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Latvia

Code of Ethics and a Public Administration Employee’S Handbook for Public Sector (LV0027)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Latvia National Action Plan 2015-2017

Action Plan Cycle: 2015

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: State Chancellery

Support Institution(s): Experts to be involved in drafting

Policy Areas

Capacity Building

IRM Review

IRM Report: Latvia End-of-Term Report 2015-2017

Starred: No

Early Results: Did Not Change

Design i

Verifiable: No

Relevant to OGP Values: Not Relevant

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

A common legal framework needs to be developed. Main objective is to produce a public administration employee’s handbook

IRM Midterm Status Summary

10. A Public Administration Employee’s Handbook, including a Code of Ethics for those employed in direct public administration

Commitment Text:

A common legal framework needs to be developed. Main objective is to produce a public administration employee’s handbook.

Responsible institution: State Chancellery

Supporting institution(s): Government institutions, Civil society, Private sector

Start date: December 2014.. End date: December 2016

Context and Objectives

A strong work culture is one of the main building blocks in achieving an effective public administration. There are laws and regulations in Latvia that require civil servants to consult with the groups most influenced by policies. This they do via policy impact assessments and during the development of policy documents, draft laws, and regulations. However, the requirements can also be fulfilled formally by inviting a few NGOs, avoiding proactive consultations with those who are affected by policies but who are not well organized, and responding to citizen requests without solving their issues. In addition, behavior guidelines involving conflicts of interest, moral stances, connections with lobbyists, and behavior outside the office are unclear.

A code of ethics is an important step toward the integrity of the public service and informs the public as to what is expected in terms of the work and attitudes of public servants. Many  institutions have codes of ethics, but there is no single document that defines the basic principles of public service. Since the public institutions are all run by the government, they should all have the same values and principles.

According to the Annual Report of the State Chancellery (not available publically) and information gathered during interviews, Interview with Inese Kušķe, State Chancellery, 17 August 2016.  the aim of the Code is to promote integrity in the actions of public service while serving the interests of society in accordance with the law, values and principles, and professional ethics defined by the state. The Code of Ethics supplements existing legal norms, details expected behavior, and lays down principles to follow.

As written, the specificity of the commitment is low. It states only that a code of ethics will be developed within a given period of time without specifying the expected contents of the code or its intended objective. Given this vagueness, it is difficult to determine the potential impact. A consistent set of expectations regarding ethics and public integrity could help to create a citizen-oriented culture in government, but there is no way of predicting the scope and influence of the proposed code from the text of the commitment. As a result, it is not possible to predict that the code will have a positive impact. However, the IRM End-of-Term report will evaluate the code’s content and assess its ultimate contributions to open government. Finally, the commitment is not relevant to OGP values because it is internal to government and does not engage citizens.

Completion

The draft code is complete and in the consultation phase. It is available on the Cabinet of Ministers’ website, Home page of the Cabinet of Ministers, http://tap.mk.gov.lv/lv/mk/tap/?pid=40382041.  but its approval was pending at the writing of this report. Ibid.  

The code was developed through an inclusive process, in tandem with public servants. Eight focus groups were conducted to determine the content of the document. The following institutions participated: the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Education and Science, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Welfare, Ministry of Communications, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, Ministry of Agriculture, Latvian Agency for Investment and Development, National Health Service, Public Procurement Monitoring Office, State Social insurance Agency, State Centre for Educational Content, State Revenue Service, Monitoring Inspection for Raffles and Lotteries, Data Center for Agriculture, Food and Veterinary Agency, Agency of Medicines, Central Agency for Finance and Contracts, State Agency for Technical Monitoring, Patents Office, State Forest Service, Latvian State Archive, and State Technical Railway Inspection. Three groups of officers participated in the focus groups — new civil servants, members of ethics committees, and high-level managers. The public policy centre, “Providus,” was directly involved in developing the code at the expert level.

The draft was offered for public consultation on 30 September 2015. Home page of the Cabinet of Ministers, http://www.mk.gov.lv/lv/content/pazinojums-par-lidzdalibas-iespejam-attistibas-planosanas-dokumenta-vai-tiesibu-akta-3.  Two NGOs (Delna and the Latvian Civil Alliance “Elpa”) offered suggestions, which were incorporated into the text. The NGOs interviewed agree. There was no input from private sector entities. The draft was then open for discussion by the civil service at the Cabinet of Ministers. During the writing of this report, the draft was still in the consultation period, and the government extended the final date for its submission to the Cabinet of Ministers to the end of 2016. This was done to ensure enough time for quality discussions.

Early Results (if any)

The draft code contains the following sections: General issues; Basic values and principles; Basic rules; Conflict of interests and gifts; Relations with lobbyists; Additional rules for managers; Rules to obey outside the office; Consideration of violations; and other issues. The code also makes recommendations as to how ethics committees within institutions should operate and offers a mechanism for mutual learning (i.e., an annual exchange of good practice in “difficult situations”).

The NGOs that commented on the code were generally satisfied with both the process and result. The Civic Alliance of Latvia expressed minor concerns about the language of the text (specifically the phrases, “should” and “could”) and recommended greater explanation of terms used throughout the document. Delna suggested holding trainings on client relations in line with the Code at the State Administration School. NGOs further suggested developing a code of ethics for political-level managers (namely, ministers) for their work at the Cabinet of Ministers and in pre-election periods, as well as guidelines on the relationship between political and administrative decision-making. Interviews with Iveta Kažoka, Policy Centre “Providus,” 22 August 2016; Jānis Volberts, TI local Chapter “Delna,” 22 August 2016; and Kristīne Zonberga, Civic Alliance Latvia, 23 August 2016.

Next Steps

The IRM researcher suggests following up on the implementation of the Code of Ethics in the next action plan. The Code is a good standard by which to measure achievements and changes in the attitudes of government officials. The State Chancellery and NGOs could spread the word about the code among journalists and through social media. It would offer citizens a means by which to measure everyday situations and conflicts between government officials and clients, and debate the ethics of possible conflicts of interest and lobbying cases. The upshot would be greater public understanding of the government’s work, the institution of standards, and the establishment of realistic expectations. The IRM researcher also supports a code of ethics for ministers and the development of training activities based on the Code.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

Commitment 10. Code of Ethics

Commitment Text:

Public Sector Code of Ethics

The public administration institutions have codes of ethics, but there is no uniform framework for ethical norms and uniform measures for the implementation of ethical norms.

Main objective: To draft the code of ethics for the public administration employees. There are only minor textual differences in the commitment text of the original and updated versions of the action plan.

Responsible Institution: State Chancellery

Supporting Institutions: Members of focus groups, Public Policy Centre NGO “Providus”

Start Date: December 2014 End Date: December 2016

Editorial Note: The commitment text above is drawn from the updated version of the action plan, published in October 2016 and available at http://bit.ly/2EK34dH. The original version of the action plan is available at http://bit.ly/2ptZ0sq. To see the changes between the two versions, visit http://bit.ly/2FPvK4r.

Commitment Aim

Prior to the action plan, expectations surrounding conflicts of interest, ethics, and lobbying were unclear. While many institutions had codes of ethics, there was no single uniform standard for all government institutions. Therefore, the aim of the Code of Ethics was to standardise expectations and promote integrity in the actions of public service, while serving the interests of society in accordance with the law, values, principles, and professional ethics defined by the state. The code would supplement existing legal norms, give more details and explanations on how to behave, and provide principles that should be followed.

Status

Midterm: Substantial

During the writing of the midterm report, the draft Code of Ethics was still under consultation. As part of this consultation process, the government carried out a series of intragovernmental discussions. Specifically, the government held focus groups with 27 public institutions, including new civil servants, members of ethics committees, and high-level managers. As for civil society, the organisation Providus was directly involved in the drafting of the code. The draft code was later published on the Cabinet of Ministers’ website for public comment. To ensure enough time for quality discussions, the government extended the deadline to submit the draft for a vote at the Cabinet of Ministers to the end of 2016.

The draft code contained the following sections: general issues, basic values and principles, basic rules, conflict of interests and gifts, relations with lobbyists, additional rules for managers, rules to obey outside the office, consideration of violations, and other issues. The code also made recommendations on how ethics committees within institutions should operate and offered a mechanism for mutual learning: an annual exchange of good practises in difficult situations.

The 2015-2016 Latvia IRM report stated that the commitment is not relevant to OGP values because it is internal to government and does not engage citizens. For more information, see that report. “Latvia Mid-Term Progress Report 2015–2016,” Open Government Partnership, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/latvia-mid-term-progress-report-2015-2017.

End of term: Substantial

The State Chancellery reported State Chancellery, written communication, 18 September 2017. that it has developed a game application showing different aspects of ethical behavior of public officers, available at http://www.mk.gov.lv/etika. The State Chancellery also participated in the LAMPA festival Home page of LAMPA festival, http://festivalslampa.lv/event/lv/508/. by organising and hosting an event titled “How to Be Honest” and conducting exercises based on the application. The LAMPA festival has been organised in Latvia for three years and gathers opinion leaders, politicians, watchdog organisations, and people interested in policy issues. It is broadly covered by the media and attracts many young people in particular. “News,” LAMPA, http://www.festivalslampa.lv/en/news.

The State Chancellery also reported State Chancellery, written communication, 18 September 2017. that it has examined the draft code in light of the new 26 January 2017 recommendation of the OECD Council on Public Integrity. “OECD Recommendation on Public Integrity,” Anti-corruption and Integrity in the Public Sector, OECD, http://www.oecd.org/gov/ethics/recommendation-public-integrity.htm. However, the code was not approved by the end of the action plan’s period of implementation. The draft version for comments is available on the web page of the Cabinet of Ministers. “Recommendation Draft ‘Code of Ethics for Employee of Public Administration,’” Legislative Proposals, Draft Legislation of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Latvia, http://tap.mk.gov.lv/lv/mk/tap/?pid=40382041.

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Did Not Change

Civic Participation: Did Not Change

Public Accountability: Did Not Change

Prior to the start of this action plan, there were laws and regulations that required civil servants to consult the groups that are most influenced by policies. Civil servants were to do so through policy impact assessments and during the development of policy documents, draft laws, and regulations. Nonetheless, these requirements could be formally fulfilled by engaging few NGOs, avoiding proactive consultations with groups that are affected by policies but that are not well organised, or responding to citizen requests without solving their issues. There are also situations in which it is not always clear how to behave in terms of conflicts of interest, moral stances, connections with lobbyists, and behavior outside of the office, among others. This gap in guidance is why the government committed to create a code of ethics.

At this stage, however, since there is only a draft, there has been no change in government practise regarding the three core OGP values: access to information, civic participation, and public accountability. Although there was an extensive consultation process to develop the code, the process involved mostly government institutions, as described above. Furthermore, given that the Latvian government regularly publishes draft documents online for public comment, involving citizens in this way did not represent a change in government practise. Nonetheless, the State Chancellery has raised public awareness of ethics in public service by developing the game cited above and by participating in public events.

Carried Forward?

The commitment is carried forward to the third action plan, which proposes the approval of the code of public sector values and ethics by the Cabinet of Ministers, the development of a methodological guide to explain the code, an online training course, and the raising of public awareness.


Commitments

  1. Public Participation in Decision-Making

    LV0028, 2017, Capacity Building

  2. e-Legal Services

    LV0029, 2017, E-Government

  3. Open Data

    LV0030, 2017, E-Government

  4. Lobbying Transparency

    LV0031, 2017, Capacity Building

  5. Budget Transparency

    LV0032, 2017, E-Government

  6. Whistleblower Protections

    LV0033, 2017, Capacity Building

  7. Ethics in Public Management

    LV0034, 2017, Capacity Building

  8. Zero Bureaucracy

    LV0035, 2017, Legislation & Regulation

  9. Open Public Procurement

    LV0036, 2017, E-Government

  10. Transparency in State Management

    LV0037, 2017, E-Government

  11. Beneficial Owenrship

    LV0038, 2017, Beneficial Ownership

  12. Evidence-Based Governance

    LV0039, 2017, Capacity Building

  13. Starred commitment Concept Note on Publishing Data

    LV0018, 2015, Open Data

  14. Portal Drafting Legislature and Development of Planning Documents

    LV0019, 2015, E-Government

  15. Platform Unifying Gov. Webpages

    LV0020, 2015, E-Government

  16. Starred commitment Transparency of Selecting Candidates for the Boards and Councils of Public Entity Enterprises

    LV0021, 2015, Legislation & Regulation

  17. Supervising Officials Responsible of Public Resources

    LV0022, 2015, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  18. Sustainable Model of Financing NGOs

    LV0023, 2015, Civic Space

  19. Starred commitment Online Collection of Signatures on Referenda

    LV0024, 2015, E-Government

  20. Draft Law on Protecting Whistleblowers

    LV0025, 2015, Whistleblower Protections

  21. Assessment of the System of the Financing Political Parties

    LV0026, 2015, Money in Politics

  22. Code of Ethics and a Public Administration Employee’S Handbook for Public Sector

    LV0027, 2015, Capacity Building

  23. NGO Fund

    LV0001, 2012, Capacity Building

  24. Strengthen Social Partners

    LV0002, 2012, Public Participation

  25. Trade Union Law

    LV0003, 2012, Civic Space

  26. NGO Co-Working

    LV0004, 2012, Civic Space

  27. Public Engagement Model

    LV0005, 2012, Public Participation

  28. Internet Access Points

    LV0006, 2012, E-Government

  29. Public Service Assessment

    LV0007, 2012, Public Service Delivery

  30. Enhancing e-services

    LV0008, 2012, E-Government

  31. Transport e-services

    LV0009, 2012, E-Government

  32. Asset Disclosure

    LV0010, 2012, Asset Disclosure

  33. Lobbying Law

    LV0011, 2012, Legislation & Regulation

  34. Whistleblower Protection

    LV0012, 2012, Whistleblower Protections

  35. Public Subsidy Control

    LV0013, 2012, Private Sector

  36. State Owned Enterprises Management

    LV0014, 2012, Private Sector

  37. Single Platform for Government Websites and Information

    LV0015, 2012, E-Government

  38. Online Broadcasting From the Cabinet and Parliament

    LV0016, 2012, E-Government

  39. Website For Public Participation

    LV0017, 2012, E-Government