In many countries today, there is a growing demand from ordinary citizens, business leaders, and civil society for governments to establish and uphold higher standards of ethics and integrity within the civil service, government agencies (ministries and parastatals), and the government itself.

To achieve this, three specific areas need particular attention to internalize integrity and ethics in democratic governments and the civil service:

  • Anticipating threats to ethics standards and integrity in the public sector: Identifying potential risks that could compromise adherence to core public sector ethics values and good governance is crucial. Adequate preparation of political and management responses is necessary to address these systemic threats effectively.
  • Strengthening the ethical competence of civil servants and supporting “professional ethics”: Efforts should be made to institutionalize ethically competent decision-making and provide disinterested advice to the government. Building an “ethical culture” that promotes professional responsibility, self-discipline, and adherence to the rule of law is essential.
  • Developing administrative practices and processes that promote ethical values and integrity: Institutional measures are required to reinforce pro-ethics laws and ensure their effective implementation. This includes performance management techniques that align with the ethical values outlined in Civil Service (and parastatals) Codes of Ethics.

The following institutional measures can be implemented to address the aforementioned issues:

  • Enact effective laws requiring civil servants to provide reasons for their official decisions, such as Freedom of Information laws.
  • Encourage management approaches that promote a positive response to corruption and unethical practices when encountered by public officials and civil servants.
  • Establish ‘whistle-blower’ protection laws to safeguard appropriate ‘public interest disclosures’ of wrongdoing by officials.
  • Conduct ethics audits to identify risks to the integrity of critical processes, such as financial management, tendering, recruitment, promotion, dismissal, and discipline.
  • Adopt new Human Resource Management strategies that link ethical performance with entry and advancement, and unethical behavior with disciplinary processes, while ensuring merit-based promotion and recruitment and antidiscrimination protections.
  • Provide training and development on Ethics Codes, ethical management principles, the proper use of official power, and professional responsibility.
  • Establish effective external and internal complaint and redress procedures.
  • Implement meaningful and enforceable Ethics codes that are linked to systemic practices and procedures, supported by legislation, management leadership, high-level political commitment, and ongoing ‘professional ethics’ training.
  • Allow for independent review of official decisions affected by “Maladministration” through entities like Ombudsman, Administrative Appeals Tribunal, or Court, and impose disciplinary measures on officials responsible for maladministration.
  • Consider failure to report known or reasonably suspected cases as grounds for disciplinary actions against civil servants.
  • Provide citizens with Freedom of Information (FoI) rights to ensure accountability by public officials and governments.
  • Enforce laws that allow citizens to be informed of the reasons for any official decision that directly concerns them, including access to evidence and other relevant information taken into account by the decision maker and the review procedure, if any.
  • Subject all significant official decisions to independent review, and maintain effective administrative procedures, including proper record-keeping, to facilitate such reviews.
  • Establish laws that enable individuals to make protected ‘public interest disclosures’ of suspected or actual corruption, misconduct, or maladministration by civil servants or public officials in the fight against corruption and to improve accountability.


Implementing these measures will strengthen ethics and integrity within the civil service and government agencies and enhance overall public sector governance.

Legacy Editor Changed status to publish February 16, 2024