THE ETHICS WORK OF CERTAIN INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATIONS
: Civil Service Ethics for UPSC Exams
THE ETHICS WORK OF CERTAIN INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATIONS
3.1 Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD)
The Personnel Department of the Ministry of Finance has participated in the
OECD ethics work since 1995, when Finland, together with eight other member
countries, prepared a report on its own situation. On the basis of the reports
of the country reports7, the research report "Ethics in the Public Service:
Current Issues and Practice" was completed in 1996. The report presented factors
influencing ethical norms and compliance with them as well as measures taken in
the administration of these countries to support ethical management. The report
also introduced the new concept of ethics infrastructure, which is used to
promote independence and to prevent corruption.
A well-functioning Ethics Infrastructure supports a public sector environment
which encourages high standards of behaviour. Each function and element is a
separate, important building block, but the individual elements should be
complementary and mutually reinforcing. The elements need to interact to achieve
the necessary synergy to become a coherent and integrated infrastructure. The
elements of infrastructure can be categorised according to the main functions
they serve guidance, management and control noting that different elements may
serve more than one function.
Guidance is provided by strong commitment from political leadership; statements
of values such as codes of conduct; and professional socialisation activities
such as education and training.
Management can be realised through co-ordination by a special body or an
existing central management agency, and through public service conditions,
management policies and practices.
Control is assured primarily through a legal framework enabling independent
investigation and prosecution; effective accountability and control mechanisms;
transparency, public involvement and scrutiny. The ideal mix and degree of these
functions will depend on the cultural and political-administrative milieu of
The next phase of the ethics work was the publication in spring 1998 of a
12-point recommendation. The objective of the recommendation is to help the
member countries to evaluate institutions, systems and mechanisms which they use
to promote compliance with the ethical norms of public administration. In
accordance with the ethics infrastructure these contain guidance, management and
control norms with which the ethical management systems of public administration
can be compared. These principles are a codification of the experiences of the
OECD countries and they reflect the common ideas of the countries on what
ethical management should be like. The intention is that different member
countries emphasise those goals and methods that are applicable to their own
conditions in order to ensure compliance with the norms.
The principles may be applied at the national or at a level of lower
administration. Political leaders may use the principles in evaluating the
ethical management system and the extent to which the ethical norms are used in
administration. The principles are tools which each country uses according to
its own needs. They are not a separate entity; they are intended as a means for
incorporating ethical management in public administration in general.
1. 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.
2. Ethical standards should be reflected in the legal framework
The legal framework is the basis for communicating the minimum 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
3. 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 circumstances. 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.
4. Public servants should know their rights and obligations when exposing
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.
5. Political commitment to ethics should reinforce the ethical conduct of public
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.
6. 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
7. There should be clear guidelines for interaction between the public and
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
8. 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.
9. Management policies, procedures and practices should promote ethical conduct
Management policies and practices 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
10. Public service conditions and management of human resources should promote
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 operationalise integrity in the public service.
11. Adequate accountability mechanisms should be in place within the public
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
12. 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.
Current stage of the work of the OECD
In summer 1999, a survey was conducted in the member countries on the state and
measures of ethics in the public sector. On the basis of the answers received, a
publication is presently being prepared, which will be handled in the OECD
in summer 2000. The objective will in particular be to present the practical
solutions implemented by different member countries to promote ethical actions
and to compare the different systems. The publication will contain both an
analytical section and the full reports of the member countries.
3.2 The European Union
In March 2000, the European Commission approved the White Paper on Reforming the
Commission. In addition to the principle of good governance, the reform is based
on the following starting points: independence, responsibility, accountability,
efficiency and transparency.
The reform strategy is built around three related themes: a thorough reform of
human resources policy by modernising financial management and financial control
as well as new strategic planning. The most important objectives are as follows:
Culture based on service
The objective is to establish i.a. a European Committee on Standards in Public
Life, which will provide advice on ethics, as well as to adopt a Code of Conduct
on good governance for the officials of the Commission.
New human resources policy
The objective is to increase training available to the staff and to improve the
procedures relating to the recruitment, training and assessment of managers.
Reform of financial management
The objective is to decentralise decision-making into precisely defined areas of
responsibility and to establish an externalisation policy.
In addition, the strategy contains goals relating to new strategic planning and
the remuneration and pension system. The reform strategy in its entirety has
been published in the Action Plan, with an Appendix of the timetable of the
changes to be implemented.
The European Union has already previously drawn up a Code of Conduct with the
objective of supporting the reform of administration in general. The reform was
originally launched in 1995 and it is still continuing with the measures of the
White Paper. The first Code of Conduct lays down rules for the Commissioners,
the second governs the relations between Commissioners and Departments. The
drawing up of the Codes of Good Administrative Behaviour for the staff of the
European Commission started in 1997. The purpose is to apply the codes of Good
Administrative behaviour to staff recruited to the service of the Communities
under the Staff Regulations and the Conditions of Employment of Other Servants
European Communities. The Codes of Good Administrative Behaviour contain
guidelines on compliance with good governance in relations with the citizens.
A challenge to the European Union Commission is the multicultural environment.
The aim of the three Codes of Conduct is to reflect national practices with due
regard for the requirements of European integration. The aim of all the three
Codes of Conduct is to clarify the rules governing the civil servants and their
Code of Conduct for Commissioners
The Treaty articles on the Commission make special reference to the independence
enjoyed by the Commissioners. The Commissioners are required to promote common
European interests. The Commissioners may not take instructions from the
government of their own countries or from any other bodies. In their official
and private lives, the Commissioners should behave in a manner that is in
keeping with the dignity of their office. The object of the Code of Conduct for
Commissioners is, first and foremost, to set limits to outside activities which
could jeopardise their independence and cause conflicts of interest.
In autumn 1999, the Commission introduced a new, more detailed code of conduct.
The new code also includes post-employment restrictions for officials.
Code of Conduct governing relations between Commissioners and Departments
The Commissioner’s Office keeps the Director-General informed about its outside
contacts in matters falling within the portfolio and represent the Commissioner
outside the institution. It acts solely in the interests of the Commission in
performing its tasks.
Departments implement the policy guidelines. They keep their Commissioner
informed and consult him or her when required.
The Code of Conduct lists i.a. the basic rules on the policy implementation of
the Department and the management of human resources.
3.3 Council of Europe
The conference of the European Ministers of Justice (Valetta, 1994) declared
that corruption is a serious threat to democracy, the implementation of the law
and human rights. The Conference came to the conclusion that, because the
Council of Europe is primarily pursuing the implementation of these values, it
should be the Council that starts to fight against corruption. The Ministerial
Committee of the Council of Europe appointed a Working Group in 1994 to examine
what measures could be implemented against corruption at the international level
and what possibilities there would be for
drafting laws, codes of conduct and international conventions against
corruption. In addition, its task is to develop follow-up mechanisms for the
realisation of the contents of conventions and other operations.
The draft programme against corruption was completed in 1995. The Ministerial
Council approved the programme and gave a recommendation to implement the
programme before the end of the year 2000.
The Council of Europe Working Group has also prepared a Model Code of Conduct
for Public Officials. Its objective is to provide an ethical atmosphere for the
actions of public officials: to formulate ethical standards according to which
the public officials should act and, on the other hand, to inform the citizens
of the kind of conduct they may expect from public officials. The subject areas
included in the model are i.a. the basic principles of ethical conduct,
reporting illegal or unethical actions, interests, gifts and other benefits, the
handling of information held by the authorities, post-employment restrictions
for officials as well as follow-up and consequences.
3.4 Transparency International (TI)
Transparency International is an international non-governmental organisation
(NGO). Its objective is to promote the reliability of governments and to curb
both international and national corruption.
Transparency International is formed of National Chapters located in over 60
countries. The Chapters are financially and institutionally independent but they
have to comply with the mission of TI and observe its guiding principles.
In its operations, TI emphasises the co-operation of all the parties concerned
with corruption in the fight against corruption. Its operations are based on the
curbing of corruption and the reform of systems, not on the investigation of
individual cases. TI considers that action against corruption has to be global
and reach social, political, financial and cultural systems. In its own
operations, TI complies with the principles of decentralisation, versatility,
reliability and transparency. TI is politically independent. TI acknowledges the
profound ethical and practical need for controlling corruption. In addition, TI
has codes of conduct for conflict-of-interest situations and guiding principles
for the National Chapters.
TI arranges conferences against corruption; the last one was held in South
Africa in August 1999. The National Chapters form alliances in order to
strengthen national integrity systems. The National Integrity Source Book is a
publication presenting the reforms implemented in different countries. The
National Chapters continuously design their own national anti-corruption
strategies. TI also supplies various information on corruption and on the fight
against corruption. It publishes i.a. statistics on the state of corruption in
According to the latest Corruption Perception Index published, Finland had the
second lowest corruption figures in a comparison of 99 States. The top ten and
the bottom ten States of the statistic are as follows:
The Corruption Perception Index has been published since 1995. In the first two
years, Finland was rated as the fourth least corrupt State, and in the last
three years, as the second least corrupt State.
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