106 Session Strasbourg,
10-11 May 2000
To the Draft
Recommendation No. R(2000)
of the Committee of Ministers to member States on Codes
of conduct for Public Officials
1. The Council of Europe became strongly interested in
the international fight against corruption because of the obvious threat corruption poses
to the basic principles this organisation stands for: the rule of law, the stability of
democratic institutions, human rights and social and economic progress. Corruption is also
a subject well-suited for international co-operation: it is a problem shared by most, if
not all, member States and it often contains trans-national elements. However, the
specificity of the Council of Europe lies in its multidisciplinary approach, meaning that
it deals with corruption from a criminal, civil and administrative law point of view.
2. At the 1994 Malta Conference of the European Ministers of Justice,
the Council of Europe launched its initiative against corruption. The Ministers considered
that corruption was a serious threat to democracy, the rule of law and human rights and
that the Council of Europe, being the pre-eminent European institution defending these
fundamental values, should respond to that threat.
3. The Resolution adopted at this Conference endorsed the need for a
multidisciplinary approach, and recommended the setting up of a Multidisciplinary Group on
Corruption with the task of examining what measures could be included in a programme of
action at international level, and the possibility of drafting model laws or codes of
conduct, including international conventions, on this subject. The importance of
elaborating a follow-up mechanism to implement the undertakings contained in such
instruments was also underlined.
4. In the light of these recommendations, the Committee of Ministers
agreed, in September 1994, to set up the Multidisciplinary Group on Corruption (GMC) under
the joint responsibility of the European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC) and the
European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ) and invited it to examine what measures
would be suitable for a programme of action at international level against corruption, to
make proposals on priorities and working structures, taking due account of the work of
other international organisations and to examine the possibility of drafting model laws or
codes of conduct in selected areas, including the elaboration of an international
convention on this subject and a follow-up mechanism to implement undertakings contained
in such instruments. The GMC started operating in March 1995.
5. The Programme of Action against Corruption (PAC), prepared by the
GMC in the course of 1995 and adopted by the Committee of Ministers at the end of 1996, is
an ambitious document, which attempts to cover all aspects of the international fight
against this phenomenon. It defines the areas in which action is necessary and provides
for a number of measures to be followed in order to realise a global, multidisciplinary
and comprehensive approach to tackling corruption. The Committee of Ministers instructed
the GMC to implement this programme before the end of the year 2000.
6. At their 21st Conference (Prague 1997), the European Ministers of
Justice adopted Resolution No 1 on the links between corruption and organised crime. The
Ministers emphasised that corruption represents a major threat to the rule of law,
democracy and human rights, fairness and social justice, hinders economic development and
endangers the stability of democratic institutions and the moral foundations of society.
They further underlined that a successful strategy to combat corruption and organised
crime requires a firm commitment by States to join their efforts, share their experience
and take common actions. The European Ministers of Justice specifically recommended
speeding up the implementation of the Programme of Action against corruption and to pursue
the work concerning the elaboration of a model code of conduct for public officials.
7. On 10 and 11 October 1997, the 2nd Summit of the Heads of State and
Government of the member States of the Council of Europe took place in Strasbourg. The
Heads of State and Government, in order to seek common responses to the challenges posed
by corruption throughout Europe and to promote co-operation among Council of Europe member
States in the fight against corruption, instructed, inter alia, the Committee of
Ministers to secure the rapid completion of international legal instruments pursuant to
the Council of Europe's Programme of Action against Corruption.
8. The Committee of Ministers, at its 101st Session on 6 November 1997,
adopted Resolution (97) 24 on the 20 Guiding Principles for the fight against Corruption.
Principle 10 specifically indicates that States should "ensure that the rules
relating to the rights and duties of public officials take into account the requirements
of the fight against corruption and provide for appropriate and effective disciplinary
measures; and to promote further specification of the behaviour expected from public
officials by appropriate means, such as codes of conduct".
9. Consequently, following the adoption of the Criminal Law Convention
on Corruption (European Treaty Series No 173), of Resolutions (98) 7 and (99) 5,
authorising and establishing, respectively, the "Group of States against Corruption
(GRECO)" and of the Civil Law Convention on Corruption (European Treaty Series No
174), the Council of Europe adopted a recommendation inviting the Governments of member
States to promote, subject to national law and principles of public administration, the
adoption of national codes of conduct for public officials based on the Model Code of
Conduct for Public Officials annexed to the recommendation.
10. In January 1996 the Committee of Ministers at the 554th
meeting of the Ministers Deputies required the GMC to elaborate a draft [European]
Code of Conduct for Public Officials.
11. However, in the course of the preparation of this text, the GMC
agreed to delete the term "European" in the title of the Model Code in order to
acknowledge the contribution of non-member States to the implementation of the Programme
of action against corruption and to take into account the fact that some non-European
States may wish to draw inspiration from this code.
12. The GMCs Working Group on Administrative and Constitutional
Law (GMCA) met 6 times from 1997 to 1999 to consider and finalise a draft recommendation
of the Committee of Ministers including in appendix a model code of conduct. The GMC
examined this text at its 18th meeting (Strasbourg, 8-10 September 1999),
approved it in second reading at its 19th meeting (Strasbourg, 8-10 December
1999) and submitted it to the European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ) for its
opinion. The GMC considered the CDCJ opinion and approved the draft recommendation at its
20th plenary meeting (Strasbourg, 11-13 April 2000). The Committee of Ministers of the
Council of Europe adopted the Recommendation at its 106 session (Strasbourg, 11 May 2000)
and authorised the publication of the explanatory report.
Public service codes of conduct in general
13. A successful strategy for fighting corruption should be global
and supported by all parties concerned, especially by those with the highest
responsibilities. It should be based on prevention, education and enforcement. Each of
these elements is essential, equally important and complementary. In this context codes of
conduct play a part in all three elements of the strategy. Their main contribution is
educational and preventive, but they also have enforcement aspects. They can be effective
in changing the ethical climate in both the public and private sectors.
14. In the discussion concerning corruption over the past years,
the adoption and implementation of codes of conduct has been considered to be of crucial
importance. However, voluntary regulation of behaviour by codes of conduct cannot replace
legal norms and external control (by authorities or business auditors). Corruption can in
fact occur despite subscription to a code of conduct. Accordingly, the public sometimes
suspects that companies use much publicised codes of conduct mainly as a means for
marketing. An effective implementation of the codes is therefore of utmost importance.
15. Codes of conduct have many names and purposes. They may, for
instance, be called "codes of ethics" or "codes of business practice"
or they may take the form of administrative regulations. Usually, codes of conduct
describe guidelines binding employees to act in a certain manner whereas codes of practice
are often addressed to clients rather than to members of the institution for whom the code
is drafted. Codes of practice lay down standards that clients have a right to expect,
rather than standards that members of the profession are instructed to uphold.
16. Here the generic term "code of conduct" is used although
it should be emphasised that certain distinctions sometimes need to be made, depending on
the purpose of the code. For instance, a code of good practice may be drafted for the
purpose of giving detailed guidelines to employees on how to act in certain situations
related to the work. Such a code may be of a totally different character from a normal
code of conduct.
17. Codes may be adopted for various reasons and for various categories
of public persons, such as public officials, judges, prosecutors, business people,
auditors, members of other professions as well as elected representatives and members of
government, both at the national and local level.
18. Codes of conduct dealing with issues of corruption may be very
detailed. For instance, in one member State examples may be found where the codes deal
with such issues as acceptance of flowers or boxes of chocolate and the exact value of
gifts which may be accepted.
19. The legal basis for the adoption of codes may vary. Some are
adopted on the basis of legislation whereas others are adopted on a voluntary
basis. Some codes of conduct have the status of a semi-public instrument, although drawn
up by private entities. An example may be found in the banking field where a due diligence
code has been elaborated. Other such codes have been drafted for accountants and lawyers.
Most codes are drafted to protect the interests of the company or the profession but some
may be elaborated with a view to introducing clean practices in entire sectors of the
industry. Examples may be found where entire employers associations or larger
companies in a specific sector undertake to abstain from corrupt practices.
20. As regards both public officials and the business community, the
code may be seen as part of the employment contract and may in such cases be signed by the
employee. A subsequent breach of the code can be a breach of the contract of employment.
On the other hand, codes for independent professions and codes for elected representatives
or members of government may be of a different character: breach would not amount to a
breach of contract but may nevertheless result in disciplinary proceedings.
21. The codes may be applicable only to active service and form part of
the employment contract as such, but some codes may contain provisions that apply when the
employed person or the elected representative has left his work or his post. Such codes
may, for instance contain provisions restricting a person from taking a post in a company
with which he has had dealings in his previous position ("pantouflage"). Such
provisions may be found both in codes for public officials and for politicians.
22. The sanctions for disobedience of the codes vary as well, ranging
from administrative sanctions such as reprimands to dismissal and other disciplinary
measures. Some codes may not provide for any sanctions but may simply make reference to
corruption offences in existing criminal codes. To a great extent the effectiveness of a
code may depend on the sanctions which are provided. The scope for taking disciplinary
measures is of course wider than the scope for criminal law measures. For certain
categories of persons, for instance members of Parliament or the government, special types
of sanctions apply. The codes may be used in administrative, civil and criminal
decision-making as a reference document, in particular in assessment of what may be fair
or appropriate in a given situation.
23. For a code of conduct to be widely accepted and complied with by
those who are to be bound by it, it is advisable that they should be consulted during its
24. A model code of conduct for public officials could be of great
benefit in the fight against corruption, in particular in the emerging democracies of
Central and Eastern Europe. Codes of conduct for other categories of persons, such as
members of government or elected representatives, can be of importance in setting minimum
standards in ethics.
25. Given the variety of tasks undertaken by a modern public
administration, with staff from different backgrounds and from non-homogenous social
groups, the need to codify rules of conduct is now greater than in the past, when a more
homogenous staff carried out similar activities and shared similar values.
26. The specific statutes of the civil service need to be taken into
account when codes of conduct are considered, in particular when the codes are to be used,
inter alia, as a means of combating corruption. Public service requires integrity from
public officials. They are not only in the service of the government, taken in a narrow
sense, but should also carry out their duties as a service to society at large. The
responsibilities of the public official are therefore to a certain extent different from
those of an employee in the private sector.
27. Special consideration needs to be given to the senior civil service
and to members of the government who may be at the same time elected representatives.
These categories may require special rules.
28. It should be noted, however, that a code of conduct cannot replace
a statutory law on the status of public officials.
29. Elected representatives are usually responsible to their
electorate and/or to their party. At the same time, the public interest requires from them
accountability, transparency and integrity. Tradition plays a great role in the evolution
of the situation in member States. In the context of combating corruption, special
attention needs to be given to questions of immunity, relations with the party, sanctions
and conflicts of interest, and changes to the current situation require careful
30. Codes of conduct differ depending on which category of persons
is addressed. The aims of codes for judges or prosecutors necessarily differ from those
drafted for auditors or private business. As the aims and legal situation differ, so do
the sanctions which may apply in a particular case.
31. Codes of conduct should be clear and concise statements of the
guiding principles of conduct by which an organisation expects its members to behave and
the values for which it stands.
32. The purpose of a code of conduct for public servants is threefold:
it is a statement of the ethical climate that prevails in the
it spells out the standards of ethical conduct expected of
it tells members of the public what to expect of public servants
in conduct and attitude when dealing with them.
33. It is both a public document and a message addressed to every
individual public servant. It cannot be assumed that a public servant knows what standards
of conduct are expected of him if he has never been told what they are. Reliance on some
unwritten process of absorption of standards in the working environment is haphazard and
insufficient. If the public servant is to be called to account for his conduct, it is
essential that he should have been informed of what was expected of him and that he should
know in what respects his conduct has fallen short of those expectations. A clear, concise
and accessible written statement of the standards by which his working life is to be
conducted is a basic requirement.
34. A model code should be capable of being adopted, with or
without modification, for the generality of public officials. Its provisions should state
the guiding principles and, at the same time, provide advice sufficiently specific to be
of use in any given situation. As a model of general application, it might not provide
detailed guidance necessary to certain categories of officials or employees whose
functions or professions require specific rules.
35. Codes of conduct should not be limited to addressing
corruption. They should go further and promote high standards of ethical behaviour. They
should state general principles covering lawfulness, diligence, efficiency and thrift,
transparency, confidentiality and the handling of classified information, personal
responsibility and independent judgement, fair dealing and integrity, and professional
36. Their guidance can also be broadly divided into provisions dealing
with personal integrity and those dealing with managerial responsibilities for upholding
the integrity of the public service or the company, such as devising and putting in place
appropriate systems of operation, ensuring that subordinates are informed and aware of
their duties, applying systems of supervision and accountability, applying proper
selection procedures, enforcing the code of conduct and maintaining discipline.
37. To whom should a code apply? Should a code designed for the
general public service apply to government ministers, to judges or to elected
representatives? Should that code apply also to short term employees (perhaps seconded
from the private sector), or to agents or independent consultants? To what extent can and
should the code continue to apply to those who have left the organisation? These are
questions that should be addressed when proposing a code for any organisation.
38. A general code may be insufficient for those doing certain kinds of
work or in certain professions. Additional provisions or additional emphasis or even
separate, special codes may be necessary. The "Leadership Code" adopted in some
countries is an example of a special code applying to a limited number of people in public
Preparation and promulgation
39. Consulting those to whom the code will apply is essential in
its preparation since it must be accepted by those who are to lead their working lives in
accordance with its guidance. It must be pragmatic and practical so as to foster
compliance and to allow those to whom it applies to exercise their responsibility. The
code must address the ethical issues people have to face every day.
40. Not only must every member of staff receive his or her own copy,
everyone must be given practical instruction about its provisions and how to comply with
them. Everyone must understand the importance of compliance and the consequences of not
41. It is the responsibility of management to ensure that the
practices of the organisation are consistent with the code, that there is no contradiction
between the standards required of staff and the goals or targets they are expected to
42. It must also be the responsibility of every manager and supervisor
to make sure that those for whom they are responsible are constantly aware of the
standards set by the code and in practice carry out their work in conformity with them.
43. Deliberate failure to comply with the standards required must
be met by appropriate disciplinary action. In deciding on appropriate disciplinary
sanction, management should consider whether the breach results from ignorance or from
deliberate self-serving wrongdoing of which the management would disapprove or from
wrongdoing done in the mistaken belief that the organisation would benefit.
Relationship to law
44. The law shapes the code and provides a strong reason for
putting a code in place, and the code in turn articulates the rules of conduct which
govern the working lives of those to whom it is addressed. Codes of conduct should reflect
at a minimum the standards of the criminal law relating to dishonesty and corruption.
Moreover, there should always be a relationship between codes of conduct and the laws and
regulations concerned with disciplinary action.
The Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers on Codes of Conduct
for Public Officials
45. The Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers makes clear
that the recommended adoption of codes of conduct for public officials should be subject
to national law and to national principles of public administration. In recommending that
such codes should be based on the annexed Model Code of Conduct, the recommendation also
makes clear that the model should be adapted to meet the circumstances of the particular
46. The Recommendation instructs GRECO to follow up on the
implementation of the recommendation.
The Model Code of Conduct for Public Officials
47. The Model Code is so structured that it states a number of
general principles before setting out more specific guidance. It starts with application
and interpretation provisions, states the object of the code and sets out the general
principles. It then deals with the following specific matters: reporting breaches of the
code, conflict of interest, declaration of interests, incompatible outside interests,
political or public activity, protection of the public officials privacy, gifts,
reaction to improper offers, susceptibility to influence by others, misuse of official
position, information held by public authorities, public and official resources, integrity
checking, supervisory accountability, leaving the public service, dealing with former
public officials and, finally, observance of the code and sanctions.
48. The code offers guidance. It addresses public officials and
members of the public. It is intended to be frequently referred to and read. It is
therefore not drafted in the style of a law or regulation. Rather it offers practical
advice and explanations to readers who are not necessarily learned nor legally trained. It
nevertheless tries to be reasonably precise since breach of its provision could result in
49. In adopting the provisions of the code, a State may need to
adapt its provisions to meet the particular requirements of the States public
Interpretation and application
50. This article says the code applies to all public officials and
defines "public official" as a person employed by a public authority.
51. The term "public official" is drawn
widely. However the provisions of this article and the code as a whole do not cover the
exercise of private functions or services, whether done by public officials or not. Thus,
private contractors remunerated from public revenues would not be covered, but the code is
intended to cover the exercise of public functions on a private basis, such as, in some
countries: notaries, public registers, etc. States themselves will have to decide the
extent of the term "public authority".
52. In accordance with paragraph 4, the provisions of the Model Code do
not apply to publicly elected representatives, members of governments and holders of
judicial office given the particular nature of the functions they perfom.
53. The GMC considered that it was necessary to draw a clear
distinction between public officials who exercise functions within public administration
or a public sector entity on the one hand, and ministers and elected representatives who
are political figures responsible before parliament and ultimately to the voters. Thus,
for instance, the principle of political neutrality recognised in paragraph 2 of Article 4
could not be applied to the latter.
54. Similarly, holders of judicial office are also excluded from the
scope of this code. In certain countries prosecutors, on account of the nature of the
functions that they perform may also be considered as holders of judicial office. Indeed
the principle of judicial independence is incompatible with some of the principles stated
in this code such as for instance the principle of accountability to the immediate
hierarchical superior enshrined in Article 10.
55. Notwithstanding the exclusion of these categories of persons from
the application of this code, it would be desirable for States to adopt ethical standards
appropriate for the functions performed by these persons. With this in mind, States can
decide to draw inspiration from the present code.
56. Moreover, States may decide to apply or adapt the provisions
of this Code, totally or in part, to other categories of persons not included in
57. The code applies to a public official from the time he or she
is informed of its provisions and certifies he has been so informed.
58. The application of this provision shall be adapted in the
case of civil services based on the career system where conditions of service are governed
by a civil service statute, where the code is enacted by the competent authority
(responsible for public officials), for example the Minister for Public Administration or
the Minister of the Interior, and the code would thus be an integral part of the
regulations that apply to public officials.
Object of the Code
59. The article states the aims of the code, i.e.: to specify
standards of integrity and conduct, help public officials meet those standards and tell
the public what it is entitled to expect from its public officials.
60. Given that public administrations play an essential role in
democratic societies, that public officials are the key element thereof and since
corruption undermines the citizens trust in their administration, the code aims at
eliminating any ambiguity about the general attitude of the administration towards
corruption and clearly expresses what is expected from every employee in that respect.
61. The Code of conduct fills the gap between on the one hand often
abstract legal regulations as to the principles of behaviour and, on the other hand the
requirement of guidance in numerous difficult situations of an employed persons
day-to-day life. It seeks to eliminate areas of uncertainty by offering either directly
applicable instructions on how to cope with a given situation, or indications on where and
how to receive such instructions. The Code can offer specific guidance in situations where
the employed person may feel that he has to deal with a conflict of interest.
62. In addition, the Code contributes to greater transparency in the
functioning of public administration by clearly informing citizens of what they are
entitled to expect from public officials.
Articles 4 11
63. These articles set out the public officials general
obligations to act lawfully, obediently, ethically and loyally. He or she is expected to
be honest, impartial, conscientious, fair and just, and to act politically neutral, only
in the public interest and with courtesy to all with whom he or she has contact.
64. He or she must not allow his or her private interests to affect, or
appear to affect, his or her public position nor take undue advantage of that position.
The term "private interest" is explained in Article 13. It is for States to
define the expression "undue advantage". However, it should be understood in a
broad sense, as including not only advantages offered or given to the public official but
also the avoidance of any disadvantages or burdens imposed upon him or her. Undue
advantages are usually of an economic nature but may also be of a non-material nature.
65. What is important for the purposes of Article 8 is that a public
official or a third person, for example a relative, should not be placed in a better
position or acquire that benefit. Examples of undue advantage are money, holidays, loans,
food and drink, a case handled more quickly than others or better career prospects.
66. The public officials behavior should enhance the
publics regard for the public service and he or she should be accountable for his or
her conduct. Thus, Article 6 forbids him to act arbitrarily to the detriment of any
person, group of person or body. In the course of the discussions, the GMC examined
whether this Article should also forbid acting for the benefit of a person, group or body
without any advantage for the public official or ensuing prejudice for a third party.
However, in the light of the principles of impartiality and lawfulness stated respectively
in Articles 5 and 7, the GMC did not consider it necessary to include expressly such a
67. His or her handling of information must respect both the right to
official information and the need for appropriate confidentiality. The expression
"necessary confidentiality" should be understood in a flexible manner, as
allowing adaptation to the context of each member State, and in the light of the legal
rules concerning the use of confidential information. Transparency is a key element in the
fight against corruption. The principle contained in Article 11 does not aim at
restricting unnecessarily the access of the public to official documents.
68. This article requires the public official to report, in
accordance with the law, whenever he or she believes he or she is being required to act
inconsistently with the code.
69. If, having reported the matter in accordance with the law, he
or she is not satisfied with the response, he or she may take the matter up in writing
with the relevant head of the public service, namely the person ultimately responsible for
the public service. This will obviously vary from country to country, for example the
Minister for Public Administration or the Minister of the Interior. When the matter has
been taken as far as procedures allow, the article makes clear that the public official
must then comply with lawful instructions.
70. Moreover, paragraph 2 requires public officials to report to the
competent authorities in accordance with the law any breach of the code by another public
official of which he or she becomes aware. The GMC was aware of the practical difficulties
that the application of this provision in public administration could entail in certain
cases since it could create tensions among public officials. However, it considered that
the passive or tolerant attitude of public officials regarding those breaches would be
more harmful for public administration and society as a whole.
71. Unlawful or criminal activities are to be reported to the
appropriate authorities. Once reported, the investigation will be the responsibility of
the competent authorities and not of the public official.
72. For its part the public administration must ensure that no
prejudice is caused to a public official who makes such a report on reasonable grounds and
in good faith.
Conflict of interest
73. This article explains what is a private interest and how a
conflict can arise between a public officials public duties and his or her private
interest. He or she must be aware of the possibility of a conflict arising, take steps to
avoid it, disclose it to his supervisor at the earliest opportunity and comply with any
proper instruction to resolve it. Whenever required to do so, he or she should state
whether or not a conflict arises.
Declaration of interests
74. The article explains that certain public officials may be
lawfully required periodically to declare their personal or private interests. This
obligation has a preventive character. It is generally imposed upon officials holding high
level posts. However, the main criterion should be the nature of the functions performed
and the responsibilities relating thereto. This may lead States to impose such obligations
upon certain officials even if they hold posts of a modest hierarchical level.
75. Periodic declarations of interest are essential for the
effectiveness of this measure. Keeping this in mind, the code provides that the
declaration will be made not only upon appointment but also at regular intervals
thereafter determined by national legislation. Any change in the situation affecting the
public officials interests will imply the obligation for him or her to submit a new
76. Since this obligation represents an interference on private life it
needs to be always justified. It is the duty of public administration to ensure the
confidentiality of such declarations which in turn is guaranteed by Article 17.
Incompatible outside interests
77. The article states that public officials are not to engage in
any activities incompatible with the proper performance of official functions. If unsure,
they should seek the advice of their superiors.
78. Subject to the law, the public official should seek his or her
employers approval to undertake certain activities, positions or functions outside
the public service. This requirement is made subject to law because some countries have
regulations governing the taking of outside or second jobs. It should be noted that this
principle does not prohibit a public official from having a second job outside the public
79. The article also requires the public official to comply with any
lawful requirement to declare his or her affiliation to organisations that could detract
from his or her position or the proper performance as a public official.
Political or public activity
80. This article enjoins the public official to be careful firstly
not to allow his or her political activities to impair his or her impartiality or loyalty
and secondly not to let himself or herself be used for partisan political purposes. He or
she should comply with any restriction on political activity lawfully imposed by reason of
his or her duties as a public official.
Protection of the public officials privacy
81. Like other citizens, public officials have a right to privacy
and have a duty to respect the privacy of other public officials. This article makes that
clear and specifically requires declarations made in accordance with the code to be kept
confidential unless otherwise required by law.
82. The right to respect for private life is not an absolute one. It
might be necessary to interfere or restrict the exercise of this right in order to attain
certain legitimate objectives such as the prevention of crime and the protection of the
rights of others. Consequently, the general principle of confidentiality of declarations
recognised in this Article could be lifted for instance in the framework of criminal
investigations or disciplinary procedures affecting the public official.
83. This article makes clear that the public official should not
seek or accept any gift or benefit for himself or anyone else that could influence, or
appear to influence, the carrying out of his or her duties. The public official
should never accept either gifts that constitute a real or apparent reward for actions or
omissions in the exercise of his or her functions. It is essential to preserve the
citizens trust in the impartiality of public administration. Such trust would be
undermined if the citizen observes or is under the impression that the public official,
whose salary should be paid in principle out of the public budget, receives compensation
from private individuals in exchange for the performance of his or her duties.
84. The Code allows for some exceptions to the general prohibition of
gifts, in respect of conventional hospitality or minor gifts. This expression comprises
for instance, modest invitations to food and drinks, calendars, low price pens,
advertising materials, small stationary
It is for each country to establish the
criteria to differentiate between what is acceptable and the gifts which fall within the
general prohibition rule. Often the value of the gift or invitation is used as a
criterion, it being understood that whenever the value is lower than the threshold, the
gift or invitation could be acceptable. However, low value may not always be a proper
criterion. He or she should be alert however to the possibility of even a generally
permitted advantage giving rise to a conflict of interest in particular circumstances.
Thus, gifts or invitations offered repeatedly, even if low value could affect the public
officials impartiality in the exercise of his or her functions.
85. During discussions, the GMC considered the possibility of
introducing a general obligation of declaring all gifts, even those of low value. Once the
gifts are declared, the hierarchical superior or other competent authority would decide
which gifts the public official was authorised to accept. The GMC preferred however, not
to include such a general system in a model code, it being understood that each country is
free to adopt more restrictive provisions than those contained in the code.
86. When social circumstances prevent him or her refusing an advantage,
the public official should promptly report the fact and circumstances of his acceptance to
his immediate superior and comply with any direction for disposal.
87. When in doubt, the public official should seek advice from his or
88. Elementary prudence would require that the request and the advice
should be made in writing.
Reaction to improper offers
89. Public officials need to know how to react appropriately when
improperly offered a gift or benefit. This article gives specific guidance on what he or
she should do in such circumstances.
Susceptibility to influence by others
90. Public officials can become the targets of attempts to
compromise them. The purpose of this article is to alert them to the danger by advising
them that they should not put themselves in a position of obligation to return a favour,
nor conduct themselves in their official or private lives in such a way that they become
susceptible to the improper influence of others.
Misuse of official position
91. The public official is enjoined firstly not to offer any
advantage connected with his position as an official unless lawfully authorised to do so,
and secondly not to try to influence anyone for his or her own private benefit by using
his or her official position or by offering a personal advantages. These advantages can be
offered directly or indirectly.
Information held by public authorities
92. In the course of serving the common good, the public service
creates, acquires and holds a great deal of information, the value or significance of
which may not always be obvious. The handling of information held by public authorities is
a frequent cause of difficulty. This article provides guidance in four distinct aspects.
93. First, the public official should disclose information only in
accordance with applicable rules and requirements.
94. Second, he or she must protect the security and confidentiality of
information, not only for which he or she is responsible but also of which he or she
95. Third, the public official should not seek official information to
which he or she should not have access, nor should he or she make improper use of
information come by in his or her employment.
96. Fourth, he or she has an equally strong duty not to withhold
official information that may or should be released nor to provide false or misleading
Public and official resources
97. This article requires the public official to manage and make
use of personnel resources on one hand and of public property, facilities, services and
financial resources on the other effectively, efficiently and economically. Unauthorised
use for private purposes is forbidden, when authorisation is given according to the law.
Thus, for instance, the public official should not, without proper authorisation, use the
official car for private travel, or the office telephone for private calls, or ask his or
her secretary to do work unrelated to his or her official duties.
98. In this connection, the GMC considered the use by public officials
of fidelity programmes organised by airlines, hotel chains, and by other service
providers. Thus, for instance, whenever the public official enjoys a margin of discretion
in the choice of the airline for an official journey, this article requires the public
official to be careful to choose without being influenced by personal considerations to
the detriment of the economic interest of the public administration as defined above.
99. Experience shows the importance of carrying out integrity
checks or acting on them in order to avoid long-term integrity problems in the public
service. This article therefore requires the public official responsible for recruitment,
promotion or posting to make sure that appropriate integrity checks are carried out as
100. Again, he or she is enjoined to seek appropriate advice if the
results of the checks make it unclear how to proceed.
101. The notion that every person in a supervisory position should
be responsible and accountable for the conduct of those he or she supervises has a
significant effect on the integrity of the public service.
102. This article lays a dual responsibility on the supervisor or
manager. He or she should manage or supervise in accordance with the policies and purposes
of the public service and he or she should be answerable for the failings of his staff if
he or she has not taken reasonable steps to prevent them.
103. The article goes on to give specific guidance. The supervisor or
manager should take steps to prevent corruption by enforcing the rules, providing
education or training, being alert to signs of financial or other difficulties and setting
a personal example.
Leaving the public service
104. If it is in the public interest that people with experience of
public administration should be able to take up appointment outside the public service, it
is equally important that the taking up of appointment elsewhere should not cause
suspicion of impropriety. The guidance provided in this article therefore aims to allay
that the advice, decisions or actions of the public official
could be influenced by the hope or expectation of future employment with a particular
that the employer might be gaining an unfair advantage over
competitors by employing a public official who had access to information that competitors
regard as their own commercial secrets or that relates to proposed developments in
government policy affecting them.
105. Accordingly, the public official should not take improper
advantage of his official position to obtain a job outside the public service. He or she
should be careful to avoid the possibility of conflict of interest arising from the
prospect of future employment. For an appropriate period he or she should avoid acting or
advising in matters in which he or she was involved as a public official. Nor should he
use or disclose confidential information acquired as an official. Finally he or she should
comply with any rules that apply to accepting appointments after leaving the public
Dealing with former public officials
106. This Article forbids public officials to grant former public
officials preferential treatment or privileged access to the public service as this would
be contrary to the principles stated in this code such as, for instance, those in Article
5, paragraphs 2, 7 and 9.
107. This provision does not concern the cases where national
legislation grants former public officials certain advantages such as, for instance, the
use of public facilities like holiday camps, preferential or free fares awarded to public
Observance of the Code and sanctions
108. This article first states the authority under which it is
issued, a matter that will vary from country to country. It then reminds the official of
the duty to conduct himself or herself in accordance with the code and therefore to become
and remain familiar with its provisions. He or she is urged to seek advice when unsure of
how to proceed.
109. The article then points out that subject to Article 2, paragraph
2, the code forms part of the officials terms of employment and that failure
to comply with it may lead to disciplinary action.
110. The official who has responsibilities for negotiating terms of
employment is reminded of his or her duty to include in them a provision that the code
forms part of those terms.
111. The supervisor or manager is made responsible for ensuring that
those under him or her observe the code and for initiating disciplinary action for failure
to comply with it.
112. The public administration is under the obligation to review at
regular intervals the provisions of this code so as to ensure that they are still