Ethical dilemmas for Somali public service

By Abdrizak Abdinur


The reputation and success of governance depend upon the conduct of public servants, what the public believes about their conduct, and trust. It is therefore of fundamental importance that public servants act justly and fairly to all, not only paying lip service to ethical conduct but also ensuring that these are manifestly and undoubtedly seen to be done. All public functionaries upon accepting government employment must recognize that they have a special duty to be open, fair and impartial in their dealings with society. Personal self-interest should be subordinate to the public good in all circumstances, especially if circumstances arise where the possibility of a conflict of interest may become an ethical dilemma.


A situation you decide to be a public officer really is not an easy work, it is a privilege to choose to serve your nation without any hesitation, it is indeed means to take responsibility on your shoulders and to assist your people in transparency way, one of the American eminent leaders John F Kenndy quotes was ‘’Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country’’.

Ethical dilemmas in the public sector are conditions in which an agent morally ought to adopt. Ethics is not something we have from our birth, it should be taught, exercised and practised (Craiova, 2016). Moreover, the meaning of ethics is contested.  While some authors define it in terms of what it is not, referring to matters such as misconduct, corruption, fraud and other types of illegal behaviour, others refer it to notions of integrity, honesty, personal values and professional codes.

Unethical conduct of public servants may result at minimizing the development of people and nations, Disorderliness and anarchy in a society, lack of investor confidence. Combination of these negatives lead to a lack of economic growth, and deterioration of trust by the citizen.

Professional public servants contribute hugely to the nation development in so many ways. Amongst them; a positive image of the public service , enhanced service delivery, and increased investor and citizen.

According to Transparency International  (2017) Corruption is  one of the leading causes and consequences of endemic political instability in Somalia, which has been ranked bottom of Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index every year since 2006. More over public officials’ misuse of public goods for private gain and the solicitation of bribes in exchange for basic services to the clan-based patronage networks used to obtain employment and political appointments. However, Somalia adopted a different era on its civil servant law which started from 1956 up to present. The last civil servant law was adapted in 2006 and known as law number 11 and presently there is ongoing amendment on it.

Nevertheless, the Somali constitution article 115 recognizes the value and the role of the public officer by saying “The civil service at all levels of government is a pledge to serve the people and shall be based on the values of the Constitution, compassion, transparency, community service, respect for administrative hierarchy, obedience, confidentiality, work ethics, efficiency, effectiveness, professionalism, protect principles of fairness, equality and best practices”. Also Article 116 of the constitution emphasizes the rights of a civil servant which mentions that civil servants may not be victimized for doing work related to their responsibility and dismissed from their job, transferred from office or be demoted unless there is legal and reasonable ground’’(Somali Provisional constitution, 2012).

Globally and especially in Africa, there is a greater awareness of the need for ethics, accountability and transparency in public life today. This realization has been supported by the emergence of a consensus that good governance and sound public administration underpin sustainable development ( United Nation,  2001) .

Unethical dilemmas practice by the public servants

According to the Commonwealth Association for Public Administration & Management report  (2010),  Some of the most common ethical dilemmas which public servants are confronted revolve around aspects such as:

Administrative Discretion: this related the way that the employee decide by violation or exercising power without following the rule and regulation laid down to the duty, so every public officer must be rational during the decision making

Corruption:  Misuse or stealing of public properties and using it for private interest or asking or accepting to take bribes or gifts for doing or having done an official work/duty.

Nepotism: The practice of nepotism (the appointment of relations and/ or friends to public positions, thereby ignoring the merit principle), may lead to the downgrading of the quality of the public service, this disrupts the esprit de corps and trust and resulting in a corrupt administration

Harassment: Overlooking acts of violation against the working system by the junior workers.

Information leaks: Official information is often of such a sensitive nature that disclosure of the information can lead to chaos, corrupt practices or, for some individuals, improper monetary gains. Leaking official information at a date before the public announcement thereof is a violation of procedural prescriptions and can be an ethical dilemma, Betrayal of Government secret.

Justifications of unethical dilemmas in the public servants

Public servants always provide justifications for unethical acts they may involve. Family problem might be one of them. A person may complain from financial crisis facing his family which can lead to corruption and looting. Pressure from the top management, inadequate knowledge about the code of conduct and civil servant regulations, Meeting Discrimination can also lead the official to suffer from ethical dilemmas at public service station.

Good ethical characteristics of public servants

Accountability: A Public Officer shall hold office in public trust and shall be personally responsible for his or her actions or inactions.

Discipline: A public Officer should behave in a manner as to conform with the rules, regulations and the code of conduct and ethics for the Public Service generally and codes of professional conduct for the specific professions.

Impartiality In carrying out public business, a Public Officer should give fair and unbiased treatment to all the public irrespective of gender, race, religion, disability or ethnic background. A Public Officer shall make choices based solely on merit, and must have confidence, truthfulness, sincerity, responsibility, and faith.

Conclusions and Recommendation on Strategies for promoting public service professionalism and ethics

According to Thozamile Richard (2015), strategic factors that encourage ethical conduct and professionalism in the public sector include training of public servants in basic skills to carry out official duties. Such training may include financial and resources management so that public servants can manage their own finance. Well-articulated and fair human resource policies on remuneration and conditions of service, training and development programs should be implemented, legalizing the Code of Conduct. These laws will then be enforced against misconduct ranging from unethical to criminal acts e.g. anti-corruption act policy.

Ethics is a vital character to the public officers. it provides accountability between the public and the administration. Adhering to a code of ethics ensures that the public receives what it needs reasonably. It also gives the administration guidelines for integrity in their operations. Good ethics of the public servants increase the productivity of the public institutions, and finally, the government must keep the rights of its service deliveries to get efficient and effective productivity in the public institutions.



Commonwealth Association for Public Administration & Management (CAPAM). (2010). CAPAM Featured Report: Ethical Dilemmas in the Public Service.

Craiova. (2016). Ethical dilemmas in the public sector.

Government, S. (2012). Somalia Provisional Constitution.

International, T. (2017). Somalia: Overview of corruption and anti-corruption Query.

somali civil servant law no 11 (2006). somali civil servant law No.11, (11), 1–39.

Thozamile Richard. (2015). Professional and Ethical Conduct in the Public Sector, 26–37.

  1. (2001). Public Service Ethics in Africa, .
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