Auditor General proposes a better ethical framework that guides public employees
Auditor General Charles Deguara proposed in a report presented to Parliament improvement in the ethical framework that guides public employees after considering the ethical infrastructure that guides these employees. The auditor examined the ethical guidelines emanating from the legislation on the Public Administration, the Ethics Code and the Code of Public Service, and established a better link between the three, among others.
Auditor Deguara said he evaluated the infrastructure that regulates the ethical behavior of public officers because he stated this links with the Auditor’s Office strategic target to ensure responsibility in the use of public resources.
The auditor compared the legislation and codes related to public service officers with international guidelines, while focusing on four principles including the conflict of interest and gifts and jobs given when an officer retires from the service.
He established that the 2019 Act on the Public Administration, together with the Code of Ethics and the codes on the public service, provide a comprehensive guideline on the major elements of ethical conduct. However,
he believes that although the ethical framework is comprehensive, there is scope for improvement by providing a better guideline to public officers when they are provided with a framework on how documents complement each other. He called for a revision on occasions where divergences may create ambiguity.
Mr Deguara also noted that at times information published as guideline was vague while the ethical principle was clear without definite parameters. Regarding the conflicts of interest, he said that the ethical framework depends on the individual integrity. The ethical framework may only be effective, he added, if there are processes to follow and action on declarations submitted by public employees.
He also noted differences in the procedures that regulate whether a public officer should accept gifts on not. Together with the lack of a clear definition of what gifts are and what is considered as acceptable and not, he said that this creates further uncertainty which should be addressed by a clear agreement of what involves a gift and established limits in the value.