The 9th International Anti-Corruption Conference
OECD countries struggle with problems of unethical behaviour and corruption. However, their management of these problems is aided by solid legal and institutional infrastructures which have been built up over time. In recent years, many OECD countries have attempted to strengthen public ethics through "aspirational efforts", such as codes of conduct, information campaigns and ethics training. In most transition countries, however, aspirational efforts are not enough and the basic legal and institutional infrastructure needs to be strengthened. The ongoing decentralisation of public administration in these countries creates new opportunities for graft if adequate control mechanisms are not put into place, and efforts to check corruption will not succeed without sustained, high-level political support.
There is no magic formula for stopping corruption. But experience has shown -- in countries at all stages of economic and democratic development -- that a successful strategy to combat corruption consists of many elements. These typically include actions aimed at increasing transparency in public institutions, clarifying expectations for regarding behaviour of public officials, enforcing laws effectively, improving operation of the courts, bolstering oversight of public bodies, and enhancing the quality of laws and regulations. Further, a serious anti-corruption campaign should involve a variety of societal actors, including the government, parliament, judiciary, civil society, business community, trade unions, educators, and media. OECD' s work on Ethics Management has been carried out under the leadership of its committee responsible for public management.
The potential tensions between traditional notions of public administration and new forms of public management are starting to emerge. It is perhaps in the area of ethics that these tensions are most evident. If there is too much control, it will be difficult for public servants to accomplish results. On the other hand, not enough control can lead to the wrong kind of actions. Citizens of democratic states now demand more of their governments and public administrations, and are no more likely to forgive inefficiency and waste than they are to overlook corruption. Where, then, should the balance lie?
Ethics should not be considered as a separate and distinct activity, but rather as an integral part of all management systems. Ethics is regulated in some form in all OECD Member countries, but it is impossible to regulate for every contingency facing public servants in their day-to-day activities. Indeed, often it is the confusion caused by the complexity and volume of rules that leads to bad behaviour. Too many rules may also result in overly risk averse behaviour; public servants are frightened to move for fear of putting a foot wrong. Moreover, if rules are out of step with reality, they will be seen as something to avoid or work around rather than used as guidance on how to act in that grey area between right and wrong.
Standards in public life are managed through a range of formal and informal institutions, systems, and conditions which together constitute this ethics infrastructure. Based on the experience of its Member countries, the OECD has identified three functional aspects of the ethics infrastructure -- guidance, management and control -- which together embrace the eight key elements of the ethics infrastructure. "Guidance" refers to political commitment, workable codes of conduct, and professional socialisation mechanisms. "Management" relates to the existence of an ethics co-ordinating body and supportive public service conditions. "Control" comprises an effective legal framework, efficient accountability mechanisms, and an active civil society providing public scrutiny. These eight elements are explained in greater detail below.
In the absence of sustained political commitment to ethical behaviour in the administration, efforts to encourage such behaviour will be in vain. Attempts to improve public sector ethics in OECD countries have been sponsored at the highest political levels, such as the United States President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency (1991); the Portuguese deontological charter launched by the Secretary of State for Administrative Modernisation in 1993; the UK Committee on Standards in Public Life set up by Prime Minister Major in 1994; and integrity measures sponsored by the Dutch Minister of the Interior (1995). Of course, political leaders also serve as important role models, and they should set a positive example.
Workable Codes of Conduct
Codes of conduct remain important even in OECD countries that have reduced rules applying to public servants and adopted more "managerial" styles of public management. Some countries (e.g. Australia, New Zealand) now have a broad public service code of conduct from which individual agencies design a purpose-built code to reflect their particular objectives and mission. In other countries (Netherlands, Norway) codes are all agency-based. The ethical issues confronting an employee of a defence ministry might vary significantly from those facing social security officials. Criticisms of codes include that they are too specific or too general, unworkable, unused, unknown, or simply that they are simplistic statements of rules are not the ideal medium for answering complicated ethical dilemmas faced by public servants.
Professional Socialisation Mechanisms
These are the processes by which public servants learn and adopt ethical norms, standards of conduct, and public service values. Training (induction and refreshers) is an essential element (including in ethics awareness), as are good role models (especially managers). Ethics now constitutes an integral part of the initial training of future managers in Belgium, while the new selection process for top managers used by the Finnish Ministry of Finance includes ethical considerations.
Ethics Co-ordinating Body
These take various forms -- parliamentary committees, central agencies, or specially created bodies -- and assume various functions; "watchdog" including investigation, such as France's permanent anti- corruption investigation commission; "general promoter" of public sector ethics, a role performed by Norway's Department of Public Administration; or "counsellor and advisor", like the United Kingdom Committee on Standards in Public Life. The existence of a co- ordinating body should not, however, be construed as absolving departments and managers of the responsibility for ensuring ethical conduct within their jurisdictions.
Supportive Public Service Conditions
If public servants are feeling underpaid, overworked and insecure, then they are less likely to embrace initiatives to improve performance including in the ethical domain. However, too much job security can also result in complacency. In any case, low pay is no excuse for illegal or unethical behaviour.
Effective Legal Framework
This is the set of laws and regulations which define standards of behaviour for public servants and enforce them through systems of investigation and prosecution. Poland recently adopted a law requiring public officials to declare their financial assets, property and business capital. In 1998, Japan tightened its policy toward the employment of one-time senior public officials in certain important posts in private companies upon which the officials' former ministries have influence.
The legal framework is the "teeth" in the overall ethics infrastructure. In reviewing its legal framework for ethics management , countries must first take stock of existing criminal codes and civil service laws, conflict of interest statutes and regulations which apply to public servants. At a minimum, this legislation should be clear and consistent. While the law is an inflexible tool for the day- to-day management of ethics, it provides an essential context.
Efficient Accountability Mechanisms
Accountability mechanisms set guidelines for government activities, for checking that results have been achieved, and that due process has been observed. They include internal administrative procedures, (requirements that activities or requests be recorded in writing), and comprehensive processes such as audits and evaluations of an agency's performance. They might also be external to the public service; for example, oversight mechanisms such as legislative or parliamentary committees. Whistle-blowing provisions are also important (that is, procedures for public servants to say no when asked to do something inappropriate or to expose wrongdoing committed by others). Accountability mechanisms should encourage ethical behaviour by making unethical activities hard to commit and easy to detect.
Active Civic Society
Ethics is everybody's responsibility, including that of an assertive media, which through its probing reporting helps citizens to act as watchdog over the actions of public officials. Freedom of information laws, such as the one adopted by Ireland in 1997 and a draft under consideration in the UK, can also play an important role here.
Building on work published in Ethics in the Public Service, the QECD, in 1998, surveyed 15 countries to determine the areas of corrupt or questionable activities that appear to be of most concern to governments, the measures being used against corruption in the public sector, and the methods used to evaluate the effectiveness of anti- corruption measures. The survey revealed that the areas of greatest concern to governments are those where the private sector comes into contact with public officials exercising discretion. The most common measures employed against corruption in the public sector include criminal and other legal sanctions, increasingly supplemented by greater transparency and decentralised management responsibility and control. Methods for evaluating the effectiveness of anti-corruption measures are less well-defined and largely take the form of reporting or periodic inspection.
RECOMMENDATION ON IMPROVING ETHICAL CONDUCT
On 23 April 1998, the OECD Council adopted the Recommendation on Improving Ethical Conduct in the Public Service (see Annex). The Recommendation is based on a set of twelve principles for managing ethics in the public sector developed and agreed by representatives of the OECD Member countries to support governments in their review of ethics management systems.
Through this instrument, the Council recommended that Member countries take action to ensure well-functioning institutions and systems for promoting ethical conduct in the public service by:
1. developing and regularly reviewing policies, procedures, practices and institutions influencing ethical conduct in the public service;
2. promoting government action to maintain high standards of conduct and counter corruption in the public sector;
3. incorporating the ethical dimension into management frameworks to ensure that management practices are consistent with the values and principles of public service;
4. combining judiciously those aspects of ethics management systems based on ideals with those based on the respect of rules;
5. assessing the effects of public management reforms on public service ethical conduct; and
6. using as a reference the Principles for Managing Ethics in the Public Service to ensure high standards of ethical conduct.
The Council also instructed the OECD committee responsible for public management issues to analyse information provided by Member countries on how they apply these principles; and to provide support to these countries in improving conduct in the public service (e.g. by facilitating information-sharing and disseminating promising practices). The Council also requested that this committee prepare a report for April 2000 examining practices in Member countries that have proved effective in a particular national context. The outline of the report to OECD Council on Progress in Improving Ethical Conduct in the Public Service (PUMA(99)8)) is now available on the PUMA website at: http://www.oecd.o2/puma/gvrnance/ethics/index.html.
PRINCIPLES FOR MANAGING ETHICS IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR
The twelve principles upon which the OECD Recommendation is based identify the functions of guidance, management or control against which public ethics management systems can be checked. The Principles draw on the experience of OECD countries, and reflect shared views of sound ethics management. They are the result of many months of deliberation among senior public service managers, which culminated in the convening of the "Symposium on Ethics in the Public Sector: Challenges and Opportunities for OECD Countries", held in Paris, 4-5 November 1997. This landmark meeting on public ethics brought together over 130 participants and observers from OECD countries, central and eastern European countries, and international organisations to exchange views on ethical challenges facing governments, and to identify approaches to ethics management.
The Principles, with a brief explanation of each, are as follows:4
Ethical Standards for Public Service Should be Clear
Public servants need to know the basic principles and standards they are expected to apply to their work and where the boundaries of acceptable behaviour lie. A concise, well-publicised statement of core ethical standards and principles that guide public service, for example in the form of a code of conduct, can accomplish this by creating a shared understanding across government and within the broader community.
Ethical Standards Should be Reflected in the Legal Framework
The legal framework is the basis for communicating the minimal obligatory standards and principles of behaviour for every public servant. Laws and regulations could state the fundamental values of public service and should provide the framework for guidance, investigation, disciplinary action and prosecution.
Ethical Guidance Should be Available to Public Servants
Professional socialisation should contribute to the development of the necessary judgement and skills enabling public servants to apply ethical principles in concrete circumstance. Training facilitates ethics awareness and can develop essential skills for ethical analysis and moral reasoning. Impartial advice can help create an environment in which public servants are more willing to confront and resolve ethical tensions and problems. Guidance and internal consultation mechanisms should be made available to help public servants apply basic ethical standards in the workplace.
Public Servants Should Know Their Rights and Obligations When Exposing Wrongdoing
Public servants need to know what their rights and obligations are in terms of exposing actual or suspected wrongdoing within the public service. These should include clear rules and procedures for officials to follow, and a formal chain of responsibility. Public servants also need to know what protection will be available to them in cases of exposing wrongdoing.
Political Commitment to Ethics Should Reinforce the Ethical Conduct of Public Servants
Political leaders are responsible for maintaining a high standard of propriety in the discharge of their official duties. Their commitment is demonstrated by example and by taking action that is only available at the political level, for instance by creating legislative and institutional arrangements that reinforce ethical behaviour and create sanctions against wrongdoing, by providing adequate support and resources for ethics-related activities throughout government and by avoiding the exploitation of ethics rules and laws for political purposes.
The Decision-Making Process Should be Transparent and Open to Scrutiny
The public has a right to know how public institutions apply the power and resources entrusted to them. Public scrutiny should be facilitated by transparent and democratic processes, oversight by the legislature and access to public information. Transparency should be further enhanced by measures such as disclosure systems and recognition of the role of an active and independent media.
There Should be Clear Guidelines for Interaction Between the Public and Private Sectors
Clear rules defining ethical standards should guide the behaviour of public servants in dealing with the private sector, for example regarding public procurement, outsourcing or public employment conditions. Increasing interaction between the public and private sectors demands that more attention should be placed on public service values and requiring external partners to respect those same values.
Managers Should Demonstrate and Promote Ethical Conduct
An organisational environment where high standards of conduct are encouraged by providing appropriate incentives for ethical behaviour, such as adequate working conditions and effective performance assessment, has a direct impact on the daily practice of public service values and ethical standards. Managers have an important role in this regard by providing consistent leadership and serving as role models in terms of ethics and conduct in their professional relationship with political leaders, other public servants and citizens.
Management Policies, Procedures and Practices Should Promote Ethical Conduct
Management actions should demonstrate an organisation's commitment to ethical standards. It is not sufficient for governments to have only rule-based or compliance-based structures. Compliance systems alone can inadvertently encourage some public servants simply to function on the edge of misconduct, arguing that if they are not violating the law they are acting ethically. Government policy should not only delineate the minimal standards below which a government official's actions will not be tolerated, but also clearly articulate a set of public service values that employees should aspire to.
Public Service Conditions and Management of Human Resources Should Promote Ethical Conduct
Public service employment conditions, such as career prospects, personal development, adequate remuneration and human resource management policies should create an environment conducive to ethical behaviour. Using basic principles, such as merit, consistently in the daily process of recruitment and promotion helps to ensure that the public service operates with integrity.
Adequate Accountability Mechanisms Should be in Place Within the Public Service
Public servants should be accountable for their actions to their superiors and, more broadly, to the public. Accountability should focus both on compliance with rules and ethical principles and on achievement of results. Accountability mechanisms can be internal to an agency as well as government-wide, or can be provided by civil society. Mechanisms promoting accountability can be designed to provide adequate controls while allowing for appropriately flexible management.
Appropriate Procedures and Sanctions Should Exist to Deal with Misconduct
Mechanisms for the detection and independent investigation of wrongdoing such as corruption are a necessary part of an ethics infrastructure. It is necessary to have reliable procedures and resources for monitoring, reporting and investigating breaches of public service rules, as well as commensurate administrative or disciplinary sanctions to discourage misconduct. Managers should exercise appropriate judgement in using these mechanisms when actions need to be taken.
OUTREACH TO TRANSITION COUNTRIES
While ethics-related problems are increasingly recognised as serious in OECD Member countries, they are generally seen as even more severe in countries with a communist past and working to complete the process of transition to healthy democracies with well-functioning market economies. In Central and Eastern Europe and the New Independent States, the lack of public sector ethics threaten not only the public administration, but economic growth and democracy as well. Undeveloped professional roles, lack of accountability and control mechanisms -- combined with low public sector wages -- make public servants vulnerable to improper conduct and foster maladministration. The heritage of authoritarian rule hinders the emergence of high ethical standards.
Through its outreach programmes, the OECD provides central and eastern European and NIS countries access to the accumulated experience and knowledge of its Member countries in formulating strategies to promote integrity, and encourages networking, mutual support and the exchange of ideas. Corruption is a problem of systemic failures, including weakness of the state, as evidenced by highly publicised cases of alleged embezzlement of foreign aid in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and purported money-laundering in Russia. In these and countless other instances, the reported abuse of public power for private gain was not confined to national borders. In the age of globalisation, anti- corruption efforts require international co-operation and partnerships.
The SIGMA Programme5 - a joint initiative of the OECD and the European Union, principally financed by the EU's Phare Programme - advises on building modern systems of public administration in 13 central and eastern European countries. These countries are seeking to achieve the standards of reliable and efficient administration found in European Union Member States, something they must do in order to fulfil the "Copenhagen criteria" for EU membership, and apply European Community legislation (the acquis communautaire).
Created in 1992, SIGMA advises central governments on the design and implementation of administrative reform plans; reviews proposed laws and strategies; assesses administrative frameworks, organises training and information-exchange events, and provides comparative information on public administration through published reports, checklists, an Internet site, and a bimonthly newsletter which often publishes articles on ethics and integrity in the public administration6. The initiative counsels central and eastern European officials on financial control, budgeting, public procurement and audit. In addition, it advises on developing a professional civil service, and on strengthening policy-making, co-ordination and regulation. SIGMA 's work is geared towards strengthening public institutions, which, when weak and underdeveloped, contribute to an environment in which corruption and other unethical behaviour can thrive.
Areas in which SIGMA works include the following:
Of particular importance for ethics, SIGMA counsels governments on the:
SIGMA has also contributed to the creation of specialised networks of public administration practitioners where, for example, auditors or heads of civil services can support each other through the exchange of experience, information, laws, and contacts in their field.7
In addition, SIGMA, together with Transparency International, has produced a regularly updated guide to internationally supported anti- corruption programmes in Central and Eastern Europe, and contributes to the OECD' s co-ordination of the informal Anti-Corruption Network for Transition Countries.8
OECD Council Recommendation on Improving Ethical Conduct in the Public
Having regard to Article 5 b) of the Convention on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development;
Considering that ethical conduct in the public service contributes to the quality of democratic governance and economic and social progress by enhancing transparency and the performance of public institutions;
Considering that increased public concern with confidence in government has become an important public and political challenge for OECD Member countries;
Recognising that public sector reforms are resulting in fundamental changes to public management that pose new ethical challenges;
Recognising that although governments have different cultural, political and administrative environments, they often confront similar ethical challenges, and the responses in their ethics management show common characteristics;
Recognising that Member countries are concerned to address ethical standards in public life by strengthening the efforts made by governments to improve ethical conduct;
Having regard to the political commitment of governments of Member countries, demonstrated by their actions to review and redefine their public service ethics framework;
Considering that public service integrity is essential for global markets to flourish and for international agreements to be respected;
Having regard to the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions which was signed on 17 December 1997;
Having regard to other recent developments which further advance international understanding and co-operation in promoting ethical culture in the public service, such as the Resolution on Action Against Corruption, including the International Code of Conduct for Public Officials passed by the United Nations on 12 December 1996, the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption adopted by the Organisation of American States in March 1996, the Programme of Action Against Corruption approved by the Council of Europe in November 1996, including the preparation of a model European Code of Conduct for Public Officials, and the adoption by the European Council of the Action Plan to Combat Organised Crime on 28 April 1997 and the Convention on the Fight Against Corruption Involving Officials of the European Communities or officials of Member States of the European Union on 26 May 1997;
Recognising the need of Member countries to have a point of reference when combining the elements of an effective ethics management system in line with their own political, administrative and cultural circumstances;
On the proposal of the Public Management Committee;
RECOMMENDS that Member countries take action to ensure well- functioning institutions and systems for promoting ethical conduct in the public service. This can be achieved by:
INSTRUCTS the Public Management Committee to:
Notes and References
The Public Management Committee, supported by the section of the OECD Secretariat known as the Public Management Service. Individually and collectively they are often referred to by the acronym "PUMA". See website at: http://www.oecd.orgpuma
For a good summary of ethical tensions in the public administration and development of the ethics infrastructure, see Managing Government Ethics, OECD, PUMA Policy Brief, Paris, February 1997,(http://www.oecd.orgpuma/gvmance/ethics/index.htm)
The survey and accompanying analysis appear in Public Sector Corruption, OECD, Paris, 1999. The publication also reports on recent trends in corruption prevention, areas of concern, and new initiatives. practices in Member countries that have proved effective in a particular national context. The outline of the report to OECD Council on Progress in Improving Ethical Conduct in the Public Service (PUMA(99)8)) is now available on the PUMA website at: httv://www.oecd.o2/puma/avrnance/ethics/index.html.
SIGMA - a joint initiative of the OECD and the European Union. principally financed by the EU's Phare Programme. The countries are Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. See website: http://www.oecd.org/puma/sigmaweb.
Launched in Istanbul in October 1998, the Anti-Corruption Network for Transition Countries brings donors and international NGOs together with public officials and representatives of civil society in Central and Eastern Europe and the New Independent States, to share information and provide mutual support on national and regional anti-corruption activities. The Network is managed by the OECD Secretariat, and maintains a web site supported financially by the United States Agency for International Development at: http://www.nobribes.org.
Cardona, Francisco, "Civil Services for the European Administrative Space," Public Management Forum, Paris, Volume V, Number 2, March- April, 1999, pages 4-5.
OECD, Ethics in the Public Service: Current Issues and Practice, Paris, 1996 (http://www.oecd.orgpumaIgvrnance/ethic5/pub5/eiP96/index.htm).
OECD, Managing Government Ethics (PUMA Policy Brief), Paris, February 1997 (http://www.oecd.org/pumaIgvrnance/ethic5/index.htm).
OECD, Principles for Managing Ethics in the Public Service (PUMA Policy Brief No. 4), Paris, May 1998 (http://www.oecd.orgIpumaIgvrnance/ethic5/index.htm).
Pope, Jeremy. "Combating Corruption - The Domestic Front: The Holistic Approach to Containing Corruption." Presentation to the 21st Century Trust, Queen's College, Cambridge, England, UK, 10-18 July 1998.
SIGMA, Public Management Forum, Paris, Volume IV, Number 6, November- December, 1998, and Volume V, Number 2, March-April, 1999 (http://www.oecd.org/puma/sigmaweb/iiew5ltr.htm).
UNDP, Corruption & Integrity Improvement Initiatives in Development Countries, New York, 1998, 174 Pages.