Code of ethics
Ethics codes are as old as antiquity. Religious traditions and civic cultures have codes as their foundations. The Mosaic Decalogue (Ten Commandments) is the keystone for Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Pericles made the Athenian code the underpinning of ancient Greek politics and culture. In each case codes carry general obligations and admonitions, but they are far more than that. They often capture a vision of excellence, of what individuals and societies should be striving for and what they can achieve. In this sense codes, which are often mistaken as part of law or general statements of mere aspiration, are some of the most important statements of civic expectation.
When applied to certain classes of people – public servants, doctors – codes are the ultimate terms of reference. They are the framework upon which professions are built. Often codes are what professionals use to make the claim that they are “professionals” and are often the founding document for a profession, e.g. the Hippocratic Oath. While it is true that not all such oaths are codes, it is often the case that codes are built into oaths or other related ceremonies related to become a professional. They can be found in the ceremonies ordaining religious leaders in many faiths, and in swearing the oath of office for many political leaders around the world.
Because the term code is often used in different contexts its meaning can be confused. For our purposes code is not synonymous with law. Laws can have codes within them. But legal systems are not codes (e.g. Hammurabi’s Code ) in the way the term “code” is used in this document. Laws, often referred to as legal codes, are a series of detailed proscriptions dealing with the “crime or offense” and the punishment. An example would be a city code forbidding spitting on the sidewalk that provides a 30 day jail sentence for violations. Ethics codes or codes of conduct seldom provide detailed, specific prohibitions. Rather, they are broader sets of principles that are designed to inform specific laws or government actions.
The Purpose of Codes
Codes of ethics are written to guide behavior. Any final analysis of the impact of a code must include how well it affects behavior. Scholarly researchers’ debates about codes generally revolve around whether more general codes are mere platitudes, and whether more detailed codes require behavior about which reasonable people can disagree. They even debate whether ethics codes are necessary at all because good people should know how to act ethically without any guidance. These are worthy academic questions, but they are different than those a practitioner must ask. For those working with developing public service communities the more important questions are what blend of the general and specific are most likely to affect behaviors that a society needs from its civil servants and its political leaders. Contemporary social psychological research also strongly suggests that codes can guide or induce behaviors in developing countries that are critical to a functioning public service.
Model code of ethics for civil servents
- Civil servants shall perform their official duties in compliance with the Constitution and law. When performing their operations, civil servants shall act exclusively in the public interest.
- Civil servants shall ensure equal treatment of the citizens and the legal entities when performing official duties.
- Civil servants shall perform their activities to a high professional level, which shall be continuously upgraded.
- Civil servants shall perform their activities in the most conscientious, direct, the most efficient, timely and methodical manner in the interest of the citizens and the other entities in realizing their rights, duties and interests.
- Civil servants shall not be engaged in any activities that are contrary to the legitimate performance of their official duties, and they shall do everything to avoid situations and conduct that could impair the interest or the reputation of the body in which he/she is employed or of the state administration as a whole.
- When performing their official duties, civil servants shall not be influenced by partiality for achieving certain results.
- When performing specific tasks and deciding about the rights, the duties and the interests of the citizens and the legal entities, civil servants shall not be led by incorrect, unjustified or unreasonable assessment of the factual situation due to prejudice, realization of ambitions for career promotion, conflict of interests, intimidation or threats by the superior civil servants, the official managing the body in which the civil servant is employed or by the persons affected by the respective act or decision.
- When performing the official duties, civil servants shall provide equal treatment of the citizens contacting the body in which they are employed. To that effect, they shall not reject to render service to a person that is regularly rendered to other persons nor shall render service to a person that is regularly not rendered to other persons.
- Civil servants shall not deliberately cause damage to other person, group of persons, body or legal entity. On the contrary, they shall ensure the realization of the rights and the legitimate interests of the citizens and the other entities.
Independence in reaching decisions
- Civil servants shall independently reach decisions and shall decide objectively on the basis of the facts of the case, taking into consideration only the legally relevant facts and acting without unnecessary delay.
- Civil servants shall adhere to the appropriate procedure when performing the official duties within their competence, especially rejecting any pressure, even the one from their superiors.
Misuse of the authorizations and the status of civil servants
- Civil servants shall not use advantages arising from their status as civil servants nor shall they use the information acquired due to their position for their personal benefit. Their duty shall be to avoid any conflict of interests, as well as situations that could lead to suspicion for conflict of interests.
- Except when legally correct, civil servants shall not offer nor provide any advantages that would in any way be related to their position in the state administration.
- Civil servants shall not consciously mislead the public or the other civil servants within the body.
- Civil servants shall refuse to act contrary to the legal regulations or in a manner that presents a possibility to misuse the authority arising from their position, should the citizens and the legal entities for whose rights and obligation they decide ask from them to act so.
- Civil servants shall treat the information they acquired due to their position in the state administration with the all necessary secrecy and shall provide appropriate information protection.
- Civil servants shall facilitate the access of citizens to the information they have the right to obtain for the purpose of realization of their rights and interests.
- Civil servants shall not refuse to provide and shall not provide incorrect data or information to the state bodies, the legal entities and citizens, should the provision of data be stipulated by law.
Conflict of financial interests
- Civil servants shall not let their personal financial interest to be in conflict with their position and the status of civil servant.
- Financial interest shall include any benefit for the civil servant, for his/her family, relatives, friends, for physical persons and legal entities with whom he/she has or had business relations.
- Civil servants shall not accept relations of cooperation with persons or organizations that have or had economic interest from the decisions or the activities of the body in which the civil servant is employed in the past three years.
Gifts and other form of benefits
- Civil servants shall not ask for nor accept, for themselves or for others, gifts, services, assistance or any other benefit that could affect or that could seem to affect their decisions for certain issues, or that could corrupt their professional approach towards certain issues.
- Civil servants shall not accept gifts or gratitude that could be deemed as reward for those activities the performance of which is their responsibility.
Protection and economy usage of government funds
- Civil servants shall put all efforts to ensure maximum effective and economy management and usage of tangible assets, equipment and other objects entrusted to them, and shall prevent their illegal disposal.
- Civil servants shall take care of undertaking appropriate measures to ensure security of entrusted objects as well as of eliminating the possibilities to cause material damage in the body in which they are employed.
Conduct at the service
- Civil servants, except due to justified causes, shall not postpone or entrust the performance of the activities or the decision making within their responsibility to other civil servants. They shall not refuse the performance of the official duties of the working post assigned to them nor shall reject the orders by the direct superior civil servant, except in the cases stipulated by law.
- Respecting office hours, civil servants shall pay special efforts and time to perform the official duties. They shall limit absence from their working post to that strictly indispensable.
Conduct in private life
Civil servants shall avoid activities and conduct in their private life that could diminish the confidence of the public in state administration. They should avoid actions or activities that are in conflict with the legal or ethical norms and that could be a reason for their personal blackmail related to the performance of the official duties.
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