There are two major arguments that appear to have shaped our thinking on ethics in governance: first, ‘the publicness’ of public administration is fully articulated if the administrators remain sensitive to their ethical commitments of contributing to the public well-being. This is easier said than done, given the political complexities in which administration is located. There has been a continuous decay in the traditional moral code as a result of ‘the falling away’ from religious belief. What appears to have significantly dented public administration is a decline in three moral qualities in relation to the conduct of governance, which are: ‘optimism, courage and fairness tempered by charity’.1 This is elaborated further by Dwight Waldo in seeking to conceptualize public morality in governance. By providing a list of 12 obligations,2 Waldo defined ‘public morality’ as:

(1) obligation to the constitution, (2) obligation to law, (3) obligation to nation or country, (4) obligation to democracy, (5) obligation to organizational–bureaucratic norms, (6) obligation to profession and professionalism, (7) obligation to family and friends, (8) obligation to self, (9) obligation to middle-range collectivities, (10) obligation to public interest or general welfare, (11) obligation to humanity or the world, (12) obligation to religion or God.

Given the contextual nature of public administration, one has also to be careful in articulating ‘public well-being’, which is subject to change in view of new demands on governance. Since public administration is constantly being reinvented, it is theoretically impeding and empirically inconceivable to think of a universal model capable of providing a meaningful explanation of the reality.