3. Towards a culture of public integrity in the State of Mexico

Citizen distrust in public servants and the government is high in the State of Mexico (Figure 3.1). Available data suggest that the degree to which governments are trusted and perceived to act with integrity have the most direct influence on levels of trust in public institutions. Integrity reinforces the credibility and legitimacy of government and facilitates policy action (OECD, 2017[1]). In the State of Mexico, 57.5% of the citizens consider “corruption” as one of the most pressing problems in the State of Mexico, before “Poverty” (30.1%), “Poor attention in health centres and public hospitals” (19.9%) and “Poor quality of public education” (10.8%). Moreover, in terms of domestic comparison, 63.3% of the population of the State of Mexico considers that corrupt practices in the State are "very frequent", being surpassed only by Mexico City with 68.3% (INEGI, 2017[2]). As such, the State of Mexico, as other federal states in Mexico, faces the challenge of rebuilding citizen’s trust in public institutions at state and municipal levels.

Building a culture of integrity in the public sector requires going beyond normative requirements for values and principles and defining appropriate sanctions. Laws and clear, written standards of conduct are a first step. However, it demands a common, shared understanding of what kind of behaviour public employees are expected to follow in their daily tasks, when facing ethical dilemmas or confronting conflict of interest situations. The effective implementation of this set of rules, in turn, is the most challenging part of the process of moving from an integrity framework to a culture of integrity.

The OECD Recommendation of the Council on Public Integrity recognises the importance of setting clear integrity standards and sanctions in cases of misconduct, as well as the need to provide sufficient information, training and advice for public officials to effectively apply public integrity standards in their workplace (OECD, 2017[3]). It offers guidance for decision makers on developing and ensuring an open organisational culture that motivates free discussions of ethical dilemmas and public integrity concerns, and suggests that public organisations should invest in integrity leaders capable of providing relevant advice and willing to demonstrate their commitment to public integrity and the fight against corruption.

The State of Mexico has undertaken the regulatory adjustments required to harmonise its normative framework with the legislation of the National Anti-Corruption System. In particular, the State of Mexico adopted the Law of Administrative Responsibilities of the State of Mexico and Municipalities and the Law of the Anticorruption System of the State of Mexico, as well as a Code of Ethics for public servants of the Government of the State of Mexico and its auxiliary agencies. Together with other relevant legislations, they define the standards for the expected behaviour of public servants and the sanctions for breaches (Table 3.1). This regulatory framework for public ethics is consistent with the Mexican National Anti-Corruption System and the guidelines from the Federal Government.

The OECD Recommendation of the Council on Public Integrity encourages countries to ensure that their integrity standards apply “to the legislative, executive, administrative, and judicial bodies”, as well as “to their public officials whether appointed or elected, paid or unpaid, in a permanent or temporary position at the central and subnational levels of government”. In the Political Constitution of the State of Mexico (Art. 130), a public servant is defined as any person who performs a job, position or commission in any of the powers of the state, in autonomous bodies, in the municipalities and auxiliary agencies, as well as in companies with state or municipal participation, in similar societies or associations, and in public trusts. This definition is valid for the application of the Law of Administrative Responsibilities of the State of Mexico and Municipalities (LARSMM). As such, the guiding principles of the public service apply to all public employees in line with the OECD Recommendation.

In turn, the Code of Ethics for public servants of the Government of the State of Mexico and its auxiliary agencies (the Code of Ethics), published in April 2019 applies to any person who performs a job, position or commission within any of the ministries or auxiliary agencies of the public administration of the state government (Article 2). At municipal level, information provided to the OECD indicates that currently only 10 out of 125 municipalities report having developed an Ethics Code. Regulations in the State of Mexico require all public entities, including municipalities, to develop their own Codes of Ethics. Considering that a significant part of public employees work in municipalities and that many public services vulnerable to corruption are provided at this level, the State of Mexico should consider an increased emphasis on promoting and supporting public ethics in municipalities. The visibility, frequency and closeness of interactions between public servants and citizens, as well as businesses at this level, create opportunities to strengthen local accountability and to fight erosion of public trust (see sub-section “Laying the foundations for public integrity at municipal level” in Chapter 3).

Outside the executive branch, the Code of Ethics for the Judiciary branch of the State of Mexico applies to any person who performs a job, position or commission, in any of the administrative or jurisdictional units of the Judicial Branch of the State of Mexico (Article 2). The legislative power, in turn, is currently in the process of developing its own Code of Ethics.

The Code of Ethics for the Executive contains fifteen principles and eight values of the public service, which are mostly consistent with those defined in other relevant legislations, both at the federal and state level (Table 3.2). These 23 values and principles are also similar to those emphasised by most OECD member countries. .

However, while aligned with Federal and State Law, some of the 23 principles and values contained in the current Code of Ethics seem repetitive and may lead to confusion among public officials. Behavioural research suggests that a set of values or key principles ideally should have no more than seven elements to be easily memorised (OECD, 2018[4]; Miller, 1955[5]). In addition, values target the informal level and social aspects that are shaping human behaviour and, as such, should complement existing legal frameworks, which provide the formal context. As such, instead of following an approach aimed at completeness as well as legal and conceptual rigour, the values in an ethics code should above all be of practical relevance and memorable for public employees. Driven by this consideration, countries such as Australia and Colombia, and recently Brazil, have reviewed their approach to ethics codes and significantly reduced the number of values (Box 3.1). Similarly, the UK Civil Service Code outlines just four civil service values and the Danish “Kodex VII” defines seven central duties to guide civil servants. 

Therefore, the State of Mexico could initiate a process aimed at identifying which are the 5 to 7 core values that public officials consider as most relevant, with which they identify and to which they want to aspire. To do so, the State of Mexico could initiate a process to simplify the values contained in the current Code of Ethics and thereby enhance its clarity and practical relevance, while remaining aligned with the existing legal provisions, as has been done in the State of Nuevo Leon (Box 3.2). For example, the 5 to 7 values selected could be compiled in a practical manual or toolkit to complement, not replace, the formal Code of Ethics, so that the overall state framework is still legally consistent with the national one. Such a revision, similar to the Colombian or recent Brazilian experience, would be the opportunity to seek strong participation and engagement by public servants. Consulting and involving them in the process of elaboration through discussion or surveys can help build consensus on the shared values and increase their sense of ownership and compliance with them. To reach out to the municipal level, the State of Mexico could consider involving municipalities in the revision of the Code of Ethics and aim at one single set of values for the state and municipal governments. In addition, as in Colombia (Box 3.1), public entities and municipalities could be invited to add one or two specific values at a later stage, if they deem necessary. These additional values could be discussed in an internal, participatory process.

Just as different organisations face different contexts and carry out different kinds of work, they typically will also face a variety of ethical dilemmas and specific conflict-of-interest situations. In particular, the OECD experience on conflict-of-interest management shows that public officials should be provided with real-world examples and discussions on how specific conflict situations have been handled. Organisational codes of conduct provide an opportunity to include relevant and concrete examples from the organisation’s day-to-day business to which employees can easily relate (OECD, 2009[7]).

In fact, similar to the federal level, the Code of Ethics of the State of Mexico already requires that all ministries and auxiliary agencies issue their own codes of conduct, which include even more detailed Integrity Rules that lay out what conducts are expected from public servants. Developing and implementing codes of conduct can also provide an excellent entry point to start working on public integrity at municipal levels (see sub-section “Laying the foundations for public integrity at municipal level” in Chapter 3).

The mandate of the Ethics Committees establish that they should develop a proposal of these organisational Codes of Conduct and, together with the Code of Ethics, steer their implementation. To ensure consistency with the Code of Ethics of the State of Mexico and among the different Codes of Conduct and Integrity Rules within the ministries of the State, SECOGEM issued guidelines to support the Ethics Committees in their tasks.

Four key improvements would contribute to further strengthening the standards set in the Codes of Conduct and Integrity Rules. First, SECOGEM should ensure that more emphasis is put on managing conflict of interest, which is at the core of upholding the public interest over private interests. The Code of Ethics and the Codes of Conduct, in line with the Law of Administrative Responsibilities of the State of Mexico and Municipalities, briefly define what constitutes a potential, apparent and real conflict of interest. However, they do not specify concretely how employees are expected to react when facing a potential conflict of interest situation beyond requiring that public servants complete the declaration of interest form when taking a new position and every time they consider that a possible conflict of interest can emerge. Although the specific ethical competences to identify and manage conflict-of-interest situations need to be developed through training, practice and further guidance (see section “Ensuring that standards translate into practice and behavioural change” in Chapter 3), the Codes of Conduct and Integrity Rules should give a more prominent place to this issue in the context of the respective organisation. This could also contribute to clarify to public employees that being in a situation of conflict of interest is not in itself corruption and that it is in their own interest to learn how to identify such situations and how to manage them. This could also be accomplished through practical manuals and/or toolkits, such as the one issued by SFP at the federal level.

Second, in response to the increasing mobility between the public and private sectors (“revolving door”), OECD member countries have established specific rules and procedures for managing conflict of interest regarding pre- and post-public employment. The rules and procedures are encouraging public servants and institutions to properly identify and manage possible situations of conflict of interest when changing positions and include prohibitions after leaving office and cooling-off periods. In many cases, countries introduce flexibility into the pre- and post-public employment system by imposing different restrictions on public sector entities and positions, depending on the extent of the risk of potential conflicts of interest. In general, senior political or public position officials enjoy comparatively attractive post-public employment opportunities because of the power they exercise, the information and experience they possess, and the public funds they allocate. Moreover, their heightened public exposure leaves them more vulnerable to public and media scrutiny should they abuse their pre- or post-public employment restrictions. For example, in Germany, the Civil Service act stipulates targeted cooling-off periods for civil servants after they have left public service or have reached retirement age. For members of the government and Parliamentary State Secretaries, the Federal Government may prohibit, either fully or in part, the taking up of employment (remunerated or not) for the first 18 months after leaving office, if there is a concern that the new position will interfere with public interests. The decision on a prohibition is taken in light of a recommendation from an advisory body composed of three members (Box 3.3).

The State of Mexico requires public officials not to use confidential or privileged information and prohibits private individuals to hire former public servants who possess privileged information for up to one year after they leave the public sector. However, the standards do not require cooling-off periods after leaving the public sector for issues related to lobbying or engaging in official dealings or interacting with former subordinates or colleagues in the public sector. The State of Mexico could therefore consider setting a broader cooling-off standard that allows preventing possible situations of conflict of interest, not necessarily associated with hiring former public servants. Whether a cooling-off period should apply and how long it should be, could depend on the grade of the public official and ideally on a risk assessment of the position, in line with good practices in OECD countries. Given scarcity of experts for some tasks, it may be necessary to include the possibility of shortening the cooling-off period in exchange for requirements increasing the transparency and accountability of the individual. For example, in Spain, high-level officials are required to disclose future employment plans and seek approval from an advisory body (Transparency International, 2015[9]). Also, approval of post-employment private activities by the Office for Conflicts of Interest is required for a 2-year-cooling-off period. In the State of Mexico, decisions could be taken by SECOGEM. Of course, sanctions related to violations of these revolving door requirements should ensure the credibility of the rules.

Third, gifts are a sensitive issue that can lead to situations of conflict of interest. Regardless of their value, they can improperly influence the performance of public officials affecting their objectivity and impartiality. Under the LARSMM, receiving gifts from a person or an organisation is prohibited (Article 7). The Code of Ethics, in Article 6, also emphasises that public servants cannot solicit or accept gifts of any type. However, the recent agreement establishing the dispositions for receiving, registering and disposing of objects received elaborates clear procedures on how public servants have to report gifts. The Codes of Conduct could elaborate further on this agreement and emphasise that if a public employee received a gift, it is better to notify than not, as the employee exposes himself to the risk of misunderstandings or even extortion. Indeed, gifts are sometimes strategically given without asking for quid pro quos with the aim to capture a public official – when a quid pro quo is eventually asked for, the public official is already too compromised to reject the request or unconsciously biased in favour of the gift-giver (OECD, 2017[10]; OECD, 2018[4]). Additionally, the State of Mexico could consider applying lessons from behavioural insights to make reminders to report gifts to the registry more effective (Box 3.4).

Finally, the current guidelines to elaborate the codes of conduct could encourage explicitly that the codes of conduct should remain living documents to be regularly updated, in line with emerging risks, and discussed amongst the employees of the organisation, steered by the Ethics Committees. For instance, employees could be encouraged to propose changes on a continuous basis, e.g. through a “suggestions box”. Such bottom-up proposals could be considered regularly and actions taken. Consulting and involving employees in the elaboration and updating of the code of conduct through focus group discussions, surveys, or interviews can help build consensus on the expected behaviour, increase staff members’ feelings of ownership and compliance with the code, ensure that the language is understandable and that the behaviours included are relevant for the employees of the organisation. In addition, SECOGEM could consider encouraging an active role of external stakeholders, such as users of public services and private suppliers of goods and services, in the process of elaborating or updating the Codes of Conduct and Integrity Rules. First, this can ensure that both users and suppliers become aware of the expected conduct of public employees and that they can hold them to account for that conduct. Second, it allows taking into account the perceptions and experiences of externals when being in contact with public employees in the development of the codes.

Setting the standards right and ensuring their relevance for public employees is the first step towards building an integrity culture. The challenge relates to the effective implementation of these standards and achieving the desired change in practice and behaviour. Raising awareness and engaging all public employees, offering them guidance, training and advice, as well as leading by example, are key ingredients to build a culture of integrity in the State of Mexico.

The 2003 OECD Guidelines for Managing Conflict of Interest aim at helping countries to promote a public service culture where conflicts of interest are properly identified and resolved or managed, in an appropriately transparent and timely way, without unduly inhibiting the effectiveness and efficiency of the public organisations concerned. The effectiveness of managing conflict of interest rests upon the understanding public employees have about the concept of conflicting interests, their capacity to identify when being in such a situation and their knowledge on how and where to report them. They must also trust the system and believe that reporting a conflict of interest situation will not cause them any harm.

Often, however, employees may not be able to identify that they are in a situation of conflicting interests, or that they are being put deliberately in a conflict of interest situation through apparently insignificant gifts, invitations or gratuities. In addition, international practice and experimental evidence shows that employees may be aware of factors that could influence their decisions, but often overestimate their ability to remain objective (OECD, 2018[4]). For instance, as mentioned above, public officials may receive gifts or invitations from a supplier, but think that they still will be able to take a neutral and objective decision. Yet, human beings are hard wired to reciprocate favours, even unconsciously.

Even when a conflict of interest situation has been correctly identified, public employees should have a clear idea on how to proceed to report and adequately manage the situation. While the direct superior is and should be the first to contact, it may be good to communicate that employees can seek previous guidance with a trusted ethics advisor, which could be embodied by the integrity units recommended and described in Chapter 1.

In addition to a lack of knowledge with respect to reporting procedures, there may be psychological aspects impeding the reporting of the situation. Indeed, the concept of a conflict of interest may be difficult to grasp. OECD Integrity Reviews, as well as interviews conducted in the State of Mexico, found that employees often misunderstand a conflict of interest situation as being synonymous with the criminal offense of “influence trading”. Similarly, claiming that someone has a conflict of interest is often understood as a moral criticism, and not as a description of a set of circumstances. For the effectiveness of conflict of interest policies, it is pivotal to help public employees understand that being in a situation of conflict of interest is a judgement about the situation and not about their moral integrity.

Therefore, in addition to emphasising the need for managing conflict of interest in the Code of Ethics and in the Codes of Conduct and Integrity Rules, the Corruption Prevention Unit (Unidad de Prevención de la Corrupción) of SECOGEM could consider developing additional guidance material aimed at clarifying the concepts and their practical implications. Such material or guidelines should not attempt to cover every possible situation in which a conflict of interest might arise and not over-emphasise sanctions related to breaches. Instead, they should provide public employees with clear and realistic descriptions of what conditions might lead to a conflict of interest situation and procedures to help identifying and declaring private interests that might result in a potential conflict of interest. In line with the previous recommendation, SECOGEM is currently working in developing a Public Ethics Manual. In a different case, Argentina has implemented an online simulator, where public officials can seek guidance to assess whether they are in a situation of conflict of interest (Box 3.5).

Finally, most OECD countries aim at identifying those areas that are most at risk of corruption and attempt to provide particular guidance to prevent, manage and resolve conflict-of-interest situations. As such, the strengthened integrity unit could play a key role providing advice to public employees in managing conflict of interest. In addition, they could combine information obtained through already completed integrity risk assessments and through engaging and motivating public employees to share examples of conflict-of-interest situations, e.g. during focus group discussions or training sessions organised by Ethics Committees. Doing so, an organisation could develop a very clear and concrete picture of the ‘at-risk’ areas, processes or positions that are particularly prone to potential conflict of interest situations and develop specific guidance and implement measures to address them, while reducing the stigma often associated with conflict of interest situations. The Corruption Prevention Unit could provide support to the Ethics Committees in carrying out this guidance on managing conflict of interest tailored to the specificities of the corresponding organisation.

Recognising a conflict of interest may be challenging. Moreover, real ethical dilemmas do not have a straightforward “solution” of what would be correct behaviour; they require time to think through the dilemma, document the path taken to make a choice and the possibility to seek external advice (Lewis and Gilman, 2005[13]). In Australia, for example, the REFLECT model provides public officials with general sequenced steps and reflections on how to proceed (Box 3.6).

Again, the Ethics Committees, especially if transformed into Integrity Units, as recommended in Chapter 1, could play a key role in providing public employees a safe haven. Such protected spaces are essential to support employees and provide them with an opportunity where they can seek advice when confronted with ethical dilemmas or in case of any other doubt related to the Code of Ethics or the Code of Conduct and the Integrity Rules of their organisations. To be able to fulfil this function, at least one public official needs to be trained as an ethical advisor. The existence of this position needs to be clearly communicated to the staff and ideally remains the same over time, so the ethical advisor can build trust within the organisation.

Raising awareness, building knowledge and skills, and cultivating commitment for integrity are essential public integrity elements. Raising awareness about integrity standards, practices and challenges helps public officials recognise integrity issues when they arise. Communication of the standards, both internally within the organisation and externally with stakeholders, makes the standards alive and part of the organisational culture. Likewise, well-designed training and guidance equips public officials with the knowledge and skills to appropriately manage integrity issues and seek out expert advice when needed.

The Corruption Prevention Unit recognised that communication, raising awareness and building capacity contribute to cultivating commitment amongst public officials and motivating behaviour to carry out their public duties in the public interest. In 2019, SECOGEM signed an agreement with the Human Rights Commission of the State of Mexico (Comisión de Derechos Humanos del Estado de México) to organise seven keynote conferences on issues related to ethics in the public administration, culture of legality, integrity rules, prevention of conflict of interest and prevention of corruption, amongst others. Moreover, the Corruption Prevention Unit provides regular advice and offers training on anti-corruption, integrity and ethical issues to public servants who request it. The Unit currently also provides specialised training and advice to the members of the Ethics Committees established in the ministries and auxiliary agencies of the State. More recently, SECOGEM started publishing every Wednesday, in its social networks, a description of a public service value. While the State of Mexico is currently carrying out the latter activities to promote public ethics and integrity, further measures could be implemented to build a strong culture of integrity.

First, with respect to communication and awareness raising, SECOGEM could get support from the proposed network of Ethics Committees, including those from municipal governments, to reach out to all public institutions of the state, so that they can help promoting integrity campaigns and circulating information within each public entity. In addition, the State of Mexico could complement the ongoing efforts by designing more targeted campaigns and advice. For instance, concrete examples could be provided about what a particular value might mean to encourage public officials to think about the value and internalise it. Well-formulated advice in the form of questions and answers dealing with one specific topic is also useful (Box 3.7.).

Second, the State of Mexico could diversify specific trainings on integrity ​​and ethics for public servants, emphasising the practical implications, beyond mere legal compliance. To ensure real change in behaviour, the ethics training should encourage public officials to become partners in creating an integrity culture throughout government. Studies have demonstrated that ethics training should not be considered as a one-time exercise; training needs to be repeated, since people forget what they have learned, circumstances may change, responsibilities can increase or change and regulations may be amended or new ones could be enacted. For these reasons, the most rigorous ethics regimes embarked on a strategy that emphasises regular training exposure of public officials (Gilman, 2005[14]). Canada, for example, has even instituted continuous training sessions of its public officials, from the moment they are hired until they leave their posts and the sessions are available online. Indeed, together with the Institute of Professionalisation of the Public Servants of the Executive Branch of the Government of the State of Mexico, SECOGEM could develop a basic integrity online course, mandatory for all public employees, including the employees that are freely appointed (“confianza”). Online courses are an efficient way to reach a large number of public employees at relatively low costs and provide the basics of the integrity policies. The State of Mexico could follow the example of the Slovak Republic, for instance (Box 3.8).

On the other hand, the State of Mexico could complement an online course with more in-depth and specific capacity building courses targeted to three groups:

  • public officials working in at-risk areas, for instance, procurement officials, auditors, public officials directly dealing with user-oriented services, such as licencing or permits

  • public officials with responsibility to manage staff, to reinforce their function as an ethical role model (see next Section for more detail)

  • public officials working in the Ethics Committees, or the reformed integrity unit as recommended in Chapter 1, to ensure that these units have the capacities to correctly address the concerns brought to them.

These targeted in-depth trainings could in particular develop skills on how to address ethical dilemmas and conflict of interest situations. They could be developed by the reformed integrity units with support of the Corruption Prevention Unit and the Institute for the Professionalisation of Public Servants of the Executive Branch of the State of Mexico to ensure that trainings respond to the needs of the corresponding organisation. The State of Mexico should ensure that these trainings are mandatory for the identified public employees and require that the training is periodically repeated (e.g. every two years). In addition, a public employee who moves to another public organisation should be required to follow the training in the new organisation. Again, these trainings should also be mandatory for all public employees, including those that are freely appointed (“confianza”). Of course, trainings should be dynamic and interactive, as in the example of the Flemish Region (Box 3.9).

Finally, the State of Mexico could also implement new initiatives to communicate integrity rules in public organisations. The use of regular small reminders of appropriate behaviour could allow the internalisation of social norms and the construction of a collective idea about the type of behaviour that is socially undesirable. Moreover, the use of contextual cues could increase awareness about risks in situations when deception is about to take place (Mazar and Ariely, 2006[15]). The effect of a moral reminder may be reduced if an individual is exposed to it on a frequent basis, and at some point, the message may no longer be noticed. Nonetheless, when policy makers place such messages in the proximity of decisions with integrity risks – which are not taken frequently by the same person – they can make a significant difference. The Corruption Prevention Unit, together with Ethics Committees, could therefore review processes and procedures for the possibility of inserting timely moral reminders. For example, whenever a public employee enters the service, changes positions or starts a new project, it could be required to sign the already existing Letter of Commitment (Carta Compromiso).

Consistent ethical role modelling and leadership from managers is one of the main sources of promotion and diffusion of standards of conduct. Leaders’ roles in promoting and actively managing integrity in their organisations cannot be underestimated. Social learning theory suggests that people learn from one another, via observation, imitation, and modelling, and that manager’s engagement in unethical acts is the biggest driver of unethical behaviour (Hanna, Crittenden and Crittenden, 2013[16]). Even the best designed codes of conduct, processes and integrity structures fall short if public officials are not encouraged by visibly committed managers and leaders.

To be an ethical leader, two interrelated aspects are required:

  • The leader needs to be perceived by employees as a moral person who understands his own values and uses them to make the right decisions when faced with an ethical dilemma.

  • The leaders need to be perceived as moral managers who make open and visible ethical decisions, rewards and sanction others based on ethical criteria, communicate openly about ethics and give employees the opportunities to make their own ethical choices and encourage them to seek advice.

The interviews conducted in the State of Mexico illustrated commitment at the highest level, amongst others expressed in the openness to conduct an Integrity Review and start a process aimed at improving integrity standards and practices. Nonetheless, the interviews also indicated that the ethical leadership and management skills at the intermediate management levels could be reinforced.

First, integrity could be part of the skills required in the hiring process of public managers and in their performance evaluations. In Canada, the Key Leadership Competencies Profile defines the behaviours expected of leaders in the public service in building a professional, ethical and non-partisan public service. The competency to ‘uphold integrity and management’ highlights the role of leaders to create a work environment in which advice is sought and valued and ethical conduct is exemplified and encouraged. The Competency Profile is taken into account for selection, learning, performance and talent management of executives and senior leaders. The State of Mexico could inspire its leadership policies by this Canadian experience and adapt the idea to the current regulations and procedures for hiring managers (Box 3.10).

Second, public managers with responsibility for managing staff should receive training aimed at raising awareness concerning their responsibility in managing conflict of interest and providing advice in case their subordinated staff are faced with doubts or ethical dilemmas. These trainings should correspond to their level of responsibilities. Indeed, the direct superior should be the first instance where public employees can go in case of doubts and play the most important role in promoting a culture of open discussion and integrity. For example, there is no better incentive for public employees to declare a situation of conflict of interest as if they have witnessed their direct superior handling such a situation in a transparent manner. Trainings could therefore aim at preparing managers to become a role model, to communicate to their staff that errors are human and can be discussed freely with them, and to know about the relevant integrity regulations and risk factors in their areas of work.

Finally, periodic performance evaluations can be useful to create a space in which managers and their staff can discuss integrity issues and create an environment of trust to share doubts related to possible situations of conflict of interest or ethical dilemmas. Performance evaluations can also be used to transmit expectations regarding the values and behaviours that should be present in developing the daily-based activities. During these meetings, it could also be helpful to discuss general issues concerning the division of labour, teamwork, etc. If taken seriously and not as a check-the-box exercise, such a regular discussion would help to make integrity one of the priorities of work performance and can provide the opportunity to move beyond evaluating past objectives and future goals of employees (OECD, 2017[17]). In the State of Mexico, public institutions conduct performance evaluations (evaluaciones del desempeño) of public servants every six months. Public servants are informed about their performance at the end of the evaluation, before signing it. The Corruption Prevention Unit, together with the Human Resource Management Unit, could design a procedure that dedicates a section to integrity, for instance, reminding the principles and values of the public service, inviting employees to speak about ethics and developing a capacity-building plan that includes trainings for all public employees, including those that are freely appointed, on integrity policies such as management of employees’ conflict of interest or ethical dilemmas.

While integrity is a concern at all levels of government, opportunities for certain types of corruption can be more pronounced at subnational levels. Subnational governments’ responsibilities for the delivery of a large share of public services (e.g. security, waste management, utilities, granting licences and permits) increases the frequency and directness of interactions between government authorities and citizens and firms, which creates opportunities to test the integrity of subnational governments (OECD, 2017[18]). For example, in Mexico 8 of the 10 procedures which are perceived as most corrupt either concern competences spread across different levels of government or are under the direct responsibility of municipalities (Table 3.3).

At municipal level in the State of Mexico, a major challenge consists of following a realistic approach that takes into account the local realities, capacities, but also opportunities. In addition, there needs to be an even clearer distinction than for entities at the state level between measures pertaining to the political level, i.e. the elected mayors, and the employees of the municipal administration. For the public administration, an involvement of municipalities in the selection of a few values to develop practical tools, as mentioned above, could provide a good entry point to promote a discussion about the values and principles that should guide local administrations. Building on that, municipalities could be supported by the Corruption Prevention Unit in developing their own municipal Codes of Conduct, which would be the instrument to take into account local risks and contextual factors. Such support would be of a co-operative nature, respecting the autonomy of municipalities. In Peru, the Basel Institute on Governance with the contribution of the OECD, provided a methodology for regional governments that emphasises public officials’ participation during the whole development and implementation process of a local code of conduct, from the assessment of the entity’s integrity context to the dissemination of the code itself (Basel Institute on Governance, 2018[19]). The State of Mexico could build on this methodology, adapting it to its own needs and context.

In addition, when considering the elected mayors, the interviews conducted in the State of Mexico with representatives from municipalities and civil society suggest that building basic capacities in public management and an understanding of how the public administration works would be essential to lay the foundation for integrity policies. As such, the State of Mexico could consider implementing a similar capacity-building programme for elected officials as in Colombia (Box 3.11).

According to the last National Survey of Quality and Impact of Government by INEGI, on average 82.6% of citizens who are victims of acts of corruption in Mexico do not report them. In the case of the State of Mexico, although the non-reporting rate of the state is slightly below the national average, it is still considerably high (77.3%) (Figure 3.2).

Based on another question of the National Survey of Quality and Impact of Government 2017, it is possible to identify some of the reasons why victims of acts of corruption in Mexico did not make the corresponding complaint to the authorities. From the people who did not report, about half did not do so because they considered it was a useless action or a waste of time, while 15% did not report because they benefited from the act and 14% because they considered corruption as a common practice (see Figure 3.3). Interestingly, only 5.7% do not report out of fear of reprisals and only 5.4% say they would not know who to report to. Nonetheless, given the context of organised crime activities, especially in some municipalities, and according to interviews conducted in the State of Mexico, “fear” as a motivation for not reporting should not be ruled out. This is particularly so since the survey results apply to petty corrupt practices, where citizens became victims of bribery, not to bigger corruption schemes where organised crime may be directly involved or used as a mediator and enforcement device (Vannucci, 2002[20]; Boehm and Lambsdorff, 2009[21]).

Unfortunately, there is no similar survey evidence from public employees. However, such evidence could be gathered by the State of Mexico in the context of a staff survey as recommended below. In this context of weak reporting culture and little credibility in public institutions, it is necessary that the State of Mexico strengthens its whistleblowing arrangements, as one of the core instruments of the integrity management framework, in order to foster integrity and prevent violations (OECD, 2009[7]).

The first essential element in creating an open organisational culture in public organisations is to set up the right conditions for public officials to freely discuss ethical dilemmas, public integrity concerns and errors. The protection of whistleblowers who report public servants’ misconduct is an important component of any integrity system. To encourage the reporting of irregular behaviours and acts of corruption, it is essential to build visible support within the organisations, as well as a safe environment for whistleblowers. Offering clear guidelines for making complaints and ensuring that whistleblowers are protected from any type of reprisal, such as intimidation, violence, harassment or even dismissal, are necessary efforts to safeguard the public interest over any personal loyalties and promote a culture of public integrity.

In the State of Mexico, public servants and any citizen can use different channels to report acts of corruption and misconduct. Public servants or any individual can disclose misconduct, even anonymously through the State of Mexico Attention System (Sistema de Atención Mexiquense, SAM), managed by SECOGEM. SAM is an electronic platform for the filing of complaints, suggestions or acknowledgments in relation to procedures, public services or public servants of the ministries and auxiliary agencies of the Executive Power of the State of Mexico.

In addition, public servants and individuals can submit any complaint founded on a breach of the Code of Ethics, as well as the Codes of Conduct and the Rules of Integrity to the Ethics Committees. It is an obligation of the Committee to receive the reports and send them to the authority responsible for investigation. The Ethics Committees of the public institutions of the State of Mexico can access the Accusations System (Sistema de Delaciones) linked to SAM to directly register the complaints, suggestions and acknowledgments received. During 2021, SECOGEM will issue a protocol that details the procedures that the Ethics Committees have to follow for the reception, registration and processing of complaints, suggestions and acknowledgments.

This protocol also establishes that all members of the Ethics Committees must sign a confidentiality clause regarding the handling of the information to which they have access to, in order to safeguard the confidentiality and the anonymity of complainants. It also informs about the possibility of any complainant to remain anonymous, taking into account the provisions of the Law of Transparency and Access to Public Information of the State of Mexico and Municipalities (Ley de Transparencia y Acceso a la Información Pública del Estado de México y Municipios) and the Law for the Protection of Personal Data in Possession of Obliged Subjects of the State of Mexico and Municipalities (Ley de Protección de Datos Personales en Posesión de Sujetos Obligados del Estado de México y Municipios).

However, as emphasised in Chapter 1, and similar to other OECD countries, the State of Mexico should consider amending the regulations and emphasise that the Ethics Committees can advise potential whistleblowers with respect to their rights and reporting channels, but should not themselves receive reports.

In addition, although complaints can be anonymous, the State of Mexico does not offer additional protection if the identity of the whistleblower is eventually disclosed. In this sense, the State of Mexico could consider modifying the legal framework to specifically prohibit work-related reprisals, such as dismissal without a cause of both public and private sector whistleblowers and the revocation of a whistleblowers’ contract. These protections should be guaranteed, even if the whistleblower reports do not result in criminal proceedings, but in administrative investigation. Whistleblowers will be more likely to report relevant facts if they know they will be protected, regardless of the authorities’ decisions to investigate and sanction the individuals the report refers to.

The State of Mexico could consider establishing comprehensive regulations on the protection of public servants and citizens who report acts of corruption. These procedures should guide the actions of public servants and individuals who witness acts of corruption by clearly indicating to whom they should go internally, to which institution they can go externally, what channels are available for them to do the report and the protections offered by law after reporting.

When defining the scope of protected disclosures, countries should seek balance by avoiding making the scope too detailed or too broad (OECD, 2016[22]). An overly detailed approach may allow for too many discretional choices and become an impediment for those who do not have detailed knowledge of relevant legal provisions. On the other hand, a broad approach may be too vague and discourage people from speaking out openly within the organisation. To help make the scope of the application of the whistleblowing law more easily comprehensible, the State of Mexico could revise its legal framework. A more balanced approach to defining protected disclosures could be to provide a definition that is clear, comprehensive and also detailed, as set out in the United Kingdom’s legislation (see Box 3.12).

Finally, information campaigns through different channels could be implemented to ensure that public officials and individuals are fully aware of whom they can contact if they decide to report misconduct and of the protections available for them if they do so. The availability of channels is not sufficient to encourage reporting. Instead, the process should be accompanied by clear guidelines and explanations of the procedures in order to ensure that whistleblowers are well informed, minimising the negative incentives to remain silent.

The Law of Administrative Responsibilities of the State of Mexico and Municipalities contains provisions related to the disclosure of both financial and non-financial interests. While related, this requirement, focusing on static disclosure through a form, should not be equalled with the need to dynamically manage ad hoc conflict of interest situations, as emphasised above. Specifically, Chapter 3 of the Law requires that all state and municipal public servants submit three types of disclosure forms: tax, asset and interests declarations (see Table 3.4). All three declarations must be electronically submitted. If a municipality does not have the technologies needed for filling the electronic forms, printed formats can be used; in those cases, the internal control bodies are responsible for their digitalisation in the corresponding systems (evolution of assets system, declaration of interests and presentation of proof of tax declaration). However, this alternative way was not necessary anymore in 2020.

International experience has demonstrated that knowing that someone verifies the content of the declarations may encourage public servants to comply with disclosure requirements and deter declarants from intentionally failing to declare information or making false statements (Rossi, Pop and Berger, 2017[23]). However, checking the content of all the declarations filed might be too expensive and time consuming. This is why countries have opted for various strategies and use technology to carry out verifications of the asset and interest declarations (see Table 3.5).

In the State of Mexico, under the Law of Administrative Responsibilities of the State of Mexico and Municipalities, SECOGEM and the internal control bodies are encouraged to carry out a random verification of the asset declarations, the interest declarations and the proof of presentation of the fiscal declarations. If there is no obvious anomaly or inconsistency, SECOGEM and the internal control bodies issue a certification that will be registered in the corresponding system. Otherwise, the corresponding investigation can be initiated.

In addition, Article 37 of the Law establishes that SECOGEM and the internal control bodies might carry out investigations or audits to verify the evolution of the assets declared by public servants. In cases in which the asset declaration reflects an increase in the public servant’s assets that cannot be explained or justified by the remuneration as a public servant, SECOGEM and the internal control bodies will request clarification about the origin of the resources. If it is not justified, they have to file a report to the corresponding Attorney General.

To carry out these functions, SECOGEM may sign agreements with different authorities that have available data, information or documents that can be used to verify the information declared by public servants, such as the Tax Administration Service (Servicio de Administración Tributaria, SAT) or the National Banking and Securities Commission (Comisión Nacional Bancaria y de Valores, CNBV). Ideally, these crosschecks would be automatic, ensuring that databases are compatible and can communicate directly with each other.

Moreover, to allow for social control, asset and interests declarations would need to be made publicly available, ideally in an open and re-usable data format. Exceptions could be made for the items for which publicity may affect private life or personal data protected by federal and local regulations. These actions seek to promote accountability and citizen participation in the public servants' oversight process, as well as build greater trust in government.

In the State of Mexico, the compliance with the requirement to submit the declarations is very high, reaching 99.6%, including from municipalities. In 2019, a number of 132 008 declarations were received and in 2020, 180 078. Nonetheless, despite verifications, not a single case of illicit enrichment has been detected through these declarations; some declarations (377 in 2019) have not been submitted on time, but it was not necessary to apply sanctions for this.

The current disclosure of assets and interests in the State of Mexico, like the requirement of the General Law on Administrative Responsibilities (Ley General de Responsabilidades Administrativas, LGRA), is far more extensive than the ones that are usually applied in OECD member countries, since they apply to all levels and grades of public servants (OECD, 2017[17]).

Various factors are problematic with such a broad coverage, such as the impossibility of properly managing and above all, as mentioned above, effectively verifying, the information contained in these declarations. Indeed, no cases of illicit enrichment have been detected through the declarations. In addition, as discussed above, managing conflict of interest requires a more dynamic approach, raising awareness, guiding and providing advice to public employees. Perhaps most importantly, however, requiring a declaration to be filled out by all public employees may have a negative impact on the morale of public servants and the goal of achieving a culture of integrity. Similar to the situation at the federal level and in other federal states in Mexico, it signals distrust and may affect the possibility of recruiting or retaining top talent.

Therefore, the State of Mexico could initiate a dialogue with the Federal Government and Congress to promote amendments to the LGRA, in line with OECD good practice (Box 3.13) and identify, based on criteria inspired by risk assessments, the public officials that are required to submit declarations of assets and interests:

  • based on the hierarchy within the executive (for example, all officials at the director level and above)

  • based on their position (minister, deputy minister, director and so on)

  • based on the duties and functions they exercise (administrative decision making, granting contracts, public procurement, tax inspection, etc.)

  • based on the risk of corruption of the activities in which they are involved (filers based upon their role and the risk they could become involved in corrupt activity involving building licences, infrastructure contracts, customs, etc.)

  • based on the fact that they are classified as a politically exposed person (PEP), according to the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering.

Designing, monitoring and evaluating integrity policies requires information. Administrative data, which is data collected for administrative purposes by government units, can provide relevant insights, but to understand the challenges related to integrity better and to get information on how citizens, the private sector and public officials perceive and experience issues related to public integrity, administrative data needs to be complemented by surveys.

In Mexico, INEGI carries out different household surveys and national census that offer information at national, regional, state and municipal level about social, political and economic issues, as well as on the perception of citizens in different matters. Under the Government theme, it is possible to find different indicators related to transparency and anticorruption issues. Specifically, the National Survey of Quality and Impact of Government (Encuesta Nacional de Calidad e Impacto Gubernamental), which is conducted every two years since 2011, offers information about the relationship of Mexican citizens with public authorities through procedures, payments, public services and others. In addition to providing information at the national level, it also offers statistics by region and state. Among its indicators, there is information related to experiences of corruption and reporting by citizens, which could be useful for the State of Mexico to identify possible weaknesses and improvement actions in the fight against corruption. In addition, INEGI, in its National Census of Municipal and Delegation Governments, offers information about penalties to public servants according to the type of behaviour. This information could also be useful to strengthen the fight against corruption.

On top of citizen surveys, staff surveys can also inform integrity policies. They support the assessment of public officials’ integrity capacities and risks and allow identifying the values and challenges that affect public officials in their choices. Policy makers are interested to find out whether policies resonate with public employees, change their attitudes and behaviours and serve the policy goal of ensuring a culture of integrity in the public sector. Staff surveys could further support the diagnostic assessment preceding the design of integrity policies. In fact, many OECD member countries monitor their integrity policies using employee survey polls. In the Netherlands, for example, a comprehensive staff survey is at the core of agenda setting for future integrity policies (see Box 3.14).

A centrally administered public sector staff survey touching upon various aspects of public employment has the advantage that answers can be correlated and compared across entities. In the United Kingdom, the Civil Service People Survey yearly interviews almost 300 000 respondents from 98 organisations. Among the various aspects covered by the survey are employee engagement, trust in leadership and fair treatment. The repetition of the same questions in regular intervals enables comparisons over time. Positive responses to the question “Are you confident that if you raise a concern under the Civil Service Code in [your organisation] it would be investigated properly?”, for example, have been increasing from 58% in 2009 to 70% in 2017 – potentially indicating success of UK integrity policies. In Colombia, similar information is collected by the National Statistics Office (Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística, or DANE), which carries out an annual Survey on National Institutional Environment and Performance. The survey entails a section on “irregular practices”, which includes questions on the effectiveness of specific integrity initiatives. Overall, 19 OECD countries conduct centrally administrated staff surveys across the central public administration; many of them include questions on integrity (OECD, 2017[24]).

In the State of Mexico, the Ethics Committees, as part of their Annual Work Programme, carry out an annual evaluation of the Code of Ethics, Code of Conduct and Integrity Rules. The evaluation is designed to be applied to all public servants of the Government of the State of Mexico and detects areas of opportunity for strengthening the dissemination of these ethical instruments. The evaluation is carried out through the System of Ethics Committees (Sistema de los Comités de Ética, SICOE). SECOGEM has conducted two surveys to measure the perceptions and level of knowledge of its public servants regarding work environment and non-discrimination issues and the Code of Conduct. Through these surveys, more than 750 evaluations were collected, which has allowed the ministry to compile relevant and new information for decision-making processes.

Following this good practice and in order to expand the information from INEGI with public servants’ perceptions, SECOGEM could consider extending the surveys applied to its public officials to all ministries and auxiliary agencies of the State of Mexico, including municipalities. Furthermore, the Government of the State of Mexico could leverage on the annual evaluation of the Code of Ethics, the codes of conduct and the Integrity Rules, applied by the ethics committees as part of their annual programmes of work, to get to know how familiar the public servants are with the values and principles of the public service. This information is essential to define the degree of knowledge about ethical standards in the State, which will also allow authorities to design and implement new awareness-raising activities for the rules of integrity.

Moreover, this information could be used to carry out an update of the public integrity framework by incorporating some of the main concerns and expectations of public servants. Officials’ perceptions could be used as inputs for the revision and improvement of the integrity rules leading to a better understanding and a stronger feeling of ownership of the ethical standards in the State of Mexico (OECD, 2009[7]).


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