• Apart from a few earlier cases, systems of public officials’ declarations began to evolve into their modern versions after the Second World War (Burdescu et al., 2009, Figure 1, p. 29). In the United States, growing government and recurrent corruption scandals created impetus for initiatives to strengthen public integrity. One of the early political statements regarding the need to impose public disclosure of personal finances on certain federal officials was voiced in the message of President Truman to the Congress in 1951: “With all the questions that are being raised today about the probity and honesty of public officials, I think all of us should be prepared to place the facts about our income on the public record.”

  • Conflict of interest control – The United Nations Convention against Corruption makes explicit reference to the possibility of a conflict of interest as a benchmark for what information is to be declared. This reflects the fact that conflict of interest control is the most common purpose for the use of declarations of public officials. One could say that the conflict of interest prevention focuses somewhat narrowly on whether a particular interest can interfere with the discharge of official duties. Meantime there are also broader concerns with public accountability, raising the more general possibility of evaluating the activities of a public official, including what personal motives he/she may have.

  • Several types of regulations can serve as the legal basis for public officials’ declarations. Usually, asset declarations are regulated by a special law or a section in another law that sets forth the purpose, scope and design of the system. These will vary depending on whether declarations are a major part of an overarching anti-corruption legislation, or just one of many procedures in the civil service legal framework. The type of legal basis is likely to differ also, depending on whether declarations are viewed as a general tool for promoting public accountability of the political class, or a more comprehensive anti-corruption tool for the state apparatus as a whole.

  • Countries differ widely as to what categories of public officials are covered within the declaration system, what categories of public sector employees are considered public officials, and whether any individuals other than public officials should be covered.

  • Despite the often-used shorthand designation “assets declarations”, public officials’ declarations usually require other types of information, and in fact many systems do not require data about assets at all.

  • A number of functions are associated with the administration of public officials’ declarations.

  • A failure to fulfil duties related to declarations can fall within either of two broad categories. One concerns the duty to submit a declaration; the other concerns what information is provided in the declaration:

    - Violations related to the duty to submit declarations:

    . failure to submit a declaration;

    . late submission of a declaration.

    - Violations related to the information provided:

    . incomplete statement of required information;

    . inadvertently false statement;

    . intentionally false statement.

  • In this study, the term “public disclosure” is used when information is provided to regular citizens, whereas simple “disclosure” applies to cases where information is provided to competent authorities only. The issue of the admissibility of public disclosure is highly contested; however, there is a growing trend towards greater public disclosure of information about public officials. It is not the intention here to explore all of the legal concerns related to the making of information about a person’s income and assets available to the public. Suffice it to say that both among the Western European and former socialist countries there is a great variety of approaches to that issue.

  • It is axiomatic that running a public officials’ declaration system represents an administrative burden and involves costs. While these costs are typically mentioned among the disadvantages of the system (Messick, 2009, p. 7), more seldom is it said just how costly the system is. The questionnaire data show that few countries know the cost of implementing the declaration system – that of completing and submitting the statements, or those incurred by the controlling institutions. This is true especially often in those cases where the implementing unit in charge of declarations is a part of a larger agency, e.g. the tax administration. The situation seems to confirm the perception that public officials’ declarations have been introduced mostly as a reaction to various political concerns, rather than based on cost/benefit considerations.