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Sunday, April 20, 2014
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Code of Conduct sets ethical guide for public officials
Part IV of the Integrity in Public Life Act contains a Code of Conduct which functions as a mechanism to help regulate the behaviour of all Persons in Public Life and persons exercising public functions. The Code of Conduct promotes predictability and ethical standards in the performance of duty for all those charged with carrying out public functions. Thus, public officials are required to treat all persons even-handedly, not just the members of a particular group.
The critical outcome of this behaviour is that any member of the public, who accesses a government service, must receive the same treatment regardless of his/her race, colour, class, age, sex, perceived social standing or political affiliation. The Code of Conduct establishes known guidelines and boundaries to assist public officials in administering the public resources fairly and with transparency.
Below are some principles of integrity, as derived from the Code of Conduct which outline important rules of behaviour to guide decision-making in the public sphere in order to standardise the service delivered to and received by all citizens. Public Officials must:-
Perform their functions and administer public resources in an effective and efficient manner. Be fair and impartial in exercising their public duty. Afford no undue preferential treatment to any group or individual. Arrange their private interests in such a manner so as to maintain public confidence and trust in their integrity. Not use their office for the improper advancement of their own or their family’s personal or financial interest or the interest of any person.
Not engage in any transaction that is incompatible with their office, function and duty. Not use public property or services for activities not related to their official work. Not, either directly or indirectly, use their office for private gain. Not use public funds in disregard of the Financial Orders or other regulations applicable to such funds. Not accept a fee, gift or personal benefit that is connected directly or indirectly with the performance of their duties.
Not use information gained in the execution of their office and which is not available to the general public to further private interests (insider information). Not use their office to influence a decision made by another person or public body to further private interests (influence). Keep all matters of a confidential nature, confidential even after separation from the service (confidentiality).
Disclose their interest and disqualify themselves from any decision-making process where there is a possible or perceived conflict of interest (conflict of interest). The principles outlined as well as the sanctions for failure to adhere to them will be further explored in the future.
It must be remembered, however, that Public Officials must treat with a diverse array of situations while performing their official duties. Often, even with the guidance of a written Code of Conduct, doing the right thing is not clear and straightforward.
The Act affords Persons in Public Life and persons exercising public functions the opportunity to seek the opinion and recommendations of the Integrity Commission on any matter respecting their own obligations under Section 36 of the Act. Therefore, when confronted with thorny or difficult issues, before acting, persons may seek the opinion and recommendations of the Commission who will give an advice that is privileged information and may be released only with the consent of the person making the application.
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