Public service code of ethics in the fight against corruption

Corruption in public administration, or activities that may look like it, undermine citizens’ trust. Public officials must be sure that their conduct is ethical.

As a public official, you have a special relationship with the citizens. Government works under their authorisation, making use of their financial contributions and working in their interests. In exercising public authority, you have an effect on the citizens’ rights and obligations. 

You therefore have an obligation to ensure that your conduct is appropriate and it does not undermine people’s trust in public administration.

Law lays the foundation for the conduct of public officials. However, legal provisions often only provide the framework for decision-making. The rest requires ethical consideration.

The public service code of ethics refers to the general values and principles concerning public officials.

Trust is based on impartiality, independence and transparency

In the prevention of corruption, the important values include impartiality, independence and transparency. They are part of the central government and local government values.

Impartiality means that the public official’s decisions can be justified objectively and are based on facts.

If your relationship with the matter or the parties involved may endanger your impartiality, you have a conflict of interest. That means that you cannot deal with the matter.

In the first place, you are responsible for assessing the conflict of interest yourself.

Independence specifically relates to the fact that the public official’s activities are based on acts, decrees and norms. To this end, you must prepare and resolve matters so that you do not promote the interests of any individual, company or community at the expense of public interest.

Do not request, accept or receive financial or other benefits that may risk your impartiality and independence. Your personal interests may not in any way affect decision-making.

The monetary value of prohibited benefits has not been defined. When you consider the matter, you should take into account whether the receipt of the benefit may endanger a citizen’s trust in you or the authority you represent. You may risk that trust even when in reality the benefit would not influence your actions as a public official; however, it may still seem that way to outsiders. Read more about gifts and benefits.

Transparency removes suspicion. As a public official, your actions must not only be impartial and independent, but they must also seem that way to stakeholders and citizens. You may keep official documents secret only for a specific purpose and as provided in legislation.

Remember that, as a rule, official documents are public. Ensure that the authority you represent actively communicates about the matters it deals with and the decisions it makes.

Senior public officials are subject to specific requirements

In central government administration, senior public officials are subject to higher standards of integrity. Such officials may be dismissed on a less strict basis if they no longer enjoy the administration’s trust.

Senior public official are:

  • directors general of ministries
  • public officials in an equivalent or more senior position
  • Chancellor of Justice
  • Deputy Chancellor of Justice
  • Chief of Defence
  • Prosecutor General
  • heads of agencies under the ministries, as separately provided by decree.

Senior public officials must declare their financial and other private interests both before they are appointed to their position and during their public-service relationship.

Such interests and outside employment will be investigated if they are thought to make a difference in the assessment of the person’s ability to perform the duties of the office. The register of private interests is published on the Ministry of Finance’s website.

Read more about the public service code of ethics

Ministry of Finance: Civil service law