Ethics Assessments


What Is An Ethics Assessment?

To what extent do ethical standards influence decision-making by both the agency and individuals within the agency?   An assessment can help an agency answer this question. There are three kinds:1

  1. Compliance-Analyzes the degree to which one’s ethics program meets the standards required by law and the degree to which both the organization’s and individuals’ behavior satisfies legal requirements.
  2. Cultural-Explores how employees and other stakeholders feel about the organization’s standards and behavior, including the perceived priorities and ethical effectiveness of individuals and sub-units of the organization, as well as the organization as a whole.
  3. Systems-Assesses the degree to which the ethical principles, guidelines and processes are integrated within the organizational system.

Every agency should on a periodic basis, perform a compliance check as part of its minimum due diligence with respect to ethics laws. Although compliance with ethics laws is a floor-and not a ceiling-for ethical conduct, it is nonetheless an important for an agency to assure itself it is meeting minimum legal requirements for its practices.

Ethics assessments can serve either as reassurance that the agency’s ethical house is in order or as an early warning of potential ethical blind spots that, if left un-addressed, could lead to embarrassment or worse down the road.


1Navran, Frank J., Ethics Audits: You Get What You Pay For, Ethics Resource Center 1998 (


Assessing An Agency’s Ethics Culture: A Tool

A key question for local agencies is the degree to which ethical standards influence decision-making by both the agency and individuals within the agency.  The Institute for Local Government and International City/County Management Association have developed a tool to assist agencies in answering this question.


Ethics Systems Toolkit
George Mason University Student Project

Ethics Survival: A Local Government Manager’s Guide to Assessing Ethical Health and Administering Necessary Care to Ethics Programs is a graduate student group project.