently, and with a sense of moral duty towards the public they serve.

2.2 Satyagraha

  • Satyagraha, meaning “truth-force” or “soul-force,” is a philosophy propagated by Mahatma Gandhi. It emphasizes the power of truth and nonviolent resistance and encourages people to uphold uprightness, integrity and incorruptibility even in adversity.

2.3 Ethics of Public Service

  • The concept of seva or public service emphasizes the idea of selfless service to others and calls for people in power to act with integrity, honesty, and dedication.

How to enhance Probity in Governance?

  • Strong Legal and Regulatory Framework: Establishing robust laws and regulations that promote probity in governance, like anti-corruption legislation, whistleblower protection laws etc., creates deterrence for unethical behaviour and provides a foundation for probity.
  • Promoting Transparency and Accountability: Governments should adopt measures such as mandatory disclosure of information, open data initiatives etc., to ensure transparency in decision-making processes.  
  • Ethical Leadership and Institutional Culture: Promoting ethical leadership and fostering an institutional culture that values integrity is crucial for enhancing probity. 
  • Strengthening Public Financial Management: Emphasizing accountability in the management of public funds helps prevent corruption and ensures the efficient use of resources.
  • Encouraging Citizen Participation and Engagement: Engaging citizens in governance processes promote probity. This involvement creates a sense of citizen ownership and oversight, making the governance process more transparent and accountable.
  • Strengthening Anti-Corruption Measures: Corruption is a significant impediment to probity. Governments should establish and strengthen anti-corruption laws and bodies.
  • Enhancing Ethics Education and Training: Incorporating ethics education and training programs for public officials can help foster a culture of probity in governance.
  • International Cooperation and Exchange of Best Practices: Collaborating with international organizations and other countries can provide valuable insights and best practices for enhancing probity in governance.  
  • Other Measures
    • Effective external and internal complaint and redressal procedures should be in place.
    • Government should undertake measures like a social audit.
    • Public Servants should avoid Conflict of Interest. 
    • Ethics audits should be conducted regularly to identify risks to integrity.  

Steps taken by the Government to ensure Probity in Governance

Prevention of Corruption Act

  • The Prevention of Corruption Act of 1988 is a comprehensive legislation that defines and punishes various forms of corruption. 

Right to Information Act

  • RTI enables the citizens to ensure probity in governance through citizen activism. 

Whistleblowers (Protection) Act

  • It protects whistleblowers against reprisal who expose corruption and wrongdoing in the government. This act encourages individuals to come forward and report corruption, contributing to probity in governance.

Central Vigilance Commission

  • It advises the government in matters related to maintaining integrity in administration.

Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013

  • It envisages an institution of ombudsmen responsible for receiving complaints of corruption against public officials, conducting investigations, and prosecuting offenders.

Digital Governance Initiatives

  • The Indian government has introduced various digital governance initiatives like Digital India, e-Procurement, and Direct Benefit Transfer to minimize corruption and enhance transparency.  

GST Regime

  • GST replaced multiple indirect taxes with a unified tax structure, reducing opportunities for tax evasion and corruption.  

Grievance Redressal Mechanisms

  • The government has established grievance redressal mechanisms like the Centralized Public Grievance Redress and Monitoring System (CPGRAMS) to address citizen complaints and grievances.