Council of Ministers

Center for Prevention and Countering
Corruption and Organized Crime

Ethical Standards in the Public Sector

August 2015

Centre for Preventing and Countering Corruption and Organised Crime' (CPCCOC)
Project title:
‘Ethical Standards in the Public Sector'

Purpose of this Report:

This ‘Summary Report' introduces the main findings and key recommendations from the CPCCOC research and analysis, the details of which can be found in the full Project Report and its attachments.  Background to the Report:

In April, 2015, the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Bulgaria adopted the:

‘National Strategy for Preventing and
Countering Corruption, 2015-2020'.

In May, 2015, in response to the new Strategy, the Director (ad interim) of CPCCOC presented an analytical report highlighting the strategic opportunity to reinforce the ‘Values-based' approach to Anti-corruption by developing, what should now be referred to as being a ‘Public Sector Ethical Framework' built upon:

‘Standards, Tools and Best Practice'.

In July, 2015, in furtherance of the original CPCCOC report and with the written authority of the Deputy Prime Minister for European Policies Coordination and Institutional Issues - work began on the Project .....


Summary Report
‘Ethical Standards in the Public Sector'
Highlights:
• The Main Findings can be found on page 3
• The Key Recommendations can be found on pages 4 - 6
• The ROPNA proposals can be found on pages 6 - 7
• A Best Practice Guide can be found on pages 7 - 10
• And the Way Forward is discussed on page 10
In short:

• The Ethical Framework supporting the Public Sector would benefit from a thorough revision and update.
• In this context, the Public Sector should not be looked at as being a number of autonomous bodies, free to interpret and apply Ethics to their own Standards and to their own rules, or not.
• A broad and inclusive approach is required to ensure that common Ethical Standards and cohesive operating procedures are in place and that they are being applied evenly and robustly in all parts of the Public Sector.
• A valuable first step would be the preparation of a unifying and inclusive Public Sector Code of Ethics supported by Law.


Part 1 - Brief Introduction
1.1. This Summary Report introduces the main findings and key recommendations from the research and analysis conducted by CPCCOC. Consideration was given to:
1. Current Codes of Ethics

2. Current Legal Framework

3. Questionnaire replies from Public Sector officials ( )

4. EU Good Practices
1.2. In addition, CPCCOC was asked to address a specific issue raised in recent GRECO recommendations:

5. An analysis of the Rules of Organisation and Procedure of the National Assembly (ROPNA) in the section Ethical Standards of Conduct and Practice of its Application. (See Paragraph 3.3. below.)

Part 2 - Summary of Main Findings

The following conclusions may be drawn from the CPCCCO research and the parallel analysis of the replies to the Questionnaire:


2.1. Current Codes of Ethics
1. There are more than 20 Ethical Codes/documents in use across Public Sector, they have a variety of titles and formats, some are better than others and there are substantial differences between them
2. Some of the existing Codes/documents are structured chaotically and others consist of simple lists of Principles without clear definition and explanation, and without rules or guidelines for their application
3. The existing Codes/documents make little mention of the Tools with which the Ethical Standards of employees can be objectively assessed and reinforced

2.2. Current Legal Framework
4. Ethical Standards are currently mentioned in 34 separate legal acts/laws
5. In this regard, the Legal Framework is fragmented and disorganised
6. The absence of definition leads to inconsistent application and unclear regulation

2.3. EU Good Practice
7. The Code of Ethics should apply to all officials in Public Sector
8. The Code should contain practical examples and informative guidelines
9. The Code should be supported by a continuous training programme
10. The Code can usefully be supplemented by professional guidelines to inform and support strategic leaders and their senior management officials, for example, in the Ethical performance of their work


Part 3 - Summary of Key Recommendations

The following recommendations are summarised from, and take account of the findings of the CPCCCO research, the replies to the Questionnaire and the good practices identified elsewhere in the EU. The supporting evidence may be found in the full Project Report:

3.1. Ethical ‘STANDARDS'
No. Recommendation Justification Next Steps?
S.1. Code of Ethics
Design, test and validate a bespoke National Code of Ethics for the whole Public Sector.
Encourage the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary to adapt, adopt and rigorously apply the same Standards.
Take account of the gaps, practices and lessons learned in Bulgaria, and the good practices identified in other EU Member States. Establishing National Standards will close an obvious ‘Gap' in the Ethical Framework.
It will promote common understanding and a unified response.
And it will stimulate the development of Tools and Best Practices for all Public Sector bodies to put into practice. Perhaps under the guidance of the National Council on Anti-corruption Policies:
It may be timely and productive to establish a cross-ministerial, multi-disciplinary Workgroup to consider all the related CPCCOC findings and take this initiative forward to fulfillment.
S.2. Code of Ethics Content
The National Code of Ethics must define the expected Ethical Standards; provide practical guidelines for their application; and give information on related issues and procedures. The declarations of good intent reflected in the current lists of Ethical Principles, need to be transformed into tangible and visible action across Public Sector and for that:
Clarity of purpose, STANDARDS and firm guidance are required. As at Recommendation S.1.
(Further suggestions about the style and content of the Code can be found at Part 4 of this Summary Report)
S.3. Code of Ethics Law
Embed the National Code of Ethics in the Legal Framework and make its application mandatory throughout Public Sector. Will reflect the ‘political will' behind the new Anti-corruption Strategy and ensure that the Code's application is transparent, consistent and sustainable. Draft a consolidated Normative Act and any necessary amendments to the (no less than) 34 acts/laws that currently contain references to Ethics and/or similar terms.

3.2. Practical ‘TOOLS'
No. Recommendation Justification Next Steps?
T.1. Assessment Centres
Prepare and employ an ‘Assessment Centre' for all those seeking employment in the proposed National Anti-corruption Bureau.
Consider using a multiple-choice Psychometric Integrity Test, followed by Individual Structured Interviews with Integrity related questions taken at random from a pre-prepared list. Traditional pre-employment ‘checks' will not satisfy the stronger demands of the new Anti-corruption Strategy and the draft Law to Prevent Corruption in Senior Public Office.
Challenging and proven Tools will be necessary to test and assess the Ethical Standards expected of the candidates.
An Assessment Centre may prove to be a reliable and timely solution. Forward the recommendation for consideration of the Director of the proposed National Anti-corruption Bureau (previously referred to as, the Single Authority).
If adopted, the procedure may be promoted as a Best Practice for others to follow.
(Assessment Centres are discussed in more detail in the CPCCOC submission on the new Anti-corruption Strategy, May 2015)
T.2. Continuous Assessment
Include Integrity tests in all employment and promotion selection procedures and in the annual staff appraisals of all Public Sector officials and employees. Just as there are signs of corruption, there are ‘Signs of Integrity'.
The signs should be continually tested, assessed and reinforced at each stage in a Public Servant's professional career. As a first step, perhaps further research by the CPCCOC may be productive in identifying the signs and the appropriate assessment methodologies.

T.3. Continuous Training
Develop a continuous Integrity training programme to include initial awareness, refresher and remedial courses and relevant ‘soft skills' training such as, ‘Decision Making' and ‘Problem Solving', based upon individual and/or collective needs assessments.
In doing so, consider the potential of the Internet, Intranet, interactive Webinars, Blogs and Chat-rooms, Apps, etc, through which Ethics can be mutually discussed, agreed, shared and promoted. If all managers, officials and employees are expected to work to strict Ethical Standards and be regularly tested in that regard, they have the right to be given the opportunity to develop the relevant skills they need, through a continuous training and refresher programme.
The current classroom training regime would benefit from early revision, especially if Recommendation S1 is adopted and there is to be a new Code.
Today's technology can take Integrity training and awareness into the workplace every day! In the first instance, perhaps this recommendation could be referred to the Institute for Public Sector for expert opinion on the overall training methodology in consultation with the CPCCOC.
If adopted and taken further, this fresh, focused, results-driven and sustainable initiative may qualify for external funding at some time in the future, perhaps in combination with Recommendation T2 - Continuous Assessment.

T.4. Ethics Audits
Encourage Inspectorates to include Ethics Audits with specific Performance Indicators in their annual work-plans:
Indicators to monitor and reinforce Ethical Standards. Ethical Standards must be regularly assessed and reinforced at every opportunity and at every level of accountability.
Will reveal weaknesses that can be strengthened, and identify Best Practices that can be shared. The recommendation may first be forwarded for consideration of the General Inspectorate to the Council of Ministers.
Perhaps in partnership with CPCCOC, appropriate Performance Indicators may be developed from the proposed National Code of Ethics.
T.5. Support Network
Establish a responsive Public Sector advice, support and quality assurance system, perhaps in the form of:
A network of designated and trained Integrity Officers in each Inspectorate.
A Helpline and an interactive Webpage. Open, knowledgeable and well informed communication, both vertical and horizontal, is essential to ensure that:
Ethical Standards are promoted and strengthened.
Problems are solved quickly.
Best Practices are identified and shared in good time. Perhaps the National Council on Anti-corruption Policies could consider this in conjunction with Recommendation S1.
The General Inspectorate to the Council of Ministers should also be consulted in respect of the suggestion to designate Integrity Officers in all the Inspectorates.
T.6. Workplace Integrity Tests
The development and use of pro-active Integrity Tests in the Workplace should be given higher priority to reflect recent political and public debate about the potential benefits.

Random, Targeted and Controlled Integrity Tests in the Workplace are an internationally proven Anti-corruption Tool.
They are equally effective in terms of prevention and detection, as well as being a strong deterrent.
They can be used to:
Test the Integrity of decisions and actions already taken, and of work still in progress;
Test the Integrity of systems, working practices and personnel;
Evaluate Ethical Standards;
And add value to Corruption Risk Assessments. The development of Best Practice, Standard Operating Procedures and Levels of Authority will be necessary. And some Controlled Integrity Tests using actors and/or simulations will also require changes to the interpretation of ‘Provocation' in the Penal Code.
In the first instance, it may be appropriate to nominate a single institution to trial and develop the system. Because of its experience and powers, perhaps the Ministry of Interior is best placed to do this.
(Workplace Integrity Tests are discussed in more detail in the CPCCOC submission on the new Anti-corruption Strategy, May 2015)

3.3. National Assembly - Ethical Standards

In response to the specific request noted at paragraph 1.2. of this Summary Report:

Rules of Organisation and Procedure of the National Assembly (ROPNA)
‘Ethical Standards of Conduct and Practice of its Application'
No. Proposal Justification
NA.1. To be created conditions and guarantees for familiarization and training regarding the ethical rules of behavior. Development of a program for initial and continuing training.
Raising the awareness of MPs concerning the ethical rules of behavior. Providing practical advice, guidance and consultation, to address specific situations involving a conflict of interest, the acceptance of gifts, the realization of lobbying and others.
NA.2. To be introduced the best practice applied by European authorities and institutions (European Commission, ECB, etc.) with the creation of a public register of gifts. For the purpose of publicity and transparency, increasing the confidence in the institution is necessary to regulate the procedure and method for receiving gifts from the MPs in that capacity.
NA.3. To be promoted and implemented the good practice to create a "legislative file." With the "legislative file" will be documented the entire legislative process, i.e. supporting documents, persons involved and their proposals, as well as other facts and circumstances related to the relevant legislation. This will ensure the process of prevention and combating of conflict of interest, incl. and control of non-public dependencies.
NA.4. It is necessary to be supplemented the order and way of reviewing and deciding on signals which are incompatible with the ethical standards of conduct under section II of the Rules of Organization and Procedure of the National Assembly and as well as to be regulated the relevant deadlines for this. Incompleteness of the rules concerning the deadlines and terms for reviewing and deciding on signals concerning conduct which is incompatible with the ethical standards of conduct for MPs.
This will ensure the effective protection of persons against whom signals have been filed for unethical behavior.

Part 4 - Code of Ethics - Best Practice Guidlines

If considered appropriate, a Public Sector Code of Ethics may be constructed from the advice and examples offered under the proposed Section Headings that follow below:

Section ‘A' - Understanding Ethics and Integrity

Explain the meaning of Ethics and Integrity in everyday language, showing both the difference and the direct link between them. The meaning and use of the 2 terms must not be confused. This will guarantee that there is clarity and common understanding from the outset. For example:

1. Ethics tell us the correct way to do things (Guidance)
And
2. Integrity comes when we do things in the correct way (Action!)

Section ‘B' - Ethical Standards and Practical Guidelines

Resist any temptation to compile an exhaustive list from the large number of often over-lapping principles currently in use. Break those principles down into the ‘Core Values' of the Public Sector. Define them in everyday language, without using the terms principles and values, or any other unnecessary terms, such as norms, behaviour etc. Connect them to the level of service the public expects by offering relevant guidance. They may then be presented as being ETHICAL STANDARDS. To illustrate, here are just 2 examples:

1. INTEGRITY comes when you:
3. Put the obligations of public service above your own personal interests.
You must ALWAYS:
4. Act in a way that deserves and retains the trust and confidence of all those with whom you have dealings.
5. Make sure that public money and resources are used correctly and efficiently for the public good.
6. Etc
You must NEVER:
7. Take advantage of your official status and position to further your own interests, or to protect and further the interests of others.
8. Request, or accept unauthorised gifts, hospitality, or other benefits from anyone.
9. Etc
And ALWAYS ask yourself:
10. Am I absolutely sure this is the correct way to do things?

2. IMPARTIALITY is when you:
11. Act solely on the merits of the case and serve all parties equally.
You must ALWAYS:
12. Etc

Section ‘C' - Responsibilities and Rights

To create a fair and balanced approach, this Section should explain the different responsibilities and the parallel rights that go with them. For example:


13. Your personal ‘Responsibility' is to always demonstrate the highest Ethical Standards in the performance of your work.
14. In return, you have the ‘Right' to receive appropriate and continuous training, guidance and support.

Section ‘D' - Help and Support

Please see the suggestions under Part 3.2. - Practical ‘TOOLS'. Once established, the relevant procedural details and contact points etc should be summarised in this Section. For example:

15. If you need any clarification or help in applying this Code, please ask your line-manager for guidance and support. If for any reason you feel unable to speak to your line-manager, contact ..... and the following action will be taken:

Section ‘E' - Signals and Response

Further research and analysis will be required to develop a unifying Best Practice from the relevant rules and procedures currently in use and a central contact point may be required. The different ways to make a signal should be clearly outlined under this Section - written report, telephone, Email etc - as well as the response that people can expect - confidentiality, support, updates etc. For example:

16. If you suspect, or witness any breach of this Code, you should immediately call the internal confidential Hotline number ...... and the following action will be taken:

Section ‘F' - Protection and Grievances

Further research and analysis will be required to develop a unifying Best Practice. And to create a fair and balanced approach, it is essential that protection be given to Whistleblowers AND to those against whom false or malicious signals are made. And a procedure should also be put in place to manage any grievances that may arise. For example:

17. If you make a signal about breaches of this Code, you will be listened to and treated with respect, you will be protected from retaliation and victimisation and the following action will be taken:

18. If a signal is made against you and is found to be false or malicious, it will be removed from the records, you will be protected from harassment and the following action will be taken:

19. If you have made a signal, or had a signal made against you, and you feel that you have not been treated fairly, or that your case has not been dealt with in accordance with this Code, you should submit your Grievance in writing to...........and the following action will be taken:

Section ‘G' - Sanctions and Training

Once again, further research and analysis will be needed in order to develop a unifying Best Practice. And to maintain the fair and balanced approach, training-needs should be considered as well as punishments. For example:

Level 1 - Verbal Warning and, if appropriate, offer of Refresher Training
Level 2 - Written Warning and, if appropriate, offer of Refresher Training
Level 3 - Suspension and, if appropriate, obligatory Remedial Training
Level 4 - Demotion and, if appropriate, obligatory Remedial Training
Level 5 - Dismissal
Level 6 - Criminal Proceedings

And it should be made very clear that the same Sanctions will also be applied to anyone making false or malicious signals. For example:

20. If you make a signal in good faith, you have nothing to fear, or to be nervous about,
21. But if you make a false, or malicious signal against anyone, you will be treated as if you have personally breached this Code and the following action will be taken:

Part 5 - The Way Forward

In this context, the Public Sector should not be looked at as being a number of autonomous bodies, free to interpret Ethics to their own Standards and apply them to their own rules. Lessons learned and Best Practices must be shared. A broad and inclusive approach is required in order to ensure that common Standards and cohesive operating procedures are in place and that they are being applied evenly and robustly in all parts of the Public Sector:

1. If the Recommendation for an inclusive approach (S1 on Page 4) is approved, the preparation of a unified ‘Public Sector Code of Ethics' would be a significant and valuable step and, the above guidelines may be helpful.
2. If approved, any/all of the Recommendations in this Summary Report (Pages 4-6) may usefully be joined together in a step-by-step ‘Ethical Framework Development Plan', perhaps under the guidance of the National Council on Anti-corruption Policies and with the continued support of CPCCOC.

End of Report