31 July, 2010
Codes of Ethics
Codes of Ethics: The fifth and final instrument that we would look for, to determine whether a
respected the notion of integrity in the public service, is a Code of Ethics for Ministers. British Overseas Territory
I have no doubt that no one in public life in
Anguilla sets out to be corrupt. We get that way in the end, usually because of the pressures and strains put on us, and the lack of any coaching or training in performing our duties according to recognised codes of ethics.
When, at the request of one of our constituents, we telephone the Sergeant at the Police Station to give a chance to a young person who has been arrested, no doubt we think we are responding to the needs of our community. When we give work permits to one contractor, but not to another, we say we are “leveling the playing field”. When we overrule a Chief Immigration Officer or a Planning Committee order, we say we are “showing a good heart” and softening the harsh decisions of unfeeling bureaucrats. But, it is quite the opposite. We are showing partiality and preference for one person above another, and corrupting the system set up by law.
Our problem is that we have never seriously studied what is the meaning of nepotism, croneyism, and conflicts of interest. We need to debate, discuss, and adopt Codes of Ethics at all levels of government. The Judges and Lawyers have codes of ethics. Why not public servants and politicians?
In a democratic, transparent, and accountable system of government, it is for politicians to lay down the national policy. Then, the politicians must learn to leave it up to an independent, professional public service to carry out their policy.
It is the duty of the public officer to apply government's policies fairly and impartially. In appropriate cases there will be the power of appeal to an independent tribunal, but never to a politician. There is no integrity in a system that permits a personal appeal to a Minister to overrule the decision of a Board or public officers which is carrying out the national policy. To have it otherwise means that the law and policies of our countries are not applied evenly and fairly to all citizens. If a politician intervenes to overrule the action taken by a public officer, such intervention is almost invariably a corruption of the system. The result is a loss of public faith in our public institutions, and a breakdown of law and order. Victimisation and discrimination is the inevitable result of ministerial intervention on behalf of one individual. And, indeed, that is the system of government that most of us labour under.
I do not accept that our islands are too small for us to expect the standards that exist in the outside world to survive and work here. No matter how small we are, we are entitled to expect that our governments will be of laws and not of men.