Case study

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You are an officer in a government department responsible for awarding contracts for public infrastructure projects. A major construction company, known for its influential connections, submits a bid for a significant road construction project. The bid is technically sound and offers cost savings, but you have reliable information that the company has a history of compromising quality in its projects.

Your superiors have indicated that they expect the project to be awarded to this company due to political pressure. However, you are concerned that awarding the contract to this company could lead to substandard road construction that might endanger public safety and waste taxpayer money.


What would you do in this situation, and how would you handle the ethical dilemma?


In this scenario, you are faced with a significant ethical dilemma involving the conflicting interests of political pressure, potential compromise of quality, and public safety. To navigate this situation ethically and responsibly, you could consider the following steps:

Gather Information: Make sure you have accurate and reliable information about the company’s history of compromising quality. Collect evidence to support your concerns.

Consult Colleagues: Discuss the situation with trusted colleagues or mentors to gain different perspectives and insights. Seek advice from individuals who have experience in similar situations.

Analyze the Options: Carefully weigh the potential consequences of each option. Consider the impact on public safety, taxpayer money, and your own ethical principles.

Document Concerns: Prepare a formal document outlining your concerns about the company’s history and potential risks. Include data and evidence to support your claims.

Discuss with Superiors: Schedule a meeting with your superiors to express your concerns and present the evidence you have collected. Emphasize the importance of public safety and responsible use of taxpayer funds.

Propose Alternatives: If the company’s bid is indeed technically sound and cost-effective, propose alternative measures to ensure quality control. This might involve stricter monitoring, third-party inspections, or penalties for substandard work.

Stay Principled: Maintain your commitment to ethical principles and public interest. If your concerns are not adequately addressed, be prepared to escalate the issue through proper channels, such as higher authorities or whistleblowing mechanisms, if available.

Self-Reflection: Continuously reflect on your actions and decisions, ensuring that you are acting in accordance with your own ethical values and the best interests of the public.


Remember, the UPSC Ethics paper is not looking for a specific “right” answer, but rather an understanding of how you approach ethical dilemmas, the principles you consider, and your ability to make reasoned and ethical decisions in complex situations. Your response should demonstrate integrity, accountability, and a commitment to the welfare of the public.

Prince Luthra (UPSC CSE AIR 577)

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