Training Course



Integrity is a vital concept and topic not only in government and governance but in all sectors of society. The main question which concerns this intriguing concept and topic is, what is “Integrity?” Everybody is talking about and desire to have integrity in the individuals and the organisations but what exactly is being talked about and what exactly is desired is a subject of study.

What is integrity?

A Latin word ‘Integras’ which means intact, whole, entire, complete is in sync with the word ‘Integrity’ which also indicate wholeness or completeness, consistent and coherent in principles and values. There are many perspectives which have been discussed in the literature on ethics and integrity, (Huberts, 2014, pp. 39–44) using the keywords wholeness and coherence; professional responsibility; moral reflection; value(s) like incorruptibility, laws and rules; moral values and norms; and exemplary behaviour.

Integrity can be seen as professional wholeness or responsibility and this definition takes into account the environment. “Integrity means that a professional exercises his tasks adequately, carefully and responsibly, taking into account all relevant interests” (Karssing, 2001/2007, p. 3).

There are other perspectives of ‘Integrity’ which focus on one or more specific values such as incorruptibility; honesty; impartiality; accountability (Dobel, 1999, 2016). Another view relates integrity to virtues such as wisdom; justice; courage; and temperance (Becker & Talsma, 2016; van Tongeren & Becker, 2009).

A close analysis reveals that there is a characteristic relationship between integrity and morals; in other words, what is right and wrong, good or bad. Some scholars sees integrity as open reflection on morals (Carter, 1996). Other see integrity as an umbrella concept which fuses the values that are relevant for the official being judged.

This broader view is a must because law offers very broad guidelines but there are grey areas while laying down principles of complying with the relevant moral values and norms especially while making decisions in government and governance. This interpretation is close to “a general way of acting morally” and “morality” (Brenkert, 2004, p. 5), or, as De George (1993) put it, “acting with integrity is the same as acting ethically or morally” (p. 5).

There is yet another view which emphasises that integrity is the “stuff of moral courage and even heroism” (Brenkert, 2004, p. 5), which means that it “stands for complying in an exemplary way with specific moral standards” (Van Luijk, 2004, p. 39) and thus ‘Integrity’ must be strived for.

The original approach of integrity sees it as a quality of acting in accordance with relevant moral values, norms, and rules. Integrity is considered to be synonymous with being moral or ethical.  However, what is often missing is the definition of a valid moral value or norm?

Author: Cmde Naresh Chhabra



Integrity can be defined in terms of moral values, norms and rules provided there is clear understanding of ethics, morals and morality. There are different interpretations of the terms in the realms of philosophy and the study of ethics. Actually both are concerned with ‘right and wrong’ or ‘good or evil’.

Ethics and moral sometimes appear same but in practice are different from each other. Morals are drawn from customs and practices of a group or society whereas Ethics are specific code of conduct defined for the task in a particular job or assignment. Integrity in this sense is a combination of both covering dedication, belongingness accountability towards the work assigned to us in public service.

Kaptein and Wempe (2002, p. 40–42) distinguished six features exhibited by moral pronouncements. They concern “right and wrong” (a normative judgment that expresses approval or disapproval, evokes shame or pride), but they also appeal to the general consent; are not a matter of individual taste; apply to everyone in similar circumstances and involve the interests of others (interpersonal); and the interests at stake are “fundamental” (2002, p. 42). Thus, not all values and norms are relevant for ethical or moral judgments. Ethics are not, for example, concerned with what is beautiful (aesthetics), what is conventional (etiquette), or what works (science and technology; e.g., “ISO norms”—worldwide proprietary, industrial, and commercial standards developed by the International Organization for Standardization). Integrity is about “moral” norms and values, those that refer to what is right or wrong, good or bad. The features also refer to a general consent with relevance for everyone in the same circumstances. That relates to “valid” moral values and norms.

Morality and ethics refer to what is right or wrong, good or bad. They concern values and norms that people feel rather strongly about, because serious interests are involved that affect the community of which they are a part. Values and norms are the basis for judgment and decision making. The roles they play, however, are different. A “value” is a belief or quality that contributes to judgments about what is good; right; beautiful; or admirable. Values thus have weight in the choice of action by individuals and collectives. A norm is more specific. Norms tell us whether something is good or bad, right or wrong, beautiful or ugly. For types of behavior, they answer the question “what is the correct thing to do?” (De Graaf, 2003; Fijnaut & Huberts, 2002, pp. 10–11; Van der Wal, 2008, pp. 10–12).

Conceptual Background

Integrity is about the ethics of behaviour of everyone involved in governance. It is argued that it is a relevant concept for an understanding of governance. To avoid misunderstanding: the integrity perspective cannot be an alternative for “ethics theory” including the work on administrative ethics (Lewis & Gilman, 2012; Menzel, 2016; Svara, 2015). The integrity perspective is meant to be embedded in existent “approaches” and theory development. In line with the integrity framework, an integrity violation concerns behaviour that violates the relevant moral values and norms. What can go wrong and what actually goes wrong in governance? And how does this relate to international research with a focus on “corruption” (Anechiarico, 2017; Bland, 2014; Bull & Newell, 2003; Graycar & Smith, 2011; Heywood, 2015; Johnston, 2005; Klitgaard, 1988; Mungiu-Pippidi, 2015; Rose-Ackerman, 2006; Rothstein, 2011; Sampford et al., 2006), although there is broader research as well, highlighting different types of unethical behavior or integrity violation in public administration (De Graaf et al., 2018; Lewis & Gilman, 2012; Menzel, 2016; Salminen, 2010; Svara, 2015; also Hardi, Heywood, & Torsello, 2015)?

Integrity in Indian Philosophy is living self with the God who has enabled us to perform. In other words, we are just means to accomplish a task as per prescribed rules and procedures. This also means ‘detachment’ covering our job as duty(seva) which remains our purpose of life beginning from our own body, family, society, nation and the job which we undertake from the grace of god.

Following are the types of behaviour seen as integrity violations (Huberts, 2014; Lasthuizen, Huberts, & Heres, 2011; Vardi & Weitz, 2004).:-

  1. Corruption: bribing
  2. Corruption: favoritism
  3. Conflict of interest (gifts, jobs, etc.)
  4. Fraud and theft of resources
  5. Waste and abuse of resources
  6. Break rules/misuse power (also for the organization)
  7. Misuse and manipulation of information
  8. Indecent treatment (intimidation, discrimination)
  9. Private time misconduct


The first question which arises at the outset is, why is the focus on integrity (violations) instead of on the concept of corruption (Huberts, 2007; Huberts, Lasthuizen, & Peeters, 2006)? The first and most obvious reason is that a focus on the moral dimension of (the behaviour of) individuals, organizations, and even countries (and what behaviour violates relevant moral values and norms), by definition seek a broad framework.

The next question is how subtypes of “corrupt” or “unethical” behaviour (or integrity violations) relate to basic definitions of corrupt behaviour in the literature? Corruption can be interpreted as acting in a particularistic interest because of advantages promised or given and thus includes bribery (often found in legal frameworks) but also influence peddling, kickbacks, and forms of favouritism and conflict of interest.

The second interpretation of corruption is in line with the definitions in use by international anti-corruption organizations: corruption as the abuse of office for private gain (Pope, 2000; also central in the work by Transparency International on the topic, including the Corruption Perception Index,

The above discussed definitions portray corruption as a breach of moral behavioural norms and values involving private interests but do not see the presence of a third party or interest as conditional (which brings fraud, theft, and embezzlement under the corruption “umbrella”). Therefore, the broadest, definition views corruption as synonymous with all types of wrongdoing by functionaries in terms of acting contrary to the public interest. In its broadest form, corruption then becomes synonymous with the vices, maladies, and sicknesses of politics and bureaucracy. In this latter definition, corruption is identical to unethical behaviour or the violation of integrity.

Take away points

Phenomena such as bribery; patronage and favouritism; private time misbehaviour; fraud; intimidation and discrimination; and so forth might be caused by different characteristics of the involved individuals, the organization (culture and structure), and the environment (De Graaf, von Maravic, & Wagenaar, 2010).

Integrity of governance means paying attention to the moral values and norms of policy making and policy implementation. Although many different instruments are available and multiple institutions can be created, a crucial starting point is that the integrity and anti-corruption issue is seen as important and placed high on the agenda.

The fact that integrity concerns all members of an organization or system makes the involvement of leadership on all levels inherently important to policy success. This involvement is part of the aforementioned necessity to position integrity high on the agenda. Leadership, however, is no panacea. The extent to which different types of ethical leadership influence consciousness and behaviour varies.

Research on agencies and systems has suggested that it is important to have specific institutions or actors that have integrity and anti-corruption as their primary task and responsibility. Having such an actor opens windows of opportunity and gives credibility to the topic.

On strategies based on compliance or values, on the focus on what goes wrong (violations) or on moral awareness (values), there is only one credible answer: doing both or balancing strategies is the most effective and both strategies are relevant for awareness as well as limiting wrong behaviour. And these must concern all types of officials (politics, bureaucracy) at all levels (from elite to street level).

Existing institutions tend to be self-satisfied about their role, whereas supporters of the importance of integrity and anti-corruption sometimes seem to favour “the more, the better,” which can seriously undermine the credibility of integrity initiatives. Hence, more reflection and research on what works is essential, in terms of not only agencies but also instruments and systems.

Even though arguments were presented in favor of broadening the perspective from corruption to integrity, there also exists the danger of broadening the scope too much (Huberts, 2014). There are, as Caiden (1991) so convincingly argued, many bureau pathologies. Not all of these should be considered integrity violations, however; a functionary can do something wrong and make mistakes, even stupid mistakes, without committing an integrity violation. Yet, when this distinction becomes too blurred, an organization loses sight of what is morally important and what is not, possibly leading to negative outcomes. For example, employees may become too afraid to risk doing anything wrong or may become paralyzed, with good reason, by the idea that making a mistake might lead to an investigation of their integrity. To avoid such repercussions, therefore, organizations must clearly identify their central moral values and norms and must develop organizational ethics that clarify what type of (moral) value or norm violation is considered serious enough to warrant an investigation of integrity. Although never easy, this undertaking is crucial for any organization that takes ethics and integrity seriously and that wants to prevent the oversimplification and/or overgeneralization or “integritism” (Huberts, 2014, pp. 127–128).


A number of conclusions seem relevant in response to the basic questions. Integrity is an intriguing concept, with more prominence in (governance) practice and research. Everybody desires it, it is crucial for all of us, which makes it important to clarify its meaning. The basics are that integrity is about the moral quality of behaviour in the process of governance, not about the content of decisions and societal outcomes. It concerns “moral quality,” the essentials of good or bad in how to operate, with reference to the “valid” moral values and norms in the eyes of the relevant publics. That makes it important to be aware of “integritism,” the misuse of the topic, with inappropriate accusations that functionaries did not act with integrity, without good reason, and with a political or opportunistic background. This perspective relates to concepts/views with “ethics” or “corruption” or “good governance” in the center but it also offers specific elements for research and policy.

Contents and References



Reading Material (3 to 5)


Video/Ted Talk







Niti  Aayog Papers


National Training Policy


IIPA Publications

Dissertation on Possibilities of Assessing Moral Values and Integrity of Civil Service Entrants by MK Pandey.

Dissertation on Transparency in Public Contracts and Role of Integrity Pact by SK Yagnik

IIPA Research & Evaluation


Research Papers


Any Other Related Materials


Mann ki Baat

Not Directly but through talk on GST and other issues




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Dr K K Pandey

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