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