THE ROLE OF ETHICS AND PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY IN FOSTERING LOCAL GOVERNMENT DEVELOPMENT
This study examined the role of ethics and public accountability in fostering local government development in Lagos State having Badagry Local Government Area (LGA) as its case study. The study adopted descriptive research design, as a total of ninety three (93) copies of questionnaire were administered to the respondents during the study; while a total of ninety (90) copies were properly filled and returned for the analysis. The objectives of the study were to evaluate the cause and effect factors underlying ethics and public accountability towards local government development in Lagos State vis-à-vis service delivery, community growth and development, bribery and corruption, fraud, and weak law enforcement mechanism. The data analysis and test of the stated hypothesis revealed thatethical conduct is positively related to local government development. The study also showed thatpublic accountability is a significant predictor of community growth and development. The study recommended that leadership should display transparency, honesty, probity, accountability, purposefulness and commitment to good ideals of the society before the followers will be convinced of the genuine of such crusade.
1.1 Background of the Study
There has been a considerable debate in the literature of political science and dating back to the period of Thomas Hobbes as to whether the state, as a sovereign entity, should be accountable to anyone or whether it should be treated as a moral and responsible agent. The consensus now seems to be that while the state must be self-accounting on the basis of the constitution and the laws of the country, the individuals who exercise power on behalf of the state whether appointed or elected, must be accountable for the actions they take on behalf of the state as a prerequisite for national development (Adamolekun, 2013).
One of the most important and significant features of most modern societies today is the emergence of a powerful state bureaucracy. This, has raised the issue of bureaucratic power which can be abused by the bureaucrats, either for selfish ends (especially for personal or family enrichment) or in the course of their dealings with private citizens. In regard to this latter issue, attention is usually drawn to the weak position of the citizens in relation to the powerful state bureaucracy. Most modern states have devised some methods of dealing with problems that may emerge from this interaction. In Nigeria, the public complaints commission, usually called the ombudsman system, has been established to act as a grievance redressing mechanism for the populace (Agarah, cited in Tunde and Omobolaji, 2009).
Apart from that there are some other internal mechanisms and control measures put in place to ensure that the bureaucracy conduct its business within some ethical parameters. These internal mechanisms not only provide an ethical environment within which the bureaucracy is expected to perform its responsibilities but also act as a form of accountability to foster national development in Nigeria. These are the civil service rules (CSR) which replaced the general orders bequeathed to the public service by the colonialists and the civil Service Handbook. The CSR is the grand norm for service conduct and it covers appointment to separation from the service, discipline, salary, leave, and reward for performance (Abdullahi, 2013).
Ethics means moral codes of conduct (Vittal, 2002). The concept of ethics occupied a central piece in the art of governance. In 172BC, the Babylonian code of Hammuurabi stipulated ethical rule of conduct for their judges and military officers. The Aristotle of the Greek had prevailed on the citizens as well as the public office holders to separate private activities and ownership from public activities and ownership. Both China and Britain as early as 622 BC had propagated the prominence of merit and non partisan service, as essential conditions for the public service in a bid to foster national development.
Every society must observe certain codes of conduct, else such society cannot achieve growth or attain national development. The same also applies to an organization. Ethics implies the idea of trust. If our society is to function well, we need to be able to trust one another, and expect our leaders to do their work well, obey the law, and try to make the world a better place. Such vices as mismanagement of public funds, cheating, stealing, and selfishness should be discouraged as they are actions capable of hindering national development in Nigeria (Ikotun, 2004).
Accountability involves giving an account of action taken, and being held to account for those actions. Public accountability is the complete and satisfactory account of the stewardship of a public officer in respect of the acquisition and application of the resources entrusted to him in the process of executing public policy and accomplishing the objectives in accordance with extant rules and regulations (Ekpe, 2013). The essential premise of accountability lies in the fact that those who exercise public power should be answerable for the exercise of that power. Public accountability, therefore, is linked to the notion of stewardship in the public domain.
Ethics and Accountability are twin concepts which generally seek to safeguard the conduct of organizations and society to achieve the desired human development. In public Service Ethics and Accountability principles are enshrined in the rules and regulations to ensure proper conduct of officials, corporate bodies and government organs, to facilitate efficient service delivery which should translate to national development. Ethics and Accountability therefore places an obligation on the Nigerian Public Service (Officials and Elected/Political appointees) to serve in a manner as to ensure the wellbeing of the citizenry as well as societal development. Hence, the need to investigate the role of ethics and public accountability in fostering local government development becomes sacrosanct.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The problem of unethical conduct and lack of accountability in leadership with its pervasive bearing on social cum economic development in Nigeria is multifaceted. Hence, a renowned novelist, Chinua Achebe, in 1984 attributes the root cause of the Nigerian problem to unethical conduct and lack of accountability. “The trouble with Nigeria,” Achebe argues, is simply a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land, climate, water, air, or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to their responsibility, to the challenge of personal example, which is the hallmark of meaningful growth and national development (Achebe, 1984).
Developmental research indicates that Nigeria’s public system is fraught with unaccountable leadership, corruption and weak bureaucratic institutions. It is an axiom that since attainment of political independence, Nigeria has never been governed by selfless, truly transformational and intellectually endowed leaders. That is, Nigeria has never selected its best citizens to positions of leadership. Mediocre leadership can only lead to mediocre government without any serious national growth and development.
Unethical conducts brings a nation no good. The resources meant for water supply, roads, education, health and other basic and social services that are captured and stolen by a handful of Nigerians through corrupt acts stultify economic and social development hence creeping poverty all over the place. In addition unethical conducts and lacks of public accountability undermines our democracy and promotes mediocrity and bad policies made by bad representatives. These translate to compromise of good governance and distort national growth and development. It is on this premise that this study seeks to explore the role of ethics and public accountability in fostering local government development in Lagos State with a specific reference to Badagry Local Government Area of Lagos State.
1.3 Objective of the Study
The major objective of this study is to assess the role of ethics and public accountability in fostering local government development in Lagos State. While other specific objectives are:
i. To examine the effect of ethical conduct on local government development.
ii. To find out whether public accountability has a significant effect on community growth and development.
iii. To examine the relationship between public accountability and service delivery in Badagry Local Government Area of Lagos State.
1.4 Research Questions
The research will be guided by the following research questions:
1. Does ethical conduct have any effect on local government development?
2. Is public accountability a significant predictor of community growth and development?
3. What is the effect of corruption on service delivery in local government system?
1.5 Research Hypotheses
The under listed hypotheses will be tested at 5% level of significance:
Ho: There is no significant relationship between ethical conduct and local government development.
Hi: There is a significant relationship between ethical conduct and local government development.
Ho: Public accountability is not a significant predictor of community growth and development.
Hi: Public accountability is a significant predictor of community growth and development.
Ho: There is no significant relationship between corruption and service delivery in local government system.
Hi: There is a significant relationship between corruption and service delivery in local government system.