On the OECD Recommendations on Public Integrity
The crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the weakness – or insufficiency – of the control systems for public events in many countries on almost all continents.
In the context of the current Covid-19 global crisis, facts of apparent corruption in public contracting in different Latin American countries, exemplified in the purchases of material from unknown suppliers, hastily in a health emergency framework, justifying the absence of sufficient controls, as well as the inoculation of non-essential persons linked to sectors close to the governments, have caused serious damage to the credibility of some administrations, as well as questions in court, resignations of officials, etc.
These events, due to their magnitude and possible consequences, invite us to once again review a brochure on Public Integrity prepared by the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) in 2017 and to reflect on its recommendations.
This document tackles the problem of corruption squarely and involves both the public and private sectors. According to the OECD, corruption perpetuates social and economic inequity as well as poverty.
In a context such as the current one, unique in history such as a pandemic of global proportions, added to the various economic problems faced by governments, Integrity emerges as a basic and essential imperative in contrast to corruption. In a strong statement, the OECD points out that Integrity is essential for the construction of strong institutions, which show citizens that it is working in the best interest of the public.
In its text, the OECD recognizes three Pillars for Integrity, they are:
- System: It is vital to reduce the opportunities of engaging in corrupt conduct.
The system must demonstrate the commitment of senior managers to develop the necessary legal and institutional frameworks and that show high standards of personal decorum.
It must also be prone to the attribution of Responsibilities. Public sector bodies must be well coordinated with each other, with clearly defined responsibilities. It should be clear “who does what”.
It is also necessary that within the system there is a Strategy, using data and evaluation indicators and based on legitimate risks to integrity, develop a strategy outlining objectives and priorities.
As an essential part of the System, the text speaks of the Norms, referring to those rules and values of the public sector that are reflected in laws and organizational policies, which must be communicated effectively.
- Culture: It is necessary to carry out the cultural change that implies transforming corruption into a socially unacceptable concept.
To create this change of culture, the OECD recommends:
That society, including companies, individuals and non-governmental actors, defend public integrity and do not tolerate corruption.
The OECD appeals to the Leadership of the managers who must guide public sector agencies with integrity and establish said agenda and communicate it appropriately.
Likewise, OECD values the Meritocracy. It believes that the public sector should seek to employ professional and qualified individuals who show a deep commitment to the values of Integrity in the Public Service. In turn, these individuals must have the skills and training necessary to apply the integrity standards.
Finally, in terms of creating a culture of integrity, the OECD proposes that integrity approaches be discussed openly and freely in the workplace and that it is safe to report suspicions about breaches of integrity.
- Accountability: The concept implies that people take responsibility for their actions.
In this regard, the OECD makes these recommendations:
That there is proper risk management, which implies an effective integrity risk management and control system in public sector bodies, which must be appropriate.
That the resulting sanctions are applied. Corruption and other violations of integrity must be detected, investigated and punished. Corruption should not be socially tolerated.
In addition, there must be supervisory bodies. Different regulatory compliance agencies and administrative courts may carry out external oversight activities.
Finally, Participation is pointed out. A transparent and open government must guarantee the participation of all interested parties in the development and implementation of public policies in a context of integrity.
In its text, the OECD defines Public Integrity as the constant alignment and adherence to shared values, principles and ethical standards to defend and prioritize the public interest over private interests in the public sector.
Likewise, the report says that Integrity is one of the fundamental pillars of political, economic and social structures and, therefore, is essential for the economic and social well-being, as well as for the prosperity of individuals and communities.
In the publication, corruption is pointed out as the main concern of citizens, above globalization or migration. In this regard, the OECD estimated that between 10% and 30% of investment in a construction project, financed with public funds, can be wasted due to mismanagement and corruption.
How to improve the Integrity system to combat acts of corruption?
The OECD makes four recommendations to the States to achieve a change in this regard:
- The actions must involve the three powers (Executive, Legislative and Judicial). If the Executive powers of the Member States fail or do not try to transform the declarations of will into administrative and judicial acts, as well as the application of sanctions, it cannot be said that the Integrity system is complete and functional.
- Actions should go beyond government and involve citizens and the private sector. In addition, they should cross all jurisdictional boundaries. The private sector is usually one of the engines of growth of an economy, while fulfilling the purpose of producing goods and services for internal and external consumption. Since private sector companies are often contractors of the State, a supplier can become a subject of risk. For this reason, the private sector cannot be excluded in the process of defining the Public Integrity Program. Likewise, the member states should collaborate, for example, by favouring the transmission of judicial information that makes it possible to clarify a potential act of corruption.
- Corruption must be understood in all its complexity. Influence peddling, misappropriation of public property, use of confidential information and abuse of power are just some of the most damaging corrupt acts for society. It is necessary to understand that in a technological context such as the present, it is possible to distract huge sums of money from public attention in a matter of seconds, thus allowing the perpetration of increasingly sophisticated acts of corruption. The problem must be addressed in a multidisciplinary manner, promoted by the powers of the State with the convocation of the different sectors, to keep the monitoring of possible acts of corruption updated, with attention to the appearance of new forms of the same or another type of corruption. reprehensible acts.
- Transparency is not enough. Making information available to the public is not enough either. If the initiatives aimed at making public acts transparent are not accompanied by adequate control mechanisms, they will invariably be ineffective. In addition, the information must be available in a timely and permanent manner and in such a way that its content is understandable to the citizen. Access to such information must not be hampered by any impediment.
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