n South African Journal of Labour Relations - The role of codes of conduct in promoting ethical conduct in the South African public service : forum

Volume 32, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0379-8410
  • E-ISSN: 2520-3223



Codes of conduct are essential to ensure that public employees fulfil their obligations in an ethical manner and that societal values are protected against unethical conduct. The South African public service is characterised by manifestations and allegations of unethical conduct. This article deals with the role of codes of conduct in enhancing ethical conduct in the South African public service. The article begins by identifying the role of moral development theory in promoting ethical conduct in society, and specifically in the public service. Two types of codes of conduct are, namely phantom codes of ethics and (formal) codes of conduct. Attention is also paid to the objectives, characteristics, advantages and limitations of codes of conduct. Finally, the article deals with how the South African public service can make codes of conduct living documents. It argues that rule-based codes of conduct do little to promote cultures of excellence. To foster an ethos of professionalism, therefore, public service departments should move from codes of conduct to codes of ethics.

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