Chapter 2. Cultivating a culture of integrity in the Colombian public administration

This chapter reviews the Colombian policies and practices related to the promotion of a culture of integrity in the public service. In particular, it provides concrete recommendation on the normative framework, as well as the organisational underpinning to ensure its implementation. Furthermore, it provides guidance on how Colombia could strengthen its work towards a culture of integrity in the public sector by providing guidance, raising awareness and developing relevant capacities. Also, the chapter provides recommendations on how Colombia could mainstream integrity policies in human resource management, improve the financial and interest disclosure system, and ensure the enforcement of integrity standards. Finally, guidance on how to monitor and evaluate integrity policies is provided.

  

Embedding a culture of integrity in the public sector requires implementing complementary measures. Setting standards of conduct for public officials and the values for the public sector are amongst the first steps towards safeguarding integrity in the public sector. For instance, international conventions and instruments, such as the 2017 OECD Recommendation on Public Integrity (OECD, 2017a) and the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), recognise the use of codes of conduct and ethics as tools for articulating the values of the public sector and the expected conduct of public employees in an easily understandable, flexible manner. Such instruments can support the creation of a common understanding within the public service and among citizens as to the behaviour public employees should observe in their daily work, especially when faced with ethical dilemmas or conflict-of-interest situations.

In addition, integrity measures are likely to be most effective when they are effectively integrated or mainstreamed into general public management policies and practices, especially human resource management and internal control (see Chapter 3), and when they are supported by sufficient organisational, financial and personal resources and capacities. In turn, high staff turnover, lack of guidance and a weak tone from the top are impediments to an open organisational culture where advice and counselling can be sought to resolve ethical problems such as conflict-of-interest situations.

Key elements to cultivating a culture of integrity comprise (OECD, 2017a), but are not restricted to:

  • Investing in integrity leadership to demonstrate a public sector organisation’s commitment to integrity.

  • Promoting a merit-based, professional, public sector dedicated to public-service values and good governance.

  • Providing sufficient information, training, guidance and timely advice for public officials to apply public integrity standards, including on conflict-of-interest situations and ethical dilemmas, in the workplace.

  • Supporting an open organisational culture within the public sector responsive to integrity concerns.

Overall, the set of measures defined by a coherent and comprehensive integrity policy framework should aim at creating cultures of organisational integrity in the public administration. Indeed, while laws and regulations define the basic standards of behaviour for public servants and make them enforceable through systems of investigation and prosecution, legal provisions remain strings of words on paper if they are not actually implemented and applied in all public entities. In order to effectively achieve such a cultural change, a balance is required between fostering extrinsic motivation of public officials through a rules-based approach, based on laws, controls and sanctions, and appealing to their intrinsic motivation through a values-based approach.

In Colombia, however, a recent survey on the working environment showed that 41.7% of public servants indicate that the absence of ethical values is the most influential factor on the occurrence of irregular practices (DANE, 2016). The following sections review the current normative and organisational framework, as well as existing policies and practices aimed at working towards a culture of integrity in the Colombian public administration. Concrete recommendations are derived to help Colombia in building a strong public integrity system where values-based and compliance-based approaches are balanced.

Building a normative and organisational integrity framework for the Colombian Administration

The Administrative Department of the Public Service (DAFP) should lead the promotion of a culture of integrity in the public administration, counting with the required organisational, financial and human resources and co-ordinating with other relevant actors through the National Moralisation Commission

A clear definition of mandates, objectives and functions is not only essential to designing sound integrity strategies and preventing overlaps between relevant actors, but also to creating an environment where awareness and understanding of values, principles and practices are uniform among public entities, and where clear and timely guidance is provided by responsible institutions. As analysed in Chapter 1, the Colombian public sector integrity system consists of several actors, some of them are members of the National Moralisation Commission (Comisión Nacional de Moralisación, or CNM), which is the mechanism to co-ordinate anti-corruption and integrity policies.

The mandate provided to the Administrative Department of Public Service (Departamento Administrativo de la Funcion publica, or DAFP) by Decree 2169 of 1992, clearly defines the DAFP as the lead entity for developing, promoting and implementing all regulations, policies and activities related to the promotion of ethics in the public administration and the management of conflict-of-interest situations. Also, the DAFP has to play a key role in strengthening the institutional capacities of the public administration in the context of the implementation of the Peace Agreement. As such, it was recommended in the previous chapter that the DAFP should become a full member of the National Moralisation Commission.

Indeed, for the executive branch, the DAFP is best positioned to provide: policy guidance and implementation support concerning integrity policies for the public administration; ensuring coherence between public ethics and conflict-of-interest management policies; and mainstreaming integrity measures into human resource management, internal control and risk management, regulatory simplification, and organisational development policies throughout the public administration at national and sub-national level. Furthermore, the DAFP can ensure consistency between policy and training needs by co-ordinating with the Higher School of Public Administration (Escuela Superior de Administración Pública, ESAP), responsible for formulating, updating and co-ordinating trainings and courses in matters of public management. A section below contains specific recommendations concerning the ESAP.

However, to be able to fulfil this key mandate of the public integrity system, Colombia should ensure that the DAFP has the organisational, financial and human resources required for providing implementation support to the policies it provides. Currently, it seems that the capacities of the DAFP are not sufficient to effectively fulfil its core functions and ensure an effective implementation and mainstreaming of its policies throughout the whole public administration. Beyond ensuring that the budget matches the tasks entrusted to the DAFP, efforts should also be made to focus on developing and delivering targeted services to its main clients, i.e. the ministries, and local and regional governments, while activities aimed at directly communicating to citizens could be reduced, leaving this to the respective public entities delivering the public services. Clearly identifying the addressees of the DAFP’s different regulations and policies, including public integrity policies, would enable to better target its efforts and resources on those areas where they are most expected and most needed, especially also related to the implementation of the Peace Agreement. While increasingly efforts are being made in this direction, the DAFP needs to carefully consider the different realities and levels of development in Colombia, such as those characterising rural and urban municipalities, and if necessary adapt its products and services accordingly. Ensuring realistic and thus effective policies becomes particularly relevant in the context of the implementation of the peace agreements in conflict-affected areas, where capacities are likely to be particularly low.

In addition, in the short term, Colombia should ensure, through the CNM, that existing programmes and related resources dedicated to cultivating a culture of integrity in the public administration are closely co-ordinated with the DAFP to ensure complementarity and avoid duplications and waste of resources. In the long term, it would be desirable if all programmes and resources aimed at promoting such a culture were unambiguously dedicated to the DAFP. Indeed, there are currently efforts by other entities aimed at promoting integrity in the public administration, for instance the “Culture of Legality” programme of the Inspector General (Procuraduría General de la Nación, or PGN) which aims at promoting integrity standards in the public administration, and activities undertaken by the Transparency Secretariat. However, beyond the potential duplication, such and similar programmes may create confusion amongst public servants about the relevant guidance concerning values and integrity standards. More specifically, the programme from the PGN may also blur the line between its disciplinary enforcement function, clearly a mandate of the PGN, and the prevention mandate of the DAFP related to developing and implementing public ethics policies for the public administration. In the future, other similar programmes therefore should either be leaded by the DAFP or at least be closely aligned with the policy guidance issued by the DAFP.

In turn, it is key to ensure a close co-ordination between enforcement and prevention functions as stressed below in the recommendation on ensuring effective responses to integrity violations. Indeed, a culture of integrity cannot be achieved by appealing to public values alone. Timely, appropriate and proportionate disciplinary and, if required, criminal sanctions need also to be in place when integrity breeches occur to ensure accountability and the credibility of the system. This co-ordination between the Inspector Office (PGN), the Prosecutor General (Fiscalía General de la Nación, FGN), the Comptroller General (CGR), the DAFP, the Transparency Secretariat and other relevant institutions can be ensured, again, through the co-ordination platform offered by the CNM, as recommended in Chapter 1.

To ensure an effective implementation of integrity policies throughout the public administration, the DAFP could consider establishing integrity contact points (units or persons) within each public entity

Even with a clearly defined mandate, the DAFP faces the serious challenge of ensuring that the integrity policies are actually implemented and mainstreamed throughout the public administration. The institutional arrangements that underpin legal and policy frameworks are a major contributing factor towards ensuring successful implementation. Although integrity is ultimately the responsibility of all organisational members, the OECD recognises that dedicated “integrity actors” are particularly important to complement the essential role of mangers in stimulating integrity and shaping ethical behaviour, namely “integrity actors” (OECD, 2009a). Indeed, international experience suggests the value of having a dedicated and specialised unit or individual that is responsible and in the end also accountable for the internal implementation and promotion of integrity policies in an organisation. Guidance on ethics and conflict of interest in case of doubts and dilemmas needs also to be provided on a more personalised and interactive level than just through written materials; especially to respond on an ad hoc basis when public officials are confronted with a specific problem or doubts.

Although some public entities in Colombia have ethics commissions/committees which could fulfil this task, there is currently no uniform implementation or normative guidance concerning the exact mandate, functions and organisational integration of these committees or similar units. Also, as these ethics commissions/committees are not obligatory, the DAFP does not have an overview of how many of them exist and how they are exactly implemented.

Therefore, the DAFP could develop a policy that clearly assigns integrity a place in the organisational structure of public entities and give the responsibility of promoting integrity policies to dedicated and specialised units or individuals within each entity; these could play the role of an Integrity Contact Point. In particular, such a policy could consider the fruitful experience of OECD countries such as Germany (Box 2.1) and Canada (Box 2.2). The DAFP should first pilot the implementation of such Integrity Contact Points in a specific sector, taking also into account successful experiences of existing ethics commissions/committees, in order to learn from the experience before scaling-up the requirement to the whole public administration.

Box 2.1. Germany’s Contact Persons for Corruption Prevention

Germany, at federal level, has institutionalised units for corruption prevention as well as a responsible person that is dedicated to promoting corruption prevention measures within a public entity. The contact person and a deputy have to be formally nominated. The “Federal Government Directive concerning the Prevention of Corruption in the Federal Administration” defines these contact persons and their tasks as follows:

  1. A contact person for corruption prevention shall be appointed based on the tasks and size of the agency. One contact person may be responsible for more than one agency. Contact persons may be charged with the following tasks:

    1. serving as a contact person for agency staff and management, if necessary without having to go through official channels, along with private persons;

    2. advising agency management;

    3. keeping staff members informed (e.g. by means of regularly scheduled seminars and presentations);

    4. assisting with training;

    5. monitoring and assessing any indications of corruption;

    6. helping keep the public informed about penalties under public service law and criminal law (preventive effect) while respecting the privacy rights of those concerned.

  2. If the contact person becomes aware of facts leading to reasonable suspicion that a corruption offence has been committed, he or she shall inform the agency management and make recommendations on conducting an internal investigation, on taking measures to prevent concealment and on informing the law enforcement authorities. The agency management shall take the necessary steps to deal with the matter.

  3. Contact persons shall not be delegated any authority to carry out disciplinary measures; they shall not lead investigations in disciplinary proceedings for corruption cases.

  4. Agencies shall provide contact persons promptly and comprehensively with the information needed to perform their duties, particularly with regard to incidents of suspected corruption.

  5. In carrying out their duties of corruption prevention, contact persons shall be independent of instructions. They shall have the right to report directly to the head of the agency and may not be subject to discrimination as a result of performing their duties.

  6. Even after completing their term of office, contact persons shall not disclose any information they have gained about staff members’ personal circumstances; they may however provide such information to agency management or personnel management if they have a reasonable suspicion that a corruption offence has been committed. Personal data shall be treated in accordance with the principles of personnel records management.

Source: German Federal Ministry of the Interior “Rules on Integrity”, https://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/EN/Broschueren/2014/rules-on-integrity.pdf?__blob=publicationFile

Box 2.2. Canada: Senior officials for public service values and ethics and departmental officers for conflict of interest and post-employment measures

Senior officials for public service values and ethics

  • The senior official for values and ethics supports the deputy head in ensuring that the organisation exemplifies public service values at all levels of their organizations. The senior official promotes awareness, understanding and the capacity to apply the code amongst employees, and ensures management practices are in place to support values-based leadership.

Departmental officers for conflict of interest and post-employment measures

  • Departmental officers for conflict of interest and post-employment are specialists within their respective organisations who have been identified to advise employees on the conflict of interest and post-employment measures (…) of the Values and Ethics Code.

Source: Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/ve/snrs1-eng.asp

The main responsibility of these Integrity Contact Points would be to implement DAFP’s integrity policies and encourage an open organisational culture where ethical dilemmas, public integrity concerns, and errors can be discussed freely, and where doubts can be raised concerning potential conflict-of-interest situations and how to deal with them. As such, they should be clearly separated from the enforcement function represented in Colombia by the internal disciplinary control function (control interno disciplinario). Indeed, ethical guidance needs to be provided in an environment where public officials can seek advice without fear of reprisal. The separation with the enforcement function would allow the Integrity Contact Points to acquire a separate identity and visibility, independent from the repressive paradigm which is common of legalistic systems like Colombia where the emphasis tends to be on enforcement of integrity and anti-corruption rules. Despite this separation, the individuals in the Integrity Contact Point should receive training on disciplinary issues and regularly co-ordinate with the internal disciplinary control staff to ensure that the guidance provided by them is not in conflict with existing regulations. The Integrity Contact Point would also play a crucial role facilitating the process of determining and defining integrity in the organisation, including the responsibility for developing, implementing and updating codes of integrity, as recommended below.

In addition, the Integrity Contact Point could be given a mediator role within the existing procedure to disclose an actual a conflict-of-interest situation established in Article 12 of the Administrative Procedure Code (Código de Procedimiento Administrativo y de lo Contencioso Administrativo). This states that the public official has to disclose his or her conflict of interest within three days of getting to know it to his supervisor or to the head of department or the Attorney General Office (or the Superior Mayor of Bogota or the Regional Attorney General Office at lower levels of government), according to public official seniority. The competent authority has then ten days to decide the case and, if required, designate an ad hoc substitute. To ensure that the conflict-of-interest situation is managed adequately, the DAFP therefore could improve the procedure by offering the public official the possibility to disclose the conflict-of-interest situation to any of the authorities listed above. This situation could also be managed by giving the Integrity Contact Points the role of mediator in case the public official has doubts as to whom he or she should disclose the situation to or in the event that he or she feels uncomfortable in disclosing his to his or her line manager. Furthermore, conflict-of-interest disclosures should be archived by the Human Resource Management units (HRM) together with the already existing personal file so that the HRM units have a have track record of situations which were raised by the public official (and information on how they were addressed).

From an organisational standpoint, the Integrity Contact Point, whether an individual or a unit, should be clearly integrated into the organisational framework and count with accountability mechanisms as well as have its own budget to implement the activities related to their mandate. The role of the Integrity Contact Point could be assigned to already existing staff member(s) or units (e.g. within the human resources units), and the number of staff could be defined according to the size of the respective public agency. Furthermore, the units or individuals should report directly to the head of the public entity, and receive targeted trainings and guidance to professionally fulfil their mandate. In addition, Colombia could consider whether the Integrity Contact Points should also report to the DAFP as a second line of accountability outside of their public entity to reduce the risk of collusion within entities, and to ensure the centralisation of information for statistical purposes.

In addition, Colombia could consider establishing a network between the Integrity Contact Points where they can exchange good practices, discuss problems and develop capacities (Box 2.3). Such a network should already be established during the pilot implementation to enable joint learning.

Box 2.3. The Canadian Conflict of Interest Network

The Canadian Conflict of Interest Network (CCOIN) was established in 1992 to formalise and strengthen the contact across the different Canadian conflict of interest commissioners. The commissioners from each of the ten provinces, the three territories and two from the federal government representing the members of the Parliament and the Senate meet annually to disseminate policies and related materials, exchange best practices, discuss the viability of policies and ideas on ethics issues.

Source: New Brunswick Conflict of Interest Commissioner (2014), Annual Report Members’ Conflict of interest Act 2014, https://www.gnb.ca/legis/business/currentsession/58/58-1/LegDoc/Eng/July58-1/AnnualReportCOI-e.pdf.

The public integrity management framework currently developed by the DAFP should be based on risks, apply to all public employees independent of their contractual status, define public values, and provide guidance and procedures for conflict-of-interest situations and ethical dilemmas

Promoting public ethics and providing guidance for identifying and managing conflict-of-interest situations for resolving ethical dilemmas are at the core of developing a culture of integrity in the public sector. Such efforts should be integrated into public management and not perceived as an add-on, stand-alone exercise. Codes of conduct and ethics are generally the tools adopted to build and raise awareness of common values and standards of behaviour in the civil service. They can be understood as an entry point that can bring together different elements of integrity management within the public sector. Indeed, research has revealed that “codes influence ethical decision making and assist in raising the general level of awareness of ethical issues” (Loe et al., 2000). As such, codes should provide in particular relevant guidance to public officials when faced with conflict-of-interest situations and ethical dilemmas.

In Colombia, Decree 2539 of 2005 sets forth the general competencies required for public service at different levels in the entities ruled by Laws 770 and 785 of 2005. The Unique Disciplinary Code (Código Único Disciplinario) from 2002 establishes duties and behavioural guidelines for public servants, as well as the infringements and the sanctions that can be applied. The code is quite broad and vague, and is currently in the process of being reformed. Also the perspective of the Disciplinary Code is naturally one of enforcement, and not one of managing public ethics to promote a culture of integrity in the public sector. Furthermore, contrary to some OECD countries that have developed supplementary codes for specific at-risk positions, including for instance audit, tax and customs, financial authorities or public procurement, Colombia does not have yet such specific norms of conduct for sensitive areas and positions.

However, the current effort undertaken by the DAFP to develop an integrated integrity management framework and a General Integrity Code (Codigo General de Integridad) is commendable (Box 2.4). It sets out the premises to unify and strengthen the framework by clearly defining a set of public ethic values, the procedures for conflict-of-interest management, and guidance for resolving ethical dilemmas. Furthermore, additional codes will be elaborated to address high-risk areas such as contracting, procedures and services, human resources, internal control, finance, public managers.

Box 2.4. Towards an integrated integrity management framework in Colombia

In 2016, DAFP initiated the process to define a General Integrity Code which would form the basis for Colombia’s integrated integrity management framework. As showed in the figure below, the process leading to such Code started with the analysis of existing codes, was followed by the mapping of good practices (including OECD’s), and ended up in a participatory exercise involving public officials and leading to the selection of five values which would form the basis of the General Integrity Code.

picture

Once the General Code of Integrity will be adopted, a number of additional steps are foreseen for the creation of an integrated management framework (so-called “phase-2”), namely:

  • The possibility to integrate the General Code with two additional values and principles to create codes in each entity;

  • The adoption of sector-specific codes in the following areas: contracting, procedures and services, human resources, internal control, financial areas, senior managers;

  • A nation-wide campaign to improve awareness, ownership and capacity building.

While the General Code of Integrity is expected to be adopted in the second semester of 2017, phase-2 of the creation of an integrated management framework is planned to be completed by 2018, at least for those aspects that do not require legislative changes.

Source: Based on a DAFP presentation at Peru’s Contraloria General de la Republica in Lima, 2 March 2017, and information provided by the DAFP.

Before the development of the General Integrity Code, most public entities had developed their own independent codes, setting internal guiding principles to promote, for example, openness, accountability, effective public management, public service vocation or citizen participation and the fight against corruption. This practice resulted in a highly fragmented landscape with more than 3 600 codes adopted by single public entities with limited impact on public officials’ conduct and awareness of ethical values. The main rationale for developing these codes has been the requirement by the standard internal control model (Modelo Estándar de Control Interno, or MECI), which stipulates that each entity has to develop a code of ethics to strengthen the control environment. According to the MECI, this code should be based on a previous survey, the ethics diagnostic (diagnóstico ético). Beyond this requirement, the codes that are currently still in force are not guided by any overarching framework that would ensure coherence by setting general principles, ethical duties and definitions. Consequently, the existing codes are very different in content, scope and quality. Although individual codes contribute to addressing organisational specificities and particular risks or sectors (see below), defining the overarching features of the integrity framework as it is currently being carried out through the development of the General Integrity Code will enable a uniform operating culture and the coherent implementation of integrity objectives. Furthermore, a fragmentation and lack of general principles and values, as has been the case in Colombia, has proved to make it difficult to ensure clarity and compliance amongst public officials.

Similarly, there is currently no single framework for the management of conflict-of-interest situations whose regulation is fragmented in various provisions and focuses on prohibitions and the punishment of conflict-of-interest situations (Table 2.1). There is currently a special conflict-of-interest regime for members of Congress (Article 182 of the Constitution and Law 5 of 1992), for city councillors (Law 136 of 1994), and for those responsible to evaluate the performance of public officials and members of the staff commission (Law-Decree 760 of 2005). Currently, the legal departments in the public entities – namely, the DAFP, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Office of the Inspector General of Colombia (PGN) – can provide a legal clarification to petitions (Derecho de petición) and consultations of civil servants and individuals related to specific situations that may generate incapacity, incompatibility or conflict-of-interest. The DAFP also produces briefs that explain to public officials and citizens in a didactic way the behaviour that can produce legal inabilities (inhabilidades), incompatibilities (incompatibilidades) or conflict of interest. However, there are no standardised administrative guidelines to guide public officials of different levels of government in the process of reporting and managing conflict of interest (Transparencia por Colombia, 2014a), and such guidance is until now not included in the General Integrity Code.

Table 2.1. Colombian legislation dealing with conflict-of-interest related issues

Legal Provision

Description

Articles 122 and 126 of the Constitution

Public service obligation to disclose private interests when taking office and a few prohibitions to prevent COI

Articles 40 and others of Law 734/2002 (Single Disciplinary Code)

General definition of COI (Article 40) as well as the offences for COI-related breaches and the procedure to disclose a COI

Article 15 of Law 190/1995

Obligation to disclose of private interests for all public officials when taking office

Law 1474/2011

A few prohibitions on post-public employment

Law 1437/2011 (Administrative Procedure Code)

List of COI situations which give rise to administrative responsibility.

Source: OECD elaboration of Colombian legal instruments.

Therefore, in order to ensure consistency and coherence, the DAFP could take the opportunity related to the current development of a General Integrity Code to ensure that its integrated integrity management framework includes the following:

  1. A number of common values and principles, as provided by the General Integrity Code;

  2. A unique definition of a conflict-of-interest and guidance on how to identify and resolve them;

  3. Guidance on ethical reasoning when faced with ethical dilemmas.

First of all, the commendable participative process of developing the General Integrity Code has led to the definition of a set of five values (honesty, respect, service attitude, commitment, justice) that are in line with those chosen as pillars of integrity systems in OECD countries. These are: rule of law, impartiality, transparency, faithfulness, honesty, service in the public interest, and efficiency (OECD, 2009b). In further pursuing the process of instilling a values-based culture of integrity, the DAFP could consider the work of the Council on Basic Values in Sweden, whose mission is to strengthen and improve the central government employees’ knowledge and respect for the six common basic values applying to all state entities (Box 2.5). In addition, it could take into account the OECD experience which suggests that the framework should be clear, concise, and simple in order to support public employees in understanding the key principles and values by which they should abide (OECD, 2009a).

Box 2.5. Common basic values for central government employees in Sweden

The regulation of public agencies’ activities in Sweden is based on the legal foundations that apply to all central government agencies. These are summarised in six principles, which together make up the common basic values of central government activities:

  • Democracy – all public power proceeds from the people.

  • Legality – public power is exercised in accordance with the law.

  • Objectivity – everyone is equal before the law; objectivity and impartiality must be observed.

  • Free formation of opinion – Swedish democracy is founded on the free formation of opinion.

  • Respect for all people’s equal value, freedom and dignity – public power is to be exercised with respect for the equal worth of all and for the freedom and dignity of the individual.

  • Efficiency and service – efficiency and resource management must be combined with service and accessibility.

These principles, which are set out in the Swedish Constitution and acts of law, form a professional platform for central government employees. They are to guide employees in the performance of all your duties. A guide is also made available for those who are in charge of work with issues relating to basic values and the common basic values for central government employees in order to support the use of methods and to facilitate development processes and operational-level discussions in each authority.

Source: http://www.government.se/49b756/contentassets/7800b1f18910475d9d58dba870294a63/common-basic-values-for-central-government-employees--a-summary-s2014.021; http://www.vardegrundsdelegationen.se/media/A-guide-to-working-with-the-central-government%E2%80%99s-basic-values.pdf.

Second, the General Integrity Code, or a complementary guide, should also provide unambiguous guidance with respect to identifying and managing conflict-of-interest situations, which are perhaps the single most important integrity risk situation. In particular, it should be communicated clearly that conflict-of-interest situations can arise at any point and that they are not equivalent to corruption per se. It needs to be highlighted that having a conflict-of-interest cannot always be avoided, but that the critical issue is what actions the public official takes to resolve the conflict. Interviews revealed that public servants in Colombia tend to have a quite narrow and legalistic understanding of conflict of interest and to confound a conflict of interest with the figure of trading in influence or, more generally, with corruption.

Therefore, Colombia could consider unifying the different laws, regulations, decrees and resolutions touching upon conflict of interest into one single coherent regulation or policy document which should include a brief and clear definition of conflict of interest (Box 2.6), and provide the bedrock to identify disclose, manage, and promote the appropriate resolution of conflict-of-interest situations. The legal foundation should be reflected in the General Integrity Code in simple non-legalistic language.

Box 2.6. Definitions of conflict of interest by the OECD, and in Portugal and Poland

In its 2003 Guidelines for Managing Conflict of Interest in the Public Service, the OECD proposes the following definition: A ‘conflict of interest’ involves a conflict between the public duty and private interests of a public official, in which the public official has private-capacity interests which could improperly influence the performance of their official duties and responsibilities.

Portugal has established a brief and explanatory definition of conflict of interest in the law: conflict of interest is an opposition stemming from the discharge of duties where public and personal interests converge, involving financial or patrimonial interests of a direct or indirect nature.

Similarly, central European countries in transition have put an emphasis on providing public officials with a general legal definition applicable across the whole public service that addresses actual and perceived conflict of interest. For instance, the Code of Administration Procedure in Poland covers both forms of conflicts: a situation of actual conflict of interest arises when an administrative employee has a family or personal relationship with an applicant. A perceived conflict exists where doubts concerning the objectivity of the employee exist.

Source: OECD (2004), Managing Conflict of Interest in the Public Service: OECD Guidelines and Country Experiences, OECD Publishing, Paris. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264104938-en.

A useful starting point is Transparency International Colombia’s Guide on conflict of interest (Guía práctica para el trámite de conflictos de intereses en la gestión administrativa) which contains explanations, questions and examples which could be taken in consideration (Transparencia por Colombia, 2014b). Similarly, the DAFP could take into account the exercise carried out by Mexico’s Specialized Unit for Ethics and Prevention of Conflicts of Interest (UEEPCI), of the Ministry of Public Administration (SFP), which in March 2016 issued a document to guide public officials in identifying and preventing conducts that could constitute a conflict of interest for public officials (UEEPCI, 2016). The latter guide is based on international standards and good practices, is written in plain language and provides a list of high-risk processes.

Third, the General Integrity Code, or a complementary guide, should also address the problem of ethical dilemmas in a generic way. Indeed, public officials may face ethical dilemmas due to the application of competing values and standards when carrying out their duties. While the ethical reasoning skills to solve such dilemmas cannot be provided by a code alone and requires the development of ethical capacities through training and practice, the acknowledgment that such ethical dilemma situations exist and some guidance on how to resolve them, as for example the REFLECT model used in Australia (Box 2.7), would be desirable.

Box 2.7. Guiding public officials in facing ethical dilemmas in Australia

The Australian Government developed and implemented strategies to enhance ethics and accountability in the Australian Public Service (APS). To support the implementation of ethics and integrity regime, the Australian Public Service Commission has enhanced its guidance on APS Values and Code of Conduct issues. This includes integrating ethics training into learning and development activities at all levels.

To help public servants in their decision-making process when facing ethical dilemmas, the Australian Public Service Commission developed a decision-making model. The model follows the acronym REFLECT:

  1. Recognise a potential issue or problem

    1. Public officials should ask themselves:

      1. Do I have a gut feeling that something is not right or that this is a risky situation?

      2. Is this a right vs right or a right vs wrong issue?

      3. Recognise the situation as one that involves tensions between APS Values or the APS and their personal values.

  2. Find relevant information

    1. What was the trigger and circumstances?

    2. Identify the relevant legislation, guidance, policies (APS-wide and agency-specific).

    3. Identify the rights and responsibilities of relevant stakeholders.

    4. Identify any precedent decisions.

  3. Linger at the ‘fork in the road’

    1. Talk it through, use intuition (emotional intelligence and rational processes), analysis, listen and reflect.

  4. Evaluate the options

    1. Discard unrealistic options.

    2. Apply the accountability test – public scrutiny, independent review.

    3. Be able to explain your reasons/decision.

  5. Come to a decision

    1. Come to a decision, act on it and make a record if necessary

  6. Take time to reflect

    1. How did it turn out for all concerned?

    2. Learn from your decision.

If you had to do it all over again, would you do it differently?

Source: Office of the Merit Protection Commissioner (2009), “Ethical Decision Making”, http://www.apsc.gov.au/publications-and-media/current-publications/ethical-decision-making

In addition, ensuring clear guidance may also encompass taking into consideration the specific risks associated with the administrative functions and sectors that are most exposed to integrity violations. Most OECD countries have defined those areas that are most at risk and provide specific guidance to prevent and resolve conflict-of-interest situations. Indeed, some public officials operate in sensitive areas with a higher potential risk of conflict of interest, such as justice, tax and customs administrations and officials working at the political/administrative interface (Figure 2.1). In addition, there are further areas identified as being at risk of conflict of interest that could be considered: additional employment or contracts; “inside” information; gifts and other forms of benefits; family and community expectations; “outside” appointments; and activities after leaving public the organisation (OECD 2004). Also, bearing in mind the implementation of the Peace Agreement and the need to strengthen legitimacy of the State in Colombia (see Chapter 1), the new integrity framework could define specific rules for public officials working in institutions at all levels which will be most involved during the process. For these at-risk positions and areas to be defined by Colombia, specific regulations and guidance could be helpful to prevent and resolve conflict-of-interest situations that complement the General Integrity Code.

Figure 2.1. Development of specific conflict-of-interest policy/rules for particular categories of public officials in the OECD countries
picture

Source: OECD Survey on Management of Conflict of Interest (2014).

Finally, it is important that the integrity rules in Colombia apply to all public officials and employees, independent of their contractual status or whether national or sub-national level. All should receive the same level of basic guidance and training, while senior management and at-risk position may receive additional, tailored guidance (see sections below). Indeed, due to capacity issues at the National Civil Service Commission (Comisión Nacional del Servicio Civil, or CNSC) and the high costs for running a meritocratic competition for civil service position, there is currently in effect a two-tier employment system in Colombia’s civil service, with significant numbers of casual staff. They can be hired on a discretionary basis by managers outside of CNSC merit-based process, work alongside career civil servants, often carrying out the same public functions as civil servants and are often employed for considerable periods, but without the terms and conditions of employment of civil servants.

At present, the total number of staff not part of the administrative career is estimated to be around 60% of the total staff. Such category includes provisional staff (nombramiento provisional), free appointment/removal staff (libre nombramiento y remoción), temporal staff (temporal), and staff in probation period (periodo de prueba) (Figure 2.2). Currently, these provisional employees are not eligible for training since they are meant to be hired for specific roles for which they already hold expertise. Given their insights and knowledge they are exposed to conflict-of-interest situations that could either arise during their contract with the ministry or after taking a post in the private sector (OECD, 2013a).

Figure 2.2. Number of public officials by type of appointment in Colombia (in %)
picture

Source: System of Information and Management of Public Employment (Sistema de Información y Gestión del Empleo Público, or SIGEP) as of 31 December 2016.

Colombia should therefore ensure that staff on temporary contract is made aware of the public ethics and conflict-of-interest regulations. They should receive the same public ethics and conflict-of-interest induction training, be obliged to declare any conflict-of-interest situation. In addition, it could be considered to make it obligatory to inform HR of future employment plans in the view to avoid conflict of interest.

The current development of an integrity management framework has opened the opportunity to revise existing codes at organisational level in a participative way, and to ensure a more effective implementation of these Organisational Integrity Codes aimed at changing behaviours

The ongoing elaboration of an overarching integrated public integrity management framework, and the implementation of the Integrity Contact Points recommended above, open the opportunity for revising the already existing organisational codes. This will not only ensure their alignment with the guiding principles set by the future General Integrity Code and complementary codes for at risk-areas, but also apply a sound methodology for reviewing them with a view to trigger a cultural change in the public entities. The process envisaged for the revision of the existing entities’ codes, which includes the integration of the General Integrity Code with specific values and principles, would allow strengthening codes that are currently not up to the standards or that have been elaborated in the past more to comply with the internal control provisions than with the view to promote a culture of integrity. At the same time, codes that are already considered as good practices in the Colombian administration can be used as examples and can see the review process as an opportunity for further improvement and effective implementation.

As a result, the Colombian Integrity code infrastructure could be structured around three levels of codes which should be coherent with each other (Figure 2.3): The General Integrity Code complemented by codes or guides for at-risk positions that apply to all entities of the public administration on the one hand; and on the other hand, Organisational Codes of Integrity that should be based on the General Integrity Code, while allowing to tailor them to the specific needs and challenges of the organisation. This tailoring should go beyond the additional two values that are currently planned, and allow for more flexibility in building on the five basic values provided in the General Integrity Code.

Figure 2.3. Three levels of codes for the Colombian public administration
picture

Indeed, just as different organisations are facing different contexts and nature of work, they may also be faced with distinctive ethical dilemmas and specific conflict-of-interest situations. For instance, the challenges might differ significantly between the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Defence, and the different supervisory and regulatory bodies. 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 Integrity Codes provide an excellent opportunity to include relevant and concrete examples from the organisation’s day-to-day business, to which the employees can easily relate.

Beyond the content of the Organisational Integrity Codes, the process matters as well. Similar to the participatory process followed to define the shared values at the basis of the General Integrity Code, the review of the organisational codes should build consensus and ownership, and provide relevant and clear guidance to all public servants. Indeed, stimulating a participative, bottom-up process of elaborating organisational codes according to clear methodological guidance can mitigate the risk of codes becoming a “check-the-box” exercise aimed at complying with the task, as has been observed in many public entities in the past, and not only in Colombia. Rather, a consultative approach complemented by a prior analysis of organisations’ particular integrity risks and potential ethical dilemmas aims at promoting discussions amongst the employees and building consensus about the shared values and principles of behaviour. Involving staff members from all levels in the process of developing the code, e.g. through focus group discussions, surveys or interviews, would not only ensure its relevance and effectiveness, but it would also increase staff-members’ feelings of ownership and increase the probability of compliance with the code.

In addition, the experience of OECD countries demonstrates that consulting or actively involving external stakeholders, such as providers or users of the public services delivered by the entity, in drafting a code helps build a common understanding of public service values and expected standards of public employee conduct. External stakeholder involvement could thereby improve the quality of the code so that it meets both public employees’ and citizens’ expectations, and communicate the values of the public organisation to its stakeholders. By including the clients, the public entity would also be able to demonstrate its commitment to greater transparency and accountability, thereby contributing to building public trust.

Therefore, the DAFP could consider updating the requirements linked to the development of codes of ethics in the internal control framework, MECI, and stipulate in its integrity management framework that organisations have to develop their own Organisational Integrity Codes based on the General Integrity Code and complementary at-risk codes, and that these should be developed according to a specific methodology. DAFP should also provide clear methodological guidance to assist the Integrity Contact Points in steering the participative development of their codes while ensuring that they align with the overarching principles. Such methodological guidance should reduce as much as possible the scope for developing the code as a “check-the-box” exercise, and include details on how to manage the construction, communication, implementation, and periodic revision of the codes in a participative way. Ideally, a written guide on the process should be complemented with trainings and ad hoc advice to public entities provided by staff from the DAFP during the process. Colombia needs to ensure that the DAFP counts with the required resources to fulfil this task.

Again, in the short term, the revision of the organisational codes should be piloted in a given sector first, ideally in the same sector where the dedicated Integrity Contact Points recommended above are piloted, so that these units can lead the process, supported by the DAFP.

In this context, Colombia can benefit from the experience of countries which have already elaborated codes in a similar way. In Brazil, for instance, the consultation process undertaken for the Comptroller General of the Union’s code of conduct raised interesting issues that also served as input for the government-wide integrity framework (Box 2.8).

Box 2.8. Consultation for an organisation-specific code of conduct in Brazil

The Professional Code of Conduct for Public Servants of the Office of the Comptroller General of the Union was developed with input from public officials from Office of the Comptroller General of the Union during a consultation period of one calendar month, between 1st and 30 June 2009. Following inclusion of the recommendations, the Office of the Comptroller General of the Union Ethics Committee issued the code.

In developing the code, a number of recurring comments were submitted. They included:

  1. the need to clarify the concepts of moral and ethical values, as it was felt that the related concepts were too broad in definition and required greater clarification;

  2. the need for a sample list of conflict-of-interest situations to support public officials in their work; and

  3. the need to clarify provisions barring officials from administering seminars, courses, and other activities, whether remunerated or not, without the authorisation of the competent official.

A number of concerns were also raised concerning procedures for reporting suspected misconduct and the involvement of officials from Office of the Comptroller General of the Union in external activities. Some Office officials inquired whether reports of misconduct could be filed without identifying other officials and whether the reporting official’s identity would be protected. Concern was also raised over the provision requiring all officials from the Office of the Comptroller General of the Union to be accompanied by another Office of the Comptroller General of the Union official when attending professional gatherings, meetings or events held by individuals, organisations or associations with an interest in the progress and results of the work of the Office of the Comptroller General of the Union. This concern derived from the difficulty in complying with the requirement, given the time constraints on officials from the Office of the Comptroller General of the Union and the significant demands of their jobs.

Source: OECD (2012), Integrity Review of Brazil: Managing Risks for a Cleaner Public Service, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264119321-en.

The revision of existing codes could be also complemented by additional measures to implement them in a more effective way based on insights from research in behavioural sciences. For this purpose, “moral reminders” could be built into key decision-making processes, ideally identified during risk assessments (see Chapter 3). Research shows that such small reminders concerning the correct behaviour do have a measurable impact on the probability to cheat (Ariely, 2012, Box 2.9 and 2.10). A concrete policy measure that could be derived from this experimental evidence could be to include, for example, a line to be signed by a procurement official or human resource manager just before taking a crucial decision with managing a procurement contract or a hiring process. The line could read “I will take the following decision according to the highest professional and ethical standards”. By signing, the official implicitly links his name to an ethical conduct.

Box 2.9. Ethical reminders

Behavioural research shows that more ethical choices can be triggered by reminding people of moral norms. This can be an inconspicuous message, such as “thank you for your honesty”. Contextual clues in the immediate situation function as reference to an underlying norm (cf. Mazar & Ariely, 2006). Such moral appeal has in some cases shown to be even more effective than a reminder of the threat imposed by a punishment. In field experiments subjects paid a higher price for a newspaper (Pruckner & Sausgruber, 20213) and were more likely to pay back a debt (Bursztyn et al., 2016) when exposed to a moral reminder.

These findings are in line with the understanding, that most people view themselves as moral individuals (Aquino & Reed, 2002). When reminded of moral standards, actions are adjusted accordingly to reduce the dissonance between self-concept and behaviour. Many small acts of cheating are in fact also acts of self-cheating. The cost of this can be increased not through an increase in external punishment, but by increasing the salience of intrinsic morality.

Source: Aquino and Reed (2002); Bursztyn et al (2016); Mazar, Amir, and Ariely (2008); Pruckner and Sausgruber (2013).

Box 2.10. How to measure cheating

There are possibilities to measure cheating through experimental designs (e.g. Ariely, 2012, or Fischbacher and Föllmi-Heusi, 2012). Before implementing or reforming innovative integrity policies aimed at reducing dishonest behaviour, a country could apply such experimental designs to measure the “cheating baseline” in an organisation or group.

On the one hand, the experiments could inform the country if there are areas where cheating is more common than in others, and consequently focus policies on these areas. On the other hand, the baseline would allow the country to have a concrete indicator to measure whether the piloted policies had the desired impact before considering an up-scaling.

Source: Ariely (2012); Fischbacher and Föllmi-Heusi (2012).

Developing capacities and raising awareness for integrity

To enhance the academic independence of the National School of the Public Administration (ESAP), the appointment procedure of its Director could be reviewed and associated with a system of checks and balances

The Higher School of Public Administration (Escuela Superior de Administración Pública, or ESAP) is an academic institution attached to the DAFP in charge of fulfilling the education and training requirements of public servants as well as advising the administration on public affairs and management issues. Pursuant to Decree 2083 of 1994, it is given judicial, administrative, and financial independence in line with the State’s regulation on higher education. As for its administration, the ESAP is managed by the National Directive Council (Consejo Directivo Nacional), the National Academic Council (Consejo Académico Nacional), and the National Director (Director Nacional), who is in charge of the most strategic issues such as the presentation and implementation of the ESAP’s Development Plan, presenting the school budget as well as nominating staff and chairing the National Academic Council.

Although the composition of the National Directive Council reflects a certain degree of diversity, including representatives from regions, municipalities, teachers and students, the law does not establish any specific qualification for the National Director, who is discretionally appointed (and can be equally removed) by the President of the Republic. Even though there should be some degree of responsive to governmental priorities (OECD, 2017b) as well as alignment between the development of policies from the executive and the work of ESAP on ethics and integrity (see recommendation below), the mission of the National Director should be primarily to ensure that the considerable amount of resources managed (Figure 2.4) is used to reach the highest academic standard of the ESAP’s research and training activities beyond political contingencies.

Figure 2.4. ESAP’s total budget vis-à-vis DAFP and CNCS (2014–2016)
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Source: OECD elaboration with data provided by DAFP.

In order to mitigate the risks involved in such a dependency from political power, the rules of the ESAP’s governance could be reviewed to ensure appropriate checks and balances as well as the independence and professional qualification of its director. For this purpose, Colombia could consider the arrangements of the French National School for Public Administration (École National d’Administration, or ENA), and the Italian National School of Public Administration (Scuola Nazionale dell’Amministrazione, or SNA), whose heads have to fulfil certain professional criteria and who are also subject to oversight mechanisms by other independent organs (Box 2.11). This way, Colombia would also align closer to OECD practice in this context. An OECD Survey suggests that a governance model based on institutional autonomy may be ideal for schools of government modelled on higher education institutions, as it is the case for the ESAP (OECD, 2017b).

Box 2.11. Governance models for National Schools of Public Administration: France and Italy

The National School for Public Administration (Ecole National d’Administration, or ENA) is an administrative body attached to the Department of the Prime Minister through the General Directorate of the Public Service. Its governance includes a governing body (Conseil d’ Administration) which is chaired by the Vice President of the Council of State and is supported by an orientation committee (Conseil d’orientation) for curricular affairs. The director of ENA is nominated with a Decree for a 5-year period renewable for one time and can be removed under the conditions established by Law 84-16 of 1984. As for his or her functions, the director is in charge of executing the decisions taken by the governing body, is assisted by an administrative staff and supervised by a secretary general.

The Italian National School of Public Administration (Scuola Nazionale dell’Amministrazione, or SNA) is a high-level training and research institution belonging and under the oversight of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, which has the main objective of carrying out post-graduate training for public officials supported by analysis and research activities. SNA’s President is appointed with decree by the President of the Council of Ministers upon proposal of the Ministry of Public Function among judges, professors and senior managers with proved experience and qualification. He/she is supported by a consultative scientific committee (Comitato scientifico consultivo) and reports to a management committee (Comitato di gestione), which is composed by representatives from various ministries and approves the School’s programme and budget.

Source: George Vernardakis (2013), “The National School of Administration in France and Its Impact on Public Policy Making”, Croatian & Comparative Public Administration 13(1); Decree 49 of 2002 (France) (https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/eli/decret/2002/1/10/2002-49/jo/texte); Legislative Decree 178 of 2009 (Italy).

In order to reach national and international standards of academic excellence, the ESAP should introduce mechanisms to establish a transparent and competitive hiring process for its staff

The excellence of an academic institution does not only depend on its governance, but also on the capacity to attract the most talented teachers and researchers through open competitions and a meritocratic hiring and professional development process. Within the ESAP there seems to be room for improvement in this context. Journalistic investigations report that an audit from the Comptroller General (Contraloría General de la República, or CGR) found “lack of controls in contracted teaching hours, unexplained links among teachers and excessive payments” (http://www.lanacion.com.co/index.php/noticias-regional/neiva/item/220918-la-esap-desorganizacion-y-derroche-de-dinero). Also, publicly-available data on the hiring process of ESAP’s professors seems not be fully up-to date and does not allow to clearly identify on-going competitions for positions (http://www.esap.edu.co/portal/index.php/convocatorias/).

The opacity of the hiring mechanisms does not benefit from the centralisation of the hiring decision within the director of ESAP, who is highly dependent of politics and therefore could be subject to contingent clientelistic dynamics. The latter challenge seems to be reflected in the high rate of contractors (Table 2.2), which also represents an obstacle to build continuity in the work of the institution and eventually may affect the quality of its research and activities.

Table 2.2. The staff of the ESAP (2015)

Administrative staff

Teaching staff

Temporary staff

Permanent staff

Contractors

Value of contracts

Total staff

ESAP

373

34

N/A

23,6

1266

20,3*

1673

Note: Thousand millions of Colombian Pesos (COP).

Source: Presentation from DAFP provided to OECD

To reach the highest standards of academic excellence and minimise the aforementioned risks, the ESAP should therefore introduce mechanisms to promote a merit-based, transparent professional hiring process in line with the principles of the 2017 OECD Recommendation on Public Integrity. This recommendation stresses the importance of supporting “the professionalism of the public service, prevents favouritism and nepotism, protects against undue political interference and mitigates risks for abuse of position and misconduct” (OECD, 2017a).

DAFP and ESAP need to improve co-ordination to ensure consistency between policy and training and to develop general induction trainings on integrity for all public officials, as well as specialised modules for senior managers and public officials working in specific at-risk positions

A code cannot alone guarantee ethical behaviour. Designing a code in a participative way, as recommended above, is only one part of the overall organisational strategy for determining the behaviour expected of public officials and employees in the workplace. To be effectively implemented, the code must be part of a wider organisational strategy, and, since the staff may change over time, the institution in question must be committed to continuously train and educate employees on applying public ethics and identifying and reacting to conflict-of-interest situations. Training, raising awareness, and disseminating the core values and standards are key elements of sound integrity management.

In Colombia, according to Decree Law 1567 of 1998, Law 909 of 2004 and Decree 1083 of 2015, the DAFP is responsible for formulating, updating and co-ordinating the National Training Plan, and the ESAP is responsible for implementing the policy and developing tools and courses. However, training activities and objectives currently seem to be almost exclusively related to the development of skills needed for the job (desarrollo de competencias) without any reference to principles and integrity standards. For instance, one can consider the 2016 Institutional Training Plan, whose objective is to contribute to the institutional improvement by strengthening the labour competencies, knowledge, and training abilities and by promoting the comprehensive development of officials.

Therefore, the DAFP, in close co-ordination with the ESAP, should develop a specific capacity-building strategy for public officials aimed at building capacities on integrity. This should include a general introduction within the induction training followed up by regular update-training as well as more specific trainings tailored to staff of the Integrity Contact Points recommended above, and to needs and risk-areas.

First, all new employees, independent of their contractual status, should receive an induction training which represents a perfect opportunity to set the tone with respect to integrity from the beginning of the working relationship, explaining the principles and values, and the rules related to public ethics and conflicts of interest. The most basic and generic parts of such a training could be implemented through e-learning modules, but it could be considered to prepare organisation-specific induction courses, for instance in relationship with the organisational codes that have to be developed based on the common framework as recommended above (Box 2.12). Regular update training should also be provided to increase the effectiveness of integrity training and present the new elements of the normative framework. Integrity discussions could also be institutionalised in daily communication, e.g. by regularly discussing an ethical dilemma in staff meetings while using the techniques learned in previous trainings. Considering that, according to Article 8 of Decree 1567 of 1998, the basic curriculum for induction training is designed by the ESAP, in line with the policy elaborated by the DAFP; close co-ordination should be ensured between the policy elaboration by the latter and the training functions of the former.

Box 2.12. Integrity Induction Trainings for Public Servants in Canada

In the Government of Canada, integrity training for public sector employees is conducted at the Canada School of Public Service. The Treasury Board Secretariat works closely with the School to develop training for employees on the subject of values and ethics. The School recently updated the orientation course for public servants on values and ethics, which is part of a mandatory curriculum for new employees. In addition, federal departments use the course as a refresher for existing employees to ensure they understand their responsibilities under the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector. In order to ensure accessibility for all public servants, the course is available online.

The course focuses on familiarising public servants with the relevant acts and policies, such as the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector, the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act and the Policy on Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment. Additionally, modules on ethical dilemmas, workplace wellbeing and harassment prevention are included in the training. Through the five different modules, public servants not only increase their awareness of the relevant policy and legislative frameworks, but also develop the skills to apply this knowledge as a foundation to their everyday duties and activities.

The training course includes a dedicated module on the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector. The module highlights the importance of understanding the core values of the federal public sector as a framework for effective decision making, legitimate governance as well as for preserving public confidence in the integrity of the public sector. The module contains a section on duties and obligations, where the responsibilities for employees, managers/supervisors, and deputy heads/chief executives are provided in detail. This section also discusses the Duty of Loyalty to the Government of Canada, stating that there should be a balance between freedom of expression and objectiveness in fulfilling responsibilities, illustrated with an example from social media. At the end of the module there are two questions posed to ensure participants have understood the purpose of the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and the foundation for fulfilling one’s responsibilities in the public sector.

An innovative component of the integrity-training course is the module on ethical dilemmas. The purpose of the module is to ensure familiarity with the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector, and it includes a range of tools to cultivate ethical decision making amongst public servants. The module also informs public servants of the five core values for the Canadian public service––respect for democracy, respect for people, integrity, stewardship and excellence––prompting them to think about how to apply these values in their everyday role. Key risk areas for unethical conduct, such as bribery, improper use of government property, conflict of interest and mismanagement of public funds are identified, with descriptions that put the risks into practical, easy to understand language. By posing three different scenario questions and asking participants to select competing public sector values, the module also encourages public servants to think about how conflicts between these values may be resolved.

Source: Treasury Board Secretariat, Canada

Second, Colombia could consider developing specialised training modules on integrity for the staff of the Integrity Contact Points and for senior managers. Both can be considered as internal vectors in the organisations that should lead by example and develop in-depth capacities on how to provide guidance on integrity issues. The High Government School (Escuela de Alto Gobierno), which is part of ESAP and organises training for senior officials (alta gerencia), including elected mayors and governors, pursuant to Article 30 of Law 489 of 1998, does not currently offer any training on integrity or ethical topics, and could therefore develop such a module or course. This in-depth capacity building should be mandatory for the Integrity Contact Points, and voluntary for senior managers, although Colombia could think of linking the participation to positive incentives in line with relevant regulation.

At the same time, efforts could be taken to organise ad hoc training to public officials working in at-risk positions, such as public procurement officials, auditors, customs officials, as well as specific modules aimed at recognising and managing conflict of interest and resolving ethical dilemma (see Box 2.13). Lastly, Colombia could organise context-specific training by introducing examples and cases related to the sector and the specific challenges and risk faced by the entity.

Box 2.13. Dilemma training in the Flemish Government (Belgium)

In the Dilemma training, offered by the Agency for Government Employees, public officials are given practical situations in which they face an ethical choice and it is not clear how to best resolve the situation with integrity. The facilitator encourages discussion between the participants about how the situation could be resolved to explore the different choices. As such, it is the debate and not the solution which is most important, as this will help the participants to identify different values might oppose each other.

In the majority of trainings, the facilitator uses a card system. He explains the rules and participants receive four ‘option cards’ with the number 1, 2, 3 or 4. The ‘dilemma cards’ are placed on the table The ‘dilemma cards’ describe the situation and give four options on how to resolve the dilemma, are placed on the table. In each round, one of the participants reads out the dilemma and options. Each participant indicates their choices with the ‘option cards’ and explains their motivation behind the choice. Following this, participants discuss the different choices. The facilitator remains neutral, encourages the debate and suggests alternative options how to look at the dilemma (e.g. sequence of events, boundaries for unacceptable behaviour).

One example of a dilemma situation that could arise would be: I am a policy officer. The minister needs a briefing within the next hour. I have been working on this matter for the last two weeks and should have already been finished. However, the information is not complete. I am still waiting for a contribution from another department to verify the data. My boss asks me to submit the briefing urgently as the chief of cabinet has already called. What am I doing?

  1. I send the briefing and do not mention the missing information.

  2. I send the briefing, but mention that no decisions should be made based on it.

  3. I do not send the briefing. If anyone asks about it, I will blame the other department.

  4. I do not send the information and come up with a pretext and the promise that I will send the briefing tomorrow.

Other dilemma situations could cover the themes of conflicts of interest, ethics, loyalty, leadership etc. The trainings and situations used can be targeted to specific groups or entities. For example: You are working in Internal Control and are asked to be a guest lecturer in a training programme organised by the employers of a sector that is within your realm of responsibility. You will be well paid, make some meaningful contacts and learn from the experience.

Source: https://overheid.vlaanderen.be/omgaan-met-integriteitsdilemmas (in Dutch)

Regular awareness raising activities should be organised to communicate ethical duties and values internally within the organisation as well as externally to the whole of society

Although Integrity Codes are themselves tools adopted to raise awareness of common values and standards of behaviour in the civil service, the vast majority of OECD member countries employ additional measures to communicate core values for public servants. Especially with respect to awareness-raising measures for conflict-of-interest management, OECD countries generally use complementary awareness-raising measures in order to ensure a comprehensive effort in this regard (Table 2.3).

Table 2.3. Awareness raising activities for managing conflict interest

Initial dissemination of rules/guidelines to public officials upon taking office

Proactive updates regarding changes to conflict of interest rules/guidelines

Publish the conflict of interest policy online or on the intranet of the organization

Give regular reminders of what a conflict of interest is, and the responsibility of public officials to resolve these

Provide training

Provide regular guidance and assistance

Advise line or help desk where officials can receive guidance on filing requirements or conflict of interest identification or management

Australia

Austria

Belgium

Canada

Chile

Czech Republic

Estonia

Finland

France

Germany

Greece

Hungary

Iceland

Ireland

Israel

Italy

Japan

Korea

Mexico

Netherlands

New Zealand

Norway

Poland

Portugal

Slovak Republic

Slovenia

Spain

Sweden

Switzerland

Turkey

United Kingdom

United States

Yes ●

27

19

22

17

23

20

17

No ❍

5

13

11

15

9

12

15

Source: OECD Survey on Management of Conflict of Interest (2014).

However, there is little evidence that Colombia currently conducts regular communication activities to promote a culture of integrity and raise awareness for the importance of abiding by public service values and ethics, and managing conflict-of-interest situations. For instance, according to the 2013–2014 Transparency Index of Transparency International’s Colombian Chapter (Transparencia por Colombia), only 50% of departmental entities publicise their code of conduct or ethics on their website.

As a consequence, Colombia should take initiatives to promote ethical duties and values internally within the organisation as well as externally to society, e.g. the private sector, civil society and citizens as users of public services. This would not only allow communicating these actors the benefits of public integrity, but it would also contribute to reduce tolerance of violations of public integrity standards and to improve the effective delivery of public services through the territory.

The Transparency Secretary has taken important initiatives to create awareness within society, including the Transparency Pacts with private sector organisations, the project Firms Active in Anti-corruption Compliance (Empresas Activas en Cumplimiento Anticorrupción), and the Methodological Paths of a Culture of Transparency, Integrity, and the Public Good (Rutas Metodológicas de Cultura de la Transparencia, Integridad y Sentido de lo Público). However, these efforts could be organised in a consistent and coherent manner. Furthermore, they may target specific categories of external stakeholders, especially in the field of public procurement.

Although institutional competences are not clear cut in this context, the Transparency Secretary could take the lead and co-ordinate actions considering its experience and mandate which is, pursuant to Decrees no. 4637 of 2011 no. 1649 of 2014, to define and promote strategic actions between the public and private sector to fight corruption, as well as to elaborate strategies to promote the culture of legality.

At the same time, communication and awareness raising to public servants should be led by the Integrity Contact Points, and the DAFP. For instance, the DAFP could explore whether a section dedicated to integrity could be opened in the Virtual Advice Space (Espacio Virtual de Asesoría, or EVA), which is a good practice of the DAFP to facilitate on-line guidance to public servants (Box 2.14). Also, the DAFP should ensure that the Organisational Integrity Codes are included in the minimum information which each entity has to publish pursuant to Article 9 of Law 1712 of 2014.

Box 2.14. Assisting citizens and public officials through the EVA on-line platform

EVA (Virtual Advice Space, Espacio Virtual de Asesoría) is an online platform operating since December 2015 through which Colombian citizens as well as public servants and entities can access complete and up-to-date information on public administration (e.g. regulation, jurisprudence and publications), receive comprehensive advice from experts through a virtual chat, and take part in online training courses.

The objectives of EVA are:

  • Promoting access to information.

  • Promoting the use of virtual interaction tools that facilitates communication between the institutions, public servants and citizens.

  • Providing guidance and advice in real time.

  • Promoting compliance with normativity about transparency and access to public information.

  • Providing opportunities for participation and interaction among public servants, institutions and citizens.

Since August 2016, EVA’s website also created a networking section where public officials can publish articles, create events, exchange messages and opinions, download newsletters and communicate with their colleagues from other entities (Red de los servidores públicos). Next to the latter section, EVA’s website includes the following sections:

  • Regulatory Manager: to date, it includes around 20 000 documents related to Public Service, including standards, jurisprudence of the Council of State, Constitutional Court and Supreme Court, concepts issued by Civil Service, Codes and Statutes.

  • Public Service indicators at national and regional level on issues of: Public Employment, Public Management, Transparency, Institutional Strengthening and Democratisation.

  • General Chat to provide specialised real-time advice by the organisation’s lawyers on public administration issues.

  • Virtual Training tutorials, presentations, video conferences and national and international training opportunities.

  • Virtual Library with over 100 publications related to participation, transparency and Citizen Service, Institutional Performance, Peace, Cultural Change, Labor Regime, Talent, Accountability, Public Employment Anti-Corruption Plan, Statement of Assets and Income, among others issues.

Source: Based on information provided by DAFP and EVA’s website: www.funcionpublica.gov.co/eva.

Anchoring integrity in Human Resource Management

Human Resource Management (HRM) policies are both part of the problem and solution towards promoting integrity in the public administration

Instilling a culture of integrity will not only depend on core integrity measures as discussed in the previous sections, but also on complementary measures. Complementary instruments and processes are an essential part of the integrity system, but do not have integrity as their primary goal. It is the combination of core and complementary measures that will have a significant effect on strengthening integrity within the organisation. Human Resource Management (HRM), in particular, plays an important role since it is the employees that ultimately shape and create an open organisational culture which encourages ethical behaviour and open discussion to resolve ethical problems encountered.

Factors such as: a high-level of politicisation leading to loyalty not to the public but to the party or “patron” in power; a low culture of performance orientation; weak incentives; low levels of contract security; lack of training and professionalism; a high staff turnover; and lack of guidance and ethical leadership can lead to corrupt practices and low levels of integrity. Moreover, as mentioned previously, when staff rotation is high there may be less importance placed on the implementation of a strong ethics culture in the workplace, as employees are not employed long enough to feel engaged with public integrity values and apply these measures in practice (OECD, 2009a).

Therefore, Human Resource Management (HRM) policies are both part of the problem and the solution towards promoting integrity in the public administration. HRM is the main point of contact for all staff within an organisation and as such have unique access to staff throughout their career, from induction training to exit interviews. HRM can support the integration of ethics into processes such as the organisation’s vision and mission, recruitment, induction, appraisal, retention, motivation, reward, diversity, coaching and training. In addition, staff surveys, appraisals and exit interviews can all provide valuable information on whether the company’s ethical values are embedded, as well as providing ways to evaluate how the ethics programme is working and whether the organisation is living up to its values in practices.

It is useful to distinguish between measures to ensure integrity of HR processes themselves, or “integrity in HRM”, and measures to mainstream integrity in HR processes, or “integrity through HRM”. Indeed, on the one hand, countries should ensure the fairness of their existing personnel management by the consistent application of principles such as merit and transparency to prevent favouritism, nepotism, undue political influence and the risk of abuse of position and misconduct (OECD, 2017a). On the other hand, integrity can be integrated into personnel management processes (Table 2.4).

Table 2.4. Mainstreaming integrity throughout HRM practices

HRM practices

Mainstreaming integrity

Human resources planning

Assessing integrity risks of different positions and planning accordingly

Entry

Background checks, ethical tests, managing potential conflicts of interest arising from previous employments (revolving doors); developing job descriptions with ethical considerations in mind

Professional development, training and capabilities certification

Tailored trainings on integrity policies

Performance evaluation

For managers: assessing their management of employees’ conflict of interest or ethical dilemmas;

For employees: assessing adherence and compliance with integrity policies

Severance

Monitoring potential conflict of interest arising from nature of next employment (i.e. revolving doors)

Source: OECD

Perceived organisational fairness is crucial for establishing an organisational culture of integrity; as such, Colombia should ensure the fairness and integrity of its human resource management policies by improving its merit-based recruitment procedures at all levels

Perceived fairness is a crucial factor impacting the integrity system in an organisation. Empirical research has shown that organisations in which employees feel treated fairly, report less unethical misconduct and employees are more aware of ethical issues, more inclined to ask for advice on ethics and more confident to report unethical behaviour. If integrity measures are not integrated, so that some employees are not held to the same standards as others, a perception of unfairness and of double standard can develop (Weaver et al., 2001).

The fairness of the recruitment process can influence an employee’s impression of the integrity standard within an organisation. If the recruitment process is perceived to be unfair, candidates may conclude that the organisation does not live by its pronouncements of integrity. The perception of fairness in recruitment can be negatively affected by favouritism or nepotism in recruitment. It can lower ethical standards among employees, as it can send a message that the principle of meritocracy is not upheld. Employees can become demoralised and lose confidence in the organisation’s statement of integrity Furthermore, it can lower the quality and efficiency of the public service by giving responsibilities to unqualified candidates (Mulcahy, 2015).

The OECD Public Governance Review of Colombia has made a series of recommendations that could be helpful in ensuring integrity and fairness of the HRM processes in the country. In particular, the following recommendations are of interest from an integrity perspective:

  • To avoid fragmentation and subsequent overlaps, the operational Human Resource responsibilities could be consolidated within the DAFP, allowing the National Civil Service Commission (Comisión Nacional del Servicio Civil, or CNSC) to focus on a strategic oversight role of recruitment and the principle of merit, similar to the role played by public service commissions in several OECD countries. The DAFP, in turn, could undertake the responsibility for how posts are defined and for performance management in order to ensure a more strategic and co-ordinated approach to policy and practice in these areas. In the meanwhile, communication and co-ordination between the DAFP and CNSC could be improved by setting up regular meetings.

  • A clearer distinction between public management positions and political appointees would be desirable, and the recruitment process could benefit from increasing transparency and meritocracy through public advertising of public management vacancies and shared decision making about their appointment. Indeed, management positions and other “positions of trust” are not part of the public service career in Colombia and are subject to discretionary appointment and termination. As a consequence top officials are closely tied to the current government, and are usually replaced when there is a change in government. This poses a threat to an effective and continuous implementation of integrity policies, and in particular the function of senior management as role models.

  • Colombia could improve the recruitment process in order to ensure that the best possible people are appointed to senior positions. Objectivity in the recruitment process is essential to ensure a pool of suitable candidates to guarantee productive and efficient public service, but also to lay the foundations for a culture of integrity in the public administration. Any perceptions of favouritism in the recruitment process need to be prevented. The government could achieve this by advertising public management positions openly to attract the most qualified candidates and shared decision-making about the appointment so that the immediate superior is not the only one involved in the final selection (OECD, 2013a).

  • While Colombia has prohibited the hiring and appointment of spouses and relatives up to the fourth degree of consanguinity (Colombian Constitution, Article 126), it appears that no measures have been implemented in practice to ensure compliance. To improve further fairness of the existing personnel management, mandatory disclosure of family relations during the recruitment process could be introduced to implement the prohibition of nepotism according to the Constitution. Furthermore, the proposed integrity training should sensitise public officials of the possibility of a conflict of interest, if they participate, formally or informally, in any matter directly affecting a family member’s employment. Breaches would need to be enforced through the disciplinary code as a breach of the conflict-of-interest policy.

  • Integrity criteria for job positions could be included, and candidates tested on ethical values during the selection process; in addition, the commitment to the values of the General Integrity Code and the organisation could be required by all applicants seeking to apply for positions.

In a values-orientated public integrity system, emphasising self-regulation and intrinsic motivation, it is particularly important that the hiring process attracts public officials which ascribe to the ethical values in the public sector and in the organisation. The recruitment process should be set up to select officials that strive for the application of high ethical standards in their work environment and who are committed to the public interest, an open dialogue about ethical issues, and are dedicated to pursuing ethical standards in their interactions with others. Prospective candidates gain their first impression of the organisation’s values and their own role within the organisation during the recruitment process. It is the role of HRM to ensure that these impressions include recognition of the importance of integrity (Weaver et al., 2001).

By explicitly considering key behavioural skills that can contribute to ethical conduct in the job position, HRM could ensure that a message of valuing integrity is sent from the start. In Colombia, Decree 2539/05 establishes the general competencies for public position at different hierarchical levels. Public officials need to fulfil functional competencies and behavioural competencies. Each level of hierarchy has its own specific behavioural competencies which are supposed to be further specified by the personnel unit in each entity when recruiting for a specific position. In addition, some general competencies apply to all public officials: results-orientated, user and citizen orientation, transparency, and commitment to the organisation.

In order to give a stronger weight to integrity, the DAFP could consider including in a first stage of selection the general competency of integrity and identifying key behavioural traits desirable for positions at-risk of corruption (e.g. conscientiousness, moral attentiveness, duty orientation, assertiveness and proactivity). These traits should be clearly stated in the job posting by adequate descriptions and could be assessed through targeted questions (see Box 2.15). It would be advisable that these measures are accompanied by seminars by the DAFP and ESAP for the personnel units on how to identify and standardise such behavioural competencies. Procedures at this stage could comprise background checks concerning criminal and disciplinary records with past employers and the System of Information and Management of Public Employment (Sistema de Información y Gestión del Empleo Público, or SIGEP).

Box 2.15. Recruitment processes and integrity – Experience from Australia

‘Filters’ can be built into to a recruitment process to ensure applicants are tailored to the organisation’s requirements. In Australia, for example, one agency analysed disciplinary issues amongst new recruits after 12 months on the job and identified a need to better manage indicators of integrity earlier in the selection process.

As a result, interventions were then instituted at important stages:

  • A question and answer survey was included as part of the general information for potential applicants. It asked questions about how people felt about certain working conditions and interactions. Based on an indicative score, potential applicants were then encouraged to proceed to the next stage or encouraged to speak about the role with people who knew them well before proceeding to the next stage. This supported self-filtering by applicants.

  • As part of the online application, more targeted integrity questions were asked about their background and experiences. For example questions about dealing with authority, diverse cultures, financial management etc. This provided base data for comparative purposes.

  • Successful applicants in the technical assessment phase were asked to retake the integrity questions. Experts were asked to identify discrepancies or anomalies between the data sets and individually followed these up with applicants. The delay between administering the questions increased the validity of the data.

  • Only those applicants who successfully passed both the technical and the integrity phases were invited to face-to-face interviews, which included a practical role play.

The outcome was a considerable decrease in both disciplinary issues and increased retention rates for new recruits.

Source: Input provided by the Australian Merit Commissioner, June 2016.

In addition, Colombia could consider trialing in a pilot the effect of requiring the signature of a short reminder that the applicant ascribes to the organisation’s value of integrity. This could be either done electronically right before submitting the application or as a separate form to be signed if submitting the application on paper.

For at-risk positions and senior officials, further strategies to examine an applicant’s ethical stance and disposition for (un)ethical behaviour could be applied during the interview stage. For instance, prospective candidates could be asked to solve an ethical dilemma or a conflict-of-interest situation to assess their moral reasoning and assess the ethical decision-making reasoning of the candidate (Kidder, 2005).

In co-ordination with CNSC and ESAP, the DAFP could also develop recruitment brochures and other material to attract future public officials which clearly share the commitment to integrity of the public service, how a culture of integrity is built within the public service and ethical values applied in the daily work.

The National Civil Service Commission (CNCS) could include integrity as a performance indicator to incentivise ethical behaviour

Regular performance evaluations carried out between responsible public managers and their employees offers an important entry point for integrity policies. Performance evaluations can be used as an anchor point for transmitting values and expectations or clarifying any doubts. Colombia therefore could consider the incorporation of integrity and public ethics, both as a formal assessment criterion and in the way the assessment is conducted. For example, performance objectives could focus on the means as well as the ends, by asking not only if the performance objectives have been achieved, but also how the public official achieved the objectives. If objectives were achieved in adhering to the highest standard of integrity, this should be recognised. Special recognition could be given to those public officials that consistently engage in meritorious behaviour or contribute to building a climate of integrity in their department by for example identifying new processes or procedures that will promote the code of ethics.

In Colombia, all staff and managers are subject to annual performance evaluations with a partial evaluation every six months (Acuerdo 565 de 2016). Public officials are evaluated against functional and behavioural competencies and the management evaluation of the division. The CNCS is responsible for overseeing the process for performance evaluations and could issue guidelines on how to include integrity as a performance indicator to the personnel units. For example, ethical behaviour could be incentivised by assessing the adherence of every employee to the entity’s values and code of ethics in the annual performance appraisal.

During these meetings, it could be helpful to address explicitly the subject of public ethics and conflicts of interest beyond evaluating past performance, setting new goals and discussing general issues concerning the agency’s, as well as individuals’, values and goals. If taken seriously and not as a check-the-box exercise, such a regular discussion would provide the opportunity to set the tone at the top and encourage public officials to openly discuss any concerns or doubts that might arise in their daily work. Furthermore, it could be considered to include integrity as criteria for the professional development of the public servants.

To be effective, it is crucial that public managers with staff responsibility receive specific training on how to incorporate integrity in the performance evaluations and how to address ethical dilemmas brought to them during this process or outside of it. As mentioned previously, Colombia could therefore aim at a stronger involvement of providing specific training and clear guidelines to them on how they should exercise judgment when cases are brought to them, how to signal unethical behaviour in discussions with their staff, how to promote a culture of open discussion, and how to resolve conflict-of-interest situations.

Unfortunately, the performance evaluation in Colombia is currently hampered by a number of weaknesses which would need to be addressed to develop the evaluation process from a merely formal process to a tool that sets incentives for public officials to perform better. Firstly, the objectives are often not linked to the duties and functions of the public official. Therefore, it would be essential that the CNSC guides the personnel units in each entity on how to translate general objectives as set out in the Acuerdo 565 de 2016 to specific positions. Secondly, the incentive structure within the public service is inadequate as there are no clear benefits for performing well in the evaluation, such as career progression (Strazza, 2014). These issues need to be addressed as a priority to enable the use of performance evaluations as a tool to promote a culture of integrity.

The DAFP could develop a mentoring programme for public officials at the junior level to encourage the development of ethical capacities and build a pool of ethical leaders for the future

Partnering public officials in junior position who show the necessary potential to advance to leadership positions with senior managers who have proven integrity and ethical conduct and reasoning through a formal mentorship programme is another measure to motivate ethical behaviour in an organisation (Shalock, Arthur, 2006). This does not only support the junior public officials, but can also strengthen the senior public officials’ ethical convictions and contribute to an open organisational culture in which public officials feel comfortable to report wrongdoing.

Mentors should focus on helping their colleague to think through situations, where they have recognised the potential for conflict of values. They help to develop ethical awareness, so that the mentee is able to foresee and avoid ethical dilemmas. The DAFP could pilot a mentoring programme in its own entity. The commitment of mentors could be positively assessed in the performance evaluations.

Safeguarding integrity through an effective financial and interest disclosure system

Prioritising the objective of prevention of abuse of function, Colombia could expand the information related to possible conflict-of-interest situations requested in the current asset declaration system

An effective financial and interest disclosure system can be an important building block of a country’s integrity system creating a culture of integrity and building trust in the public sector (OECD, 2015). The system can strengthen public trust in government by clearly showing its commitment to transparency and by offering a tool with which to enable social accountability, as citizens can analyse public officials’ decision in the light of the declared assets and relations. Indeed, there has been some recent empirical cross-country evidence that the expansion of financial disclosure systems positively and significantly affect a country’s capacity to control corruption in the years following the expansion (Vargas et al., 2016).

Disclosure systems can address both the detection of illicit enrichment and the prevention of abuse of function, by identifying possible situations of conflicts of interest and guiding public officials how to avoid such situations. To maximise the effectiveness of disclosure systems, countries should prioritise their objectives by engaging domestic stakeholders to determine the best framework. Each single element of the disclosure system, such as who has to declare what, will have to be designed according to the set objective (Figure 2.5).

Figure 2.5. Objectives of the Disclosure Systems
picture

Source: Rossi, Ivana M., Laura Pop, and Tammar Berger. 2017. Getting the Full Picture on Public Officials: A How-To Guide for Effective Financial Disclosure. Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) Series. Washington, DC: World Bank. doi: 10.1596/978-1-4648-0953-8. License: Creative Commons Attribution CC BY 3.0 IGO

In countries in which the disclosure system’s purpose is to detect illicit wealth, the systems seek information on assets, stocks and securities, and liabilities to allow for a financial analysis of inexplicable changes in wealth during the public official’s time in office. In this way, the system can support the prosecution of corrupt officials and the recovery of stolen assets (OECD, 2011). In turn, systems prioritising the prevention of conflict-of-interest situations, gather information on secondary employment, unremunerated positions outside of office, sources of income, gifts and companies in which the official has an interest. The system is linked to the public ethics framework to establish a rapport with the public official to resolve the conflict of interest situation. According to data collected by the World Bank, the majority of disclosure systems in OECD member countries focus on the prevention of conflicts of interest (Rossi et al., 2017; Box 2.16).

Box 2.16. Income and asset disclosure system in the United States

The objective of the income and asset disclosure system (IAD) in the United States is the detection and prevention of conflict-of-interest situations. The requested financial information aims to show transparency and impartiality of public officials in the decision-making process and to increase public trust and confidence in the integrity system.

The Office of the Government of Ethics (OGE) is responsible for overseeing the disclosure system in the executive branch of the government. The legislative and judicial branches have their own Ethics Commissions overseeing the system.

Some key characteristics of the systems are:

  • Coverage of officials: The IAD distinguishes between two types of disclosure requirements: Public disclosure and confidential disclosure. Public disclosure applies to high-ranking government officials and confidential disclosure applies to lower-ranking officials and employees who hold positions which have a higher risk for conflicts of interest.

  • Requested information: assets, sources and amounts of income, transactions, liabilities, gifts and reimbursements, positions held outside of government, agreements and arrangements with respect to past or future employment, major clients (first rime filers only).

  • Verification: Neither the OGE, nor the ethics officials within every government agency verifies the accuracy of the submitted information. Disclosures are reviewed for completeness, internal consistency and actual or potential conflict-of-interest situations. However, if a complaint is received or a clear illegality detected on the disclosure form, the OGE or ethics official in the agency refers the case to the Office of the Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Public Integrity Section of the Department of Justice.

  • Public availability: Public income and asset declarations have to be made available upon request within 30 days of submission of the final report. Confidential income and asset declarations from lower-ranking public officials are not publically available.

  • Sanctions: If public officials file false information or fail to submit required information, criminal, civil and administrative sanctions can be administered.

  • Evaluation of the system: An annual Performance Accountability Report is presented before Congress and available online. The report includes details on meeting its priorities as established in its strategic plan, an assessment of the OGE’s systems for accounting and internal control and an audit report on the OGE’s financial statements.

Source: World Bank. 2013. Income and Asset Disclosure: Case Study Illustrations. Directions in Development. Washington, DC: World Bank. doi: 10.1596/978-0-8213-9796-1.

In Colombia, Law 190 from 1995 and Decree 1083 of 2015, compiles all applicable decrees that regulate the asset and interest declaration of public officials (Declaración Juramentada de Bienes y Rentas Y Actividad de Económica Privada). All public officials across the three branches are required to register in the System of Information and Management of Public Employment (SIGEP), operated by DAFP. SIGEP registry is a condition precedent to beginning service as a public official. The system centralises all the financial and interest disclosures and other HR information related to the public official’s employment. The disclosures must be updated annually and at the end of the term of public service. In addition, all public officials must state that they are not involved in any situation that may cause ineligibility or incompatibility. The system solicits information on income, assets, savings, liabilities, membership in boards or unions, outside employment, as well as name of spouse/partner and first-degree relatives.

Colombia’s requirement for electronic submission is commendable and more advanced in this aspect than the majority of disclosure systems in other countries (Rossi et al. 2017). In addition, article 7 of Law 527 of 1999, regulated by Decree 2364 of 2012, establishes the use and administration of the electronic signature, which has the same legal effects as the handwritten signature. This facilitates compliance and allows for better verification and analysis of data submitted. Indeed, it can reduce burden on officials, reducing completion time and allowing for information to be saved and/or pre-filled or incorporated from other databases. In Argentina, when they switched from paper to electronic submissions in 2000, compliance rate on the part of public officials went up 46% (OECD, 2011).

Article 6 of Law 190 from 1995 requires that financial and interest declarations are selectively verified for completeness and accuracy through a random selection at least once per semester. Currently, the head of HRM at each government agency verifies that the asset and interest declaration has been submitted in the SIGEP at least once every six months on a random basis. According to interviews, this simple verification check is often insufficiently undertaken. In turn, the role of the DAFP in the asset and interest disclosure system consists of co-ordinating with the HRM units of all three branches, overseeing SIGEP, and elaborating guidance for public officials on how to declare their assets and interests.

The current design of the Colombian disclosure system seems to aim at both the objective of prevention of conflict of interest and detection of illicit enrichment. However, interviews revealed that the information demanded is not useful to detect illicit enrichment, given that financial intelligence units can access the submitted information via different channels in better quality. Also, doubts have been raised in how far public officials really report all the relevant information and whether it may not be too easy to circumvent the requirements. Therefore, Colombia could decide to put greater emphasis on the prevention of abuse of functions by redesigning the disclosure forms and demanding more detailed information relevant to detecting potential conflict-of-interest situations similar to the majority of OECD countries (Box 2.17).

Box 2.17. Common financial and non-financial disclosures in OECD countries

Generally, the following types of information are required to be disclosed in OECD member and partner countries. As in Colombia, these can include financial and non-financial interests:

Financial interests

Reporting of financial interests can help to identify conflict-of-interest situations.

  • Income: officials in OECD countries are commonly asked to report income amounts as well as the source and type (i.e. salaries, fees, interest, dividends, revenue from sale or lease of property, inheritance, hospitalities, travel paid, etc.). The exact requirements of income reporting may vary and moreover public officials may only be required to report income above a certain threshold. The rationale for disclosing income is to indicate potential sources of undue influence (i.e. such as from outside employment). In countries where public officials’ salaries are low, this is of particular concern.

  • Gifts: gifts can be considered a type of income or asset; however, since they are generally minor in value, countries generally only required reporting gifts above a certain threshold although there are exceptions.

  • Assets: A wide variety of assets are subject to declaration across OECD countries including savings, shareholdings and other securities, property, real estate, savings, vehicles/vessels, valuable antiques and art, etc. Reporting of assets permits for comparison with income data in order to assess whether changes in wealth are due to declared legitimate income. However, accurately reporting on the value of assets can be a challenge in some circumstances and difficult to validate. Furthermore, some countries make the distinction between owned assets and those in use (i.e. such as a house or lodging that has been lent but is not owned).

  • Other financial interests: In addition to income, gifts and assets, additional financial interests to declare often include: debts, loans, guarantees, insurances, agreements which may results in future income, and pension schemes. When such interests amount to significant values, they can potentially lead to conflict-of-interest situations.

Non-financial interests

Monitoring non-financial interests may give indications about potential conflict-of interest situations. As such many countries request disclosure of:

  • Previous employment: relationships or information acquired from past employment could unduly influence public officials’ duties in their current post. For instance if the officials’ past firm applied to a public procurement tender where the public official had a say in the process, his/her past position could be considered a conflict-of-interest.

  • Current non-remunerated positions: board or foundation membership or active membership in political party activities could similarly affect public officials’ duties. Even voluntary work could be considered to influence duties in certain situations.

Source: OECD (2011) Asset Declarations for Public Officials: A Tool to Prevent Corruption.

Specifically, Colombia could seek more concrete information on the source (name of company or person who provides the income, company registration number, location) and type of income (salary, royalties, selling assets, inheritance etc). For example, demanding information on the name of a legal entity providing an income can help identify a conflict-of-interest situation. In addition, the disclosure form should collect information on activities undertaken prior to taking office and if already known, activities the official will perform after leaving office. While Law 1474 of 2011 (Nuevo Estatuto Anticorrupción) stipulates that public servants for at least two years may not accept employment with an entity with which they personally, or through their subordinates, had official contact, it seems that no process for effective implementation of this article has been developed. Given the wide access of information senior public official possess and the subsequent possibility to use confidential information to gain unfair advantage, Colombia could focus, when a public official leaves the public sector, to review systematically the information given by senior officials and other at-risk positions. If a possible conflict of interest is noted during the verification process, as recommended below, the employee should be informed and possible solutions should then be discussed with the superior. If wanted by the employee, the integrity contact point, as recommended above, could be present in these discussions as a mediator. The solution reached could be made public to create social pressure for the public official to comply with the provision.

Narrowing down the circle of public officials required to submit an asset and interest declaration to those in senior positions and those representing a higher corruption risk, e.g. Politically Exposed Persons (PEP), would ensure that no culture of distrust is created as well as improve the system’s cost-effectiveness

On average in the OECD, data show that the top decision makers (President/Prime Minister, Ministers) as well as senior civil servants tend to have greater disclosure obligations (Figure 2.6). Civil servants often have relatively less stringent requirements. There are arguments in favour of such a differentiation of reporting requirements for political and senior level civil servants. The first is that elected officials are expected to be more transparent so that citizens may make more informed choices when voting in elections. Furthermore, once elected, such information may be necessary to assess any interests which may influence parliamentarians’ arguments or voting decisions in the Congress. It could also be argued that, given their decision-making powers, elected officials and senior civil servants are more influential and are at greater risk for capture or corruption.

Figure 2.6. Disclosure in Executive branch of Government, 2014
picture

Source: OECD (2015), Governments at a Glance.

In contrast to the majority of OECD countries, the disclosure requirements are universal for all positions in Colombia. This calls into question whether requirements under the law 1990 are following a risk-based approach and are perhaps overly burdensome on officials. This can also have a potentially detrimental effect on the morale of some public servants. For instance, some officials could interpret this blanket requirement as creating an organisational culture whereby public servants are presumed to be corrupt. As such, the law may inadvertently have increased the incentive for omissions, false information and reduce the attractiveness of working in the public sector, making it more difficult for government to recruit or retain top talent

Furthermore, despite the use of an electronic system, the universal requirement to file an asset and interest declaration may overburden the responsible bodies to communicate effectively on the requirements, receive and screen the disclosures, and to fulfil any other activities related to its mandate if not accompanied by appropriate human and financial resources. Indeed, in 2016, 202.805 public officials were obliged to file an asset and interest declaration.

Colombia could consider a more tailored approach to disclosure to ensure effectiveness and impact. To ensure an effective process, the size of the disclosure population could be narrowed down by considering common criteria applied in other countries to determine who should declare (Box 2.18), such as:

  • Branch of government.

  • Hierarchy (for example, all officials at the director level and above).

  • Position (minister, deputy minister, director, and so on).

  • Function (administrative decision making, granting contracts, public procurement, tax inspection, customs etc.).

  • Risk of corruption: identifying filers based upon their role and the risk they could become involved in corrupt activity (building licenses, infrastructure contracts, customs, etc.) (World Bank, 2017).

  • Categorisation as a politically exposed person (PEP) in Decree 1674 of 2016.

Box 2.18. Mandatory asset declaration for selected officials in Argentina

The government agency in charge of managing the Assets Declaration System is the Anti-corruption Office, under the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, in co-ordination with the Federal Administration of Public Revenues Agency (AFIP). The asset disclosure system in Argentina does not require all public officials to declare their assets. Individuals who are obligated to present their asset declarations are:

  • Hierarchical level: from the President to the officials with a position of National Director or equivalent.

  • Nature of their function: those who, beyond the rank that they hold, are public officials or employees, members of procurement commissions or are responsible for granting administrative authorisations for the exercise of any activity or controlling their operation. Also those who control public revenues should present their asset declaration.

  • Candidates to national elective positions.

These public officials have to present their declarations in three situations: (1) within 30 days of having started their public functions, (2) annually, and (3) after leaving the position. By June 2016, there were 48.494 obligations to present Asset Declarations.

Source: https://www.argentina.gob.ar/presentardeclaracionjurada

The disclosure could be mandatory for those officials in high positions, those in position with higher risk of corruption, for instance based on the risk assessments carried out by public entities (Chapter 3), and those classified as Politically Exposed Person (PEP), regulated in Colombia under Decree 1674 from 2016.

A communication strategy should clarify the conceptual overlap between the financial and interest disclosure system and the ad hoc disclosure of conflict-of-interest situations, and remind public officials of their obligation to declare their interests and assets both in the system and ad hoc

Interviews revealed some confusion amongst public officials concerning asset and interest declarations and conflict-of-interest management. Clarifying the conceptual overlap between the procedures for ad hoc disclosure of actual conflict-of-interest situations, and the annual declaration of assets and interest is essential. It needs to be clearly communicated that submitting the declaration does not relieve the public official from proactively declaring any potential or actual conflict-of-interest on an ad hoc basis to their superior, or that he can seek for advice in case of doubts to the Integrity Contact Points, as recommended above.

Indeed, the static annual asset and interest declarations are not flexible enough to deal with ad hoc emerging conflict-of-interest situations, and they also do not state how any current conflict-of-interest has been resolved. Both aspects require a separate policy whereby officials must notify their managers of a conflict-of interest situation, and reach a resolution – possibly with help of the Integrity Contact points recommended above.

These efforts could be embedded in the existing internal and external awareness campaigns on the disclosure system (web portal, social media, e-mails, newsletter, video tutorials and thematic chats) to ensure a high submission rate. The DAFP has also introduced a virtual advisory Space, EVA, which is carrying out a series of thematic chats directed at the public servants on the financial and interest disclosure. On their website, the requirements are clearly set out; the legal framework can be found as well as detailed instructions. Colombia could also send reminders to public officials via their official e-mail addresses to submit their annual declaration on time.

Given that no authority in Colombia has currently the mandate to verify and audit the financial and interest disclosures, Colombia could give one agency, for example the Inspector General, the mandate to ensure an effective verification. This would include the right to cross-check information, or make parts of the declarations publically available to enable control by citizens

It is essential to establish a system of oversight to provide monitoring and enforcement. Indeed, the effectiveness of the disclosure regime depends on the system’s ability to detect violations and administer sanctions (OECD, 2015). Countries can ensure this through either a confidential system in which effective verification and audit is guaranteed, or by making declarations publically available, so that the public can fulfil an oversight role (or combining both elements).

An effective confidential disclosure regime requires that the agency responsible for administrating the disclosure system is politically neutral, is trusted by the public and is able to effectively verify and audit the declarations. According to an OECD survey in 2012, following the collection of disclosure forms, over 80% of OECD countries that have disclosure requirements in place verify that disclosure forms are submitted (Table 2.5). Ten countries, including Canada, France, Korea and Switzerland, verify receipt of the submitted disclosure form, verify that all required information was included and audit or review the accuracy of the information submitted in the disclosure form for all those required to disclose private interests (Table 2.5). In cases where these conditions cannot be met, public availability allows the public (i.e. individuals, civil society organisations and the media) to strengthen the enforcement of the disclosure system by fulfilling a control function. For example, while Italy and Ireland do not verify the disclosure forms after submission, they make the disclosure forms online allowing the public to verify information.

Table 2.5. Actions for disclosing private interests by public officials

Verification that disclosure form was submitted

Review that all required information was provided

Internal audit of the submitted information for accuracy

Australia

Austria

Belgium

Canada

Chile

Denmark

Estonia

Finland

France

Germany

Hungary

Iceland

Ireland

Italy

Japan

Korea

Luxembourg

x

x

x

Mexico

Netherlands

New Zealand

Norway

Poland

Portugal

Slovak Republic

Slovenia

Spain

Sweden

Switzerland

Turkey

United Kingdom

United States

Egypt

Ukraine

Total OECD

● Procedure conducted for all those required to submit disclosure form

25

19

6

⊙ Procedure conducted for only some required to submit disclosure form

0

4

8

❍ Procedure not conducted

5

7

16

Source: Governments at a Glance 2013 (OECD).

As discussed above, beyond verifying the submission of the financial and interest declarations, the declarations are not systematically reviewed or audited by the currently responsible HRM bodies in the line ministries, nor by the DAFP. In addition, the information provided in the disclosure form is classified and may only be provided at request to the disciplinary control offices in disciplinary and tax proceedings, or to ordinary courts for criminal and civil cases where there are presumed acts of corruption against the Colombian State. Overall, the weaknesses in the follow-up after reception of the declarations undermine the effectiveness of the system, as there is de facto no ability to detect violations and administer sanctions.

In order to ensure an effective verification and audit process, Colombia could consider modifying Decree 2232 of 1995 and Decree 1083 of 2015 to mandate an agency to audit the financial and interest disclosures in a systematic and regular manner, which would include cross-checking information from other databases, such as land registries or financial information. For example, in Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru the respective Comptroller General has the mandate to audit the conflict of interest and asset declarations. In Chile, this includes the right to access information from other institutions (Box 2.19). In France, an independent agency, the Higher Authority for Transparency in Public Life, is responsible for administering the disclosure system. This includes a verification and audit process which cross-check other databases (Box 2.20).

Box 2.19. Conflict of interest and asset declaration system in Chile

In Chile, according to Law N˚ 20.880, all public servants, including elected officials, Generals of the Armed Forces, directors of state-owned enterprises and board members of state universities have to submit a conflict of interest and asset declaration. The declaration must be submitted upon assuming duties, annually and upon departure from a post.

The declaration has to be submitted electronically via a portal administered by the Comptroller General (Contraloría General de la República de Chile, or CGR Chile). The declaration consists of the following information:

  • all professional, union or charitable activities, paid and unpaid

  • property in Chile or abroad

  • water use rights

  • personal property

  • income and assets

  • total liabilities

  • assets of spouse or civil partner

  • assets of children under the their authority

  • voluntary declaration of any other sources that might present a conflict of interest.

Once cleared of sensitive information such as private address, the conflict of interest and asset declarations of the most senior public officials are made public. The remainder of the declarations are made available upon request.

In case of violations concerning the duty to submit the declaration (i.e. failure to submit or late submission), the official can be fined or dismissed.

The CGR Chile oversees the timeliness, completeness and accuracy of the content of these statements and has the right to request information from the Superintendency of Banks and Financial Institutions, the Superintendency Securities and Insurance, the Superintendency of Pensions, the Internal Revenue Service, the Land Registry, the Civil Registry or any other entity.

Source: Contraloría General de la República de Chile (CGR), 2016, Guía sobre la declaración de intereses y patrimonio de la Ley N˚ 20.880, www.declaracionjurada.cl/dip/pdf/GUIA_25.08.2016.pdf.

Box 2.20. The Higher Authority for Transparency in Public Life

Since 1988, French public officials are obliged to declare their assets to prevent illegal enrichment. Until the end of 2013, the Commission for Financial Transparency in politics was responsible for controlling the declarations. As a consequence of various scandals, the Higher Authority for Transparency in Public Life, Haute autorité pour la transparence de la vie publique or HATVP) was created with a broader legal authority to ensure effective auditing of the asset and interest declarations.

The HATVP receives and audits the asset and interest declarations of 14,000 high-ranking politicians and senior public officials:

  • Members of Government, Parliament and European Parliament;

  • Important local elected officials and their main advisors;

  • Advisors to the President, members of Government and presidents of the National Assembly and Senate;

  • Members of independent administrative authorities;

  • High-ranking public servants appointed by the Council of Ministers;

  • CEOs of publicly owned or partially publicly owned companies.

Some of the asset and private interest declarations are published online and will soon be reusable as open data. One of the exceptions is the asset declarations of parliamentarians which are not published online, but made available in certain local government buildings. Asset declarations of local elected officials and asset and interest declarations of non-elected public officials are not published, following a Constitutional council ruling in 2013.

Asset declarations have to be filed online when taking up a position, when a substantial change in assets occurs and when leaving the position. The information submitted in the declaration concerns real property, movable property (e.g. financial assets, life insurance, bank accounts, vehicles), and any existing borrowing and financiadebt. The HATVP verifies the declarations and investigates any potential omissions or unexplained variations in wealth while in office. All declarations are systematically controlled for some specific populations such as members of the Government and members of the Parliament. For public officials holding other functions, a control plan is established with systematic controls for certain targeted functions and random controls for others. The HATVP has the right to refer cases to the prosecutor for criminal investigation. Furthermore, it oversees the fiscal verification procedure of members of Government.

Right to cross-check databases

In order to fulfil its mandate, the HATVP has the right to ask fiscal authorities to analyse the declarations and access documents abroad or any fiscal information deemed of interest. Likewise, the HATVP can demand information from institutions and individuals who detain information useful to the audit process. The asset declarations of Government ministers and members of Parliament are transferred to the Public Finances General Directorate and in return the tax administration provides the High Authority with “all information to enable the latter to assess the exhaustiveness, accuracy and sincerity of the asset declaration, in particular the income tax notices for the person concerned, and, as applicable, the wealth tax notices”. Tax administration officers are released from their requirement of professional secrecy with regard to the High Authority’s members and rapporteurs. Citizens can also report to the High Authority any irregularities they notice about the online declarations.

Sanctions

A public official who fails to file a declaration, omits to declare substantive assets, or reports an untruthful evaluation of assets, can be sanctioned with up to three years’ imprisonment and a €45 000 fine. A public official who does not comply with the injunctions of the HATVP or does not supply any requested documents can be sanctioned with a one-year prison sentence and a €15,000 fine. Additional sanctions can include a loss of civic rights for up to ten months or a permanent ban on the exercise of civic duties.

Verification and audit process

For members of the government and parliamentarians

picture

For all other declarants

picture

Source: Based on information provided by the Higher Authority for Transparency in Public Life

In Colombia, it could be considered if the Inspector General (PGN) could be granted the mandate to oversee the verification and audit process of the financial and interest disclosure system. This would need to be accompanied by the development of the necessary technological, financial and human resources in the entity. Most importantly, to effectively audit the submitted information, the PGN would need to be able to access information of the Offices of Public Registry, the DAFP, the National Tax and Customs Office (Dirección de Impuestos y Aduanas Nacionales de Colombia, or DIAN), the Financial Intelligence Unit (Unidad de Información y Análisis Financiero, or UIAF), Superintendencies, and financial and social security entities. Only by authorising the PGN to cross-check and analyse information could an effective verification and audit process be ensured.

Such a shift of the authority to audit the declarations would require a normative change concerning the reserved nature of financial information and its regular use by a controlling body such as the PGN. Currently, the information provided in the disclosures is reserved information according to Law 1266 of 2008, Law 1581 of 2012, Law 1712 of 2014, and Law 1755 of 2015. This means that the information can only be accessed in the context of a judicial, fiscal or disciplinary proceedings or when the holder of the information authorises the access, as it has been the case for the recent voluntary publication of financial and interest disclosures by the ministers and directors of administrative departments. Therefore, in the long-term, if an auditing of the asset declaration is desired, a statutory legal change would be necessary, either by passing a new law or by modifying the anti-corruption statute (Law 1474 of 2011), which would enable the PGN to access the data submitted in the financial and interest disclosures. In addition, technological solutions would need to be sought ought to exchange information, not only between the PGN and the DAFP, but also with other entities and databases.

In the short-term, the PGN could convene regular meetings between the UIAF, the Prosecutor General (Fiscalía General de la Nación, FGN) and Comptroller General (CGR) according to the principle of harmonious collaboration between the state organs as stipulated in article 113 of the Colombian Constitution. In these meetings, according to a memorandum of understanding or joint directive, the UIAF could exchange a list of public officials for which suspicious operations have been detected with the Prosecutor General, the PGN and the CGR to verify whether the public official illegally increased his wealth according to Article 48 of Law 734 of 2002. This would allow the PGN to access the information stored in the SIGEP without changing the law. In addition, this information could be used to identify at-risk positions which should be obliged to present their financial and interest declarations. However, this maintains the current reactive nature and does not allow the regular use of the information for analytical or preventive purposes.

Alternatively, or in addition, Colombia could make the declarations publically available. Making disclosures publically available adds an additional level of scrutiny by adding a countless number of external stakeholders, namely media, civil society organisations and individuals, that can double-check the information declared and report inconsistencies to the authorities. In this way, public availability can strengthen the deterrent effect and build social pressure to adhere to the integrity standards. For example in Canada, Members of Parliament submit detailed financial disclosure statements, including declaring credit card debts in excess of CS $ 10 000. A summary of the statement is published online, which shows the Member of Parliament’s assets, but not their values (Messick, 2009).

However, contrary to the practices in a majority of OECD countries, Colombia does not make the disclosure forms publically available. According to the 2014 Transparency Law (Ley de Transparencia) the information can be classified if it infringes on the individual’s right to privacy and security.

Therefore, Colombia could consider modifying the Transparency Law to permit the public disclosure of financial and interest disclosures, as has already been done on a voluntary basis since May 2016. This could mean not sharing the address, bank account number or vehicle information, but sharing general information such as an approximate value. The format could be similar to the form provided by DAFP for the voluntary publication of asset and interest declarations in May 2016 which omits bank account information. To ensure that the public could fulfil an oversight role, Colombia could consider establishing a searchable, online database. Similar to Bolivia, Colombia could consider a introducing a clause allowing individuals to request the complete form if he or she shows a need for it (Messick, 2009).

Public disclosure could be limited to certain categories of public officials. For example, the United States do not make publically available the disclosure forms of individuals in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defence Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, or the National Security Agency, or any individual engaged in intelligence activities in any agency of the United States.

Ensuring effective enforcement responses to integrity violations

To ensure the credibility of the ethics and conflict-of-interest framework, public officials have to be held accountable for breaches; this requires coherence and consistency between the integrity management framework and the disciplinary system

Enforcement measures, such as disciplinary systems and, when applicable, also mechanisms for the recovery of economic losses and damages, are the necessary “teeth” to any country’s integrity framework and are a principal means by which governments can deter misconduct. If applied in a transparent, timely and fair manner, sanctions can also provide credibility and legitimise the existence of governments’ integrity rules and frameworks, serving to strengthen them over time and helping to instil integrity values in individuals and organisations as cultural norms.

Moreover, enforcement measures help signal to citizens that government is serious about upholding the public’s best interests and is worthy of their confidence and trust. Indeed, strong enforcement demonstrates that the rule of law applies to all and that public officials cannot act with impunity. This is a particularly important principle to uphold given the strong relationship between citizens’ perceptions of corruption and their trust in government leaders and institutions. Governments must take action therefore to avoid a vicious cycle whereby continually decreasing levels of trust in institutions lead, in turn, to greater incentives for (and tolerance of) integrity breaches like corruption over time.

Indeed, OECD country experience shows that an effective, comprehensive public sector integrity frameworks provides balance between values-based and rules-based approaches and as such include not only pillars for defining, supporting and monitoring integrity but also ensure the enforcement of these integrity rules and standards. Establishing an open organisational culture also has to be backed with relevant enforcement mechanisms to ensure credibility. Evidence suggests that organisations should react to undesired behaviour even for small actions as a continuous acceptance of such behaviour could lead to an erosion of integrity in the organisation or foster cynicism and frustration to those that (still) abide by the rules.

Among OECD member countries, for instance, the most utilised sanctions for breaching the conflict-of-interest policy are disciplinary and criminal prosecution, along with the cancellation of affected decisions and contracts (Box 2.21).

Box 2.21. Setting proportional sanctions for breaching conflict-of-interest policies

The nature of the position is taken into consideration when countries determine appropriate personal consequences for breaching the conflict-of-interest policy. The following list of personal consequences indicates the variety of severe sanctions applied to different categories of officials in Portugal:

  • loss of mandate for political and senior public office holders, advisors or technical consultants

  • immediate cessation of office and return of all sums which have been received for ministerial advisors

  • three-year suspension of senior political duties and senior public duties for senior civil servants

  • loss of office in case of managerial staff

  • fine and inactivity or suspension for civil servants and contractual staff.

Source: OECD (2003)

In Colombia every public entity has the responsibility in detecting cases and either sanctioning them through the Internal Disciplinary Control system and/or channelling the cases to the responsible authority such as the Office of the Inspector General (PGN). In terms of sanctionable offences, these are currently defined in the Unique Disciplinary Code (Código Disciplinario Único), which differentiates between very serious (Article 48) and serious/mild offences (Article 50), and include breaches of integrity such as requesting favours or gifts and acting in presence of a conflict of interest. Engaging in activity that results in a conflict of interest generates a disciplinary offense against the public official. In that case, the disciplinary bodies (the PGN, Inspector’s Offices at district and municipal level (Personerías), Offices of Internal Disciplinary Control, and the Superior Council of the Judiciary – Disciplinary Chamber (Consejo Superior de la Judicatura – Sala Disciplinaria) are responsible for investigating and studying each particular case. The consequences for an official in a conflict of interest include removal from holding public office and may generate disciplinary and administrative sanctions.

As mentioned previously, the Disciplinary Code is currently being reformed, as it is considered to allow a too high degree of discretion with respect to the application of its rules and sanctions. Considering that previous recommendations stressed the importance of establishing a General Integrity Code and updating organisational codes of public entities, the overall legitimacy and effectiveness of the Colombian integrity framework will also depend on ensuring that enforcement mechanisms provide “appropriate and timely” responses to all suspected violations of public integrity standards (Gilman, 2005) and, in particular, that the disciplinary system is coherent and consistent with the integrity framework.

For this purpose, Colombia could consider the following options:

  • Clearly link the integrity instruments with accountability mechanisms to make public officials aware of the responsibilities that come along with their conduct, as provided for in Italy (Article 53 of Legislative Decree 165/2001) and in the Code of Conduct of Jordan, whose article 3 establishes that “[a]ny violation of the provisions of the Code requires accountability and to take disciplinary action and penalties in accordance with the rules of this system.” (OECD, 2010).

  • Ensure that any duty or obligation mentioned in the integrity instruments are linked to the Unique Disciplinary code, which should provide for appropriate sanctions to be enforced in line with the principles and conditions governing the disciplinary action in Colombia (e.g. due process, legality, and proportionality). Because of the central role of DAFP in defining the integrity policies and instruments in the public administration, the PGN and the DAFP should co-ordinate with the legislative power which is currently working on the revision of the Unique Disciplinary Code.

Enforcement mechanism should not only be coherent with the integrity framework, but could also be complemented by innovative forms of sanctions addressing social dynamics and influencing the behaviour of those acting dishonestly through the behaviour of others. Behavioural research shows that only few people act viciously selfish and opportunistic. At the same time, few people are intrinsically moral in an unadulterated fashion. Most individuals balance their behaviour in the moral wiggle room between personal benefit and a positive social identity. They receive cues from their environment on what is socially acceptable. For example, experiments have shown that if a member of the same group misbehaves, this example tends to be followed by others; if it is a member of a rival group, the effect is the opposite and participants behave more honestly than in the control group (Gino et al., 2009). Furthermore, it there is evidence that an erosion of ethical behaviour is acceptable to a group when it occurs gradually (Gino and Bazerman, 2009). This suggests that an organisation can slide into corruption without anyone realising what is happening and, therefore, without anyone denouncing it.

From a policy perspective, these and other findings along this line suggest, similar to the “broken windows theory”, that it is preferable to react to undesired behaviour even for small and seemingly negligible actions, as they can be the beginning of a path to more serious and accepted behaviours, creating a vicious circle where the corrupt dominate the organisational culture (Box 2.22). Reacting does not necessarily mean high sanctions, though. More important is a timely and visible feedback, so that the sanction is directly related to the undesired, sanctioned, behaviour. It also highlights, again, the importance of making visible “ethical success stories” to foster positive dynamics in the organisation: the “goods” should be more visible than the “bads”.

Box 2.22. Australia’s values alignment model

The Australian values alignment model emphasises that not everyone is the same, and not all individuals in an organisation share the same values. The relative share of the following three groups among employees determines to a large extend the organisational culture.

  • Group A represents people who are unlikely to act corruptly regardless of circumstances, perhaps as a result of internal values or identity.

  • Group B represents people whose decision to act corruptly is dependent on circumstance. In ideal conditions, this group is unlikely to act corruptly. However, the opposite is true if personal or environmental circumstances were conducive.

  • Group C represents a small group of people who are likely to act corruptly whenever they can get away with it. This group is driven by self-interest and tend to respond only to effective deterrence.

An effective integrity framework accepts the existence of each of these categories of people, and is designed accordingly to:

  • Recruit for values that resist corruption (Group A).

  • Provide a work environment for staff in which high professional standards are valued – opportunities for corrupt conduct are minimised, and compliance with integrity measures is made easy (providing Group B with ideal conditions), and

  • Be prepared for the existence of the purely self-interested (Group C) by putting in place effective detection and deterrence measures.

The goal of the integrity framework is to get an appropriate balance of measures, having regard to risk.

Source: Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, https://www.aclei.gov.au/corruption-prevention/key-concepts/values-alignment

Non-compliance with the duties of the financial and interest disclosure system should be made sanctionable to guarantee public officials’ adherence to the system

Sanctions are essential to guarantee compliance with the requirements of the asset and interest declaration system. Different types of sanctions can be a powerful deterrent for public officials involved in dishonest conduct. Depending on the violation, such sanctions can imply criminal sanctions, administrative sanctions, disciplinary sanctions, civil liability, and other softer measures such as warnings, public announcements or apologies and the like. In most OECD countries, administrative or disciplinary sanctions are administered for the failure to fulfil the duties related to the declarations (OECD, 2011).

Sanctions for failure to comply are either related to the submission process or to the information provided (OECD, 2011):

  • Submission process: Failure to submit the declaration or late submission.

  • Provided Information: incomplete statement of required information, inadvertently false statement, intentional false statement.

In Colombia, there are no clear sanctions applicable for not submitting the declarations or late submission. The submission of a declaration is currently a duty of the public official and as such, non-submission can be either a serious or slight breach. Concerning the provided information, Decree 2232 of 1995 in accordance with the Disciplinary Code (Código Disciplinario Único) establishes that public officials who declare false information commit a serious breach (falta gravísima) which can be sanctioned with dismissal and a general disqualification for public service. However, given that the current verification process is limited, it can be doubted that sanctions are applied in reality, and no statistical information is available concerning sanctions applied for providing false information in declarations. As such, a serious imbalance exits and public officials could feel inclined to not submit the declaration rather than declaring their assets and interests.

Therefore, Colombia should clarify the sanctions related to the submission process, according to three types of failures: failure to declare, declare on time, and providing incomplete information. In most countries, these types of noncompliance involve administrative penalties or fines (Figure 2.7). For example, the French Law 2013-906 of 11 October 2013 on the transparency of public life provides for a range of sanctions – administrative, civil and criminal – for non-compliance. If a member of the national assembly (depute) fails to declare a substantial part of his or her assets or interests, or if he provides false valuation of his or her assets, this shall be punished by three years’ imprisonment and a € 45 000 fine. In addition, he can also be banned on holding public office. If a declaration that has been filed is incomplete, or if the member of the national assembly has failed to respond to a request for clarification from the High Authority, this shall be punished by one year’s imprisonment and a fine of € 15,000.

Figure 2.7. Sanctions for public officials in case of violations of the disclosure requirements in 10 G20 countries
picture

Note: Data refers to sanctions in place in Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States

Source: G20 Working Group (2014), Good practices in asset disclosure systems in G20 Countries

Also, in Colombia, the extent of the sanction for declaring false information depends on whether the information was declared falsely with intent or not. While this gradual approach is positive, it could be difficult in practice. In practice, this could mean that very few public officials are charged, as the proving intent can be difficult. Therefore, in case of detected discrepancies, public officials should be asked to clarify the discrepancies. In cases in which discrepancies cannot be explained legitimately, Colombia would need to ensure that the inconsistencies detected are communicated with the law enforcement entities. In particular, information should be exchanged with the Financial Intelligence Unit (Unidad de Información y Análisis Financiero, or UIAF) and the Prosecutor General (Fiscalía General de la Nación) in order to allow them to investigate and prosecute underlying offenses such as such as illicit enrichment.

Monitoring and evaluation

A system to oversee the public integrity policy could be set up by introducing tools and processes for effective monitoring and evaluation

Monitoring and evaluation are powerful tools to ensure organisational learning, responsive management and effective policy making. Monitoring the implementation, rather than merely the existence, of policies ensures that commitment to integrity is followed by action. Information about measures undertaken by different institutions or levels of government should be reported back, so that they can be centrally overseen, shared and improved.

In order for Colombia to make progress in developing its integrity tools and ensure continuous learning in the application of its integrity management framework that is currently developed, the DAFP – in co-ordination with the “integrity contact points” recommended above – could be given the responsibility to ensure the control and monitoring of the implementation of the new integrity management framework identified in previous recommendations. This should be applied in accordance to its current planning and monitoring guidelines, tools and practices. Currently, this would require incorporating integrity policies into the Integrated Model for Planning and Management (Modelo Integrado de Planeación y Gestión), and monitoring the implementation through the available form for reporting progress in management (Formulario Único de Progreso en Gestión, or FURAG) which is applied annually. The monitoring of these policies should also be considered in the currently developed Unified Model of Management (Modelo Único de Gestión).

Reliable information on which policies actually lead to measurable improvement in the concerned field is extraordinarily valuable for the design of new policies and adjustment of existing regulations. Carefully conducted evaluation can identify the impact of the effective implementation of integrity policies. To attribute changes in desirable outcomes to particular policies, valid comparison values are necessarily required. They can be approximated by conducting a baseline assessment of relevant indicators before the implementation of the policy. Pilot measures seeking to test new approaches or measures could be evaluated in a more rigorous way controlling for the counterfactual, e.g. through randomised control trials.

Considering that especially codes are inherently flexible instruments, monitoring their implementation is crucial to determine whether they reach the goal of promoting high standards of conduct within the public service. A measurement of value internalisation requires survey data. The National Administrative Department of Statistics (Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística, or DANE) annually carries out a Survey on National Institutional Environment and Performance (Encuesta Sobre Ambiente y Desempeño Institucional Nacional, or EDI) addressed to public officials at the national level and enquiring into the perception related to the environment and performance of public entities in order to measure the institutional development of the country. The survey entails a section on “irregular practices”, which includes questions on the effectiveness of specific integrity initiatives, on reporting mechanisms and on factors influencing the development of irregular practices. Further questions, that are identified to serve as indicators for the implementation or the effect of an integrity policy, could be amended to the survey.

Although the EDI provides useful information about a selection of integrity policies and mechanisms, no research has been carried out to determine how familiar public officials are with the integrity values and standards of public service. The EDI could be strengthened based on international available good practices concerning integrity surveys (OECD, 2012b). In particular, when generating survey data, responses free of social desirability and cheap talk provided the most objective information. To achieve credible results, questions could assess the understanding of the code of conduct and ask respondents to apply them to a specific moral dilemma. If the data shows public servants to have not yet reached satisfactory intrinsic understanding of integrity values, further guidelines may be drawn up to clarify the values and standards of conduct that the code lays down.

Also, case numbers and reporting data can provide insights on the effectiveness of measures to promote ethical behaviour and prevent corruption and misconduct. While case numbers alone do not allow inference on a highly corrupted environment or effective reporting mechanisms, a time-consistent monitoring and regular evaluation of these numbers makes it possible to track changes and observe irregularities. However, performance evaluation requires a shift towards the development, monitoring and publication of key performance indicators that can help assess dimensions such as effectiveness, efficiency and timeliness. This is a worthwhile exercise to promote accountability and demonstrate commitment to integrity values by communicating to the public about the performance of enforcement mechanisms. No single indicator can be useful in isolation, but rather, a set of indicators must be assessed as a whole, accompanied by contextual information. Box 2.23 highlights some commonly used performance indicators from the field of justice which could be considered by the Colombian authorities.

Box 2.23. Potential key performance indicators for evaluating administrative disciplinary regimes

KPIs on effectiveness

  • Share of reported alleged offences ultimately taken forward for formal disciplinary proceedings: Not all reported offences may be taken forward following a preliminary investigation of hearing; however, the share of cases not taken forward, especially when analysed by area of government or type of offence, may shed light on whether valid cases are successfully entering the disciplinary system in the first place.

  • Appeals incidences and rates: A measure of the quality of sanctioning decisions and the predictability of the regime. Common metrics include the number of appeals per population (or civil servants liable under the disciplinary law) and cases appealed before the second instance as a percentage of cases resolved in first instance.

  • Inadmissible or discharged cases: The share of cases declared inadmissible (as well as a disaggregation for what grounds were provided for dismissal) can be considered as an indication of the quality and effectiveness of procedures and government compliance with disciplinary procedures.

  • Overturned decisions: A second common measure on the quality of sanctioning decisions is the share of appealed cases where initial decisions were overturned. This can signify, in addition to failure to follow proper disciplinary procedures, the sufficient proportionality of sanctions.

  • Clearance rates: Another common indicator of effectiveness, clearance rates refer to the sanctions issued over the cases initially reported. Clearance rates serve as a proxy for identifying “leaky” systems, whereby cases reported are not brought forward and/or to conclusion.

KPIs on efficiency

  • Pending cases: The share of total cases which are unresolved at a given point in time can be a useful indicator of case management.

  • Average/median length of proceedings (days): The average length of proceedings for cases is estimated with a formula commonly used in the literature: [(Pendingt-1+Pendingt)/(Incomingt+Resolvedt)]*365.

  • Average spending per case: Proxies for financial efficiency can include total resources allocated to the investigation and processing of administrative disciplinary procedures divided by the number of formal cases. Other methodologies include total spending on disciplinary proceedings per civil servant liable under proceedings.

KPIs on quality and fairness

  • In addition to some of the aforementioned indicators (i.e. high appeals rates or admissible/dismissed cases could suggest poor procedural fairness), the following qualitative data could also prove useful. The Council of Europe has produced a “Handbook for conducting satisfaction surveys aimed at court users” that could offer insights for similar exercises on administrative disciplinary regimes:

  • Perception survey data on government employees (including managers) on their perceptions of the fairness regime, the availability of training opportunities for them, etc.

  • Perception survey data from public unions, internal auditors/court staff (for serious cases), etc.

Source: Council of Europe, CEPEJ (2015); Palumbo, G., et al. (2013), «Judicial Performance and its Determinants: A Cross-Country Perspective», OECD Economic Policy Papers, No.5, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5k44x00md5g8-en.

As a consequence, Colombia could consider developing more targeted monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, including:

  • systematically collecting data and information related to public ethics and conflict-of-interest policies policies;

  • monitoring the implementation of its code of integrity through diagnostic tools such as surveys and statistical data (Box 2.24);

  • extending existing surveys (e.g. EDI) to assess public employees’ knowledge and internalisation of standards of ethics;

  • reviewing how public organisations provide guidance on the code;

  • defining long-term goals for selected integrity policies and undertaking baseline assessment of respective outcome indicators.

Box 2.24. Monitoring of the implementation of code of ethics in Poland

A survey known as the monitoring of “Ordinance no. 70 of the Prime Minister dated 6 October 2011 on the guidelines for compliance with the rules of the civil service and on the principles of the civil service code of ethics” was commissioned by the Head of the Civil Service (HCS) in 2014. The HCS is the central government administration body in charge of civil service issues under the Chancellery of the Prime Minister.

The survey was given to three groups of respondents:

1) Members of the civil service corps

In this case the survey pertained, on one hand, to the degree of implementation of the ordinance in their respective offices and, on the other hand, to their subjective assessment of the functioning and effectiveness of the ordinance. The members of the civil service corps were asked to complete a survey containing 16 questions (most framed as closed questions, with a few allowing for comments). The questions pertained to the following issues, among others:

  • knowledge of the principles enumerated in the Ordinance

  • impact of the entry into force of the Ordinance on changes in the civil service

  • the need/advisability of expanding the list through the addition of new rules

  • comprehensibility/clarity of the guidelines and principles laid down in the Ordinance

  • the usefulness of the Ordinance for the purposes of solving professional dilemmas.

In addition, the correct understanding of the principle of “selflessness” and “dignified conduct” as well as the need to provide training in the field of compliance were also assessed. The surveys were available on the website of the Civil Service Department. The respondents were asked to respond and submit the survey electronically to a dedicated e-mail address.

2) Director Generals, directors of treasury offices and directors of tax audit offices

In this case the survey was intended to verify the scope and manner of implementation of tasks which they were under duty to perform according to the provisions of the ordinance, including, for example:

  • the manner in which compliance with the rules in the given office is ensured

  • information on whether the applicable principles were complied with when adopting decisions authorising members of the civil service corps to undertake additional employment or authorising a civil service employee occupying a higher position within the civil service to undertake income-generating activities

  • the manner in which the principles in question are taken into account in the human resources management programmes which are being developed

  • the manner in which the relevant principles were taken into account in the course of determination of the scope of the preparatory service stage, etc.

3) Independent experts – public administration theorists and practitioners

In this case the survey was intended to obtain an additional, independent specialist evaluation of the functioning of ethical regulations within the civil service, to obtain suggestions on the ethical principles applicable to civil service and to identify the aspects of the management process which may need to be supplemented or updated, clarified or emphasised to a greater extent or even corrected or elaborated.

The response rate differed across the three groups. The HCS received 1 291 surveys completed by members of the civil service corps (the number of surveys completed represents approximately 1% of all civil service corps members), 107 surveys dedicated to the directors (that is, 100% of all directors generals, directors of treasury offices and directors of tax audit offices (98 in total). Other surveys, filled in on a voluntary basis by the head of the tax offices, and seven replies from independent experts, or approximately 13% of all experts invited to the study, were also received. Given that this survey was the first such an exercise conducted at a large scale, information gathered could be used in further developing the integrity policy in the Polish civil service system.

Source: Adapted from the presentation by the Polish Chancellery of the Prime Minister at the OECD workshop in Bratislava in 2015.

This data and information should be available in Open Data format and channelled by the respective institutions to the Observatory of Transparency (see Chapter 1).

Publishing annual progress reports and developing clear and transparent indicators would ensure the monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness of the asset and interest declaration system

Due to the fact that the disclosure system is tailored to the country context and corruption risks, the disclosure system will need regular assessment and fine-tuning (World Bank, 2017). The DAFP, or the PGN if it is decided to mandate the institution with the audit of the declarations, may consider regularly reviewing the disclosure system and the effectiveness of its implementation. This could be in the form of a survey. In this way, the principles of user friendliness, relevance, and balance, could be assessed. Furthermore, staff members responsible for the financial and interest disclosure system should be consulted on a regular basis to ensure that the information gathered allows identifying potential conflicts-of-interest situations.

The DAFP, or the PGN, could also consider to annually report on the effect of the disclosure system by publishing statistics on complaints received, media reports, cases notified by other authorities, cases referred, casas with data being corrected, verification checks and audits, sanctions, open and closed investigations and data on court decisions. Similarly, the financial and human resources costs should be compiled to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the system. Again, these statistics should be channelled also through the Observatory of Transparency.

Proposals for action

To conclude, the chapter recommends Colombia to take the following actions to build and strengthen culture of integrity in the public administration.

Building a normative and organisational integrity framework for the Colombian administration

  • The Administrative Department of the Public Service (DAFP) should lead the promotion of a culture of integrity in the public administration, counting with the required organisational, financial and human resources and co-ordinating with other relevant actors through the National Moralisation Commission.

  • To ensure an effective implementation of integrity policies throughout the public administration, the DAFP could consider establishing integrity contact points (units or persons) within each public entity.

  • The public integrity management framework currently developed by the DAFP should be based on risks, apply to all public employees independent of their contractual status, define public values, and provide guidance and procedures for conflict-of-interest situations and ethical dilemmas.

  • The current development of an integrity management framework has opened the opportunity to revise existing codes at organisational level in a participative way, and to ensure a more effective implementation of these Organisational Integrity Codes aimed at changing behaviours.

Developing capacities and raising awareness for integrity

  • To enhance the academic independence of the National School of the Public Administration (ESAP), the appointment procedure of its Director could be reviewed and associated with a system of checks and balances.

  • In order to reach national and international standards of academic excellence, the ESAP should introduce mechanisms to establish a transparent and competitive hiring process for its staff.

  • DAFP and ESAP need to improve co-ordination to ensure consistency between policy and training and to develop general induction trainings on integrity for all public officials, as well as specialised modules for senior managers and public officials working in specific at-risk positions.

  • Regular awareness-raising activities should be organised to communicate ethical duties and values internally within the organisation as well as externally to the whole of society.

Anchoring integrity in Human Resource Management

  • Perceived organisational fairness is crucial for establishing an organisational culture of integrity; as such, Colombia should ensure the fairness and integrity of its human resource management policies by improving its merit-based recruitment procedures at all levels.

  • Integrity criteria for job positions could be included, and candidates tested on ethical values during the selection process; in addition, the commitment to the organisation’s values could be required by all applicants seeking to apply for positions.

  • The National Civil Service Commission (CNCS) could include integrity as a performance indicator to incentivise ethical behaviour.

  • The DAFP could develop a mentoring programme for public officials at the junior level to encourage the development of ethical capacities and build a pool of ethical leaders for the future.

Safeguarding integrity through an effective financial and interest disclosure system

  • Prioritising the objective of prevention of abuse of function, Colombia could expand the information related to possible conflict-of-interest situations requested in the current asset declaration system.

  • Narrowing down the circle of public officials required to submit an asset and interest declaration to those in senior positions and those representing a higher corruption risk, e.g. Politically Exposed Persons (PEP), would ensure that no culture of distrust is created and improve the system’s cost-effectiveness.

  • A communication strategy should clarify the conceptual overlap between the financial and interest disclosure system and the ad hoc disclosure of conflict-of-interest situations, and remind public officials of their obligation to declare their interests and assets both in the system and ad hoc.

  • Given that no authority in Colombia has currently the mandate to verify and audit the financial and interest disclosures, Colombia could give one agency, for example the Inspector General, the mandate to ensure an effective verification including the right to cross-check information, or make parts of the declarations publically available to enable control by citizens.

Ensuring effective enforcement responses to integrity violations

  • To ensure the credibility of the ethics and conflict-of-interest framework, public officials have to be held accountable for breaches; this requires coherence and consistency between the integrity management framework and the disciplinary system.

  • Non-compliance with the duties of the financial and interest disclosure system should be made sanctionable to guarantee public officials’ adherence to the system.

Monitoring and evaluation

  • A system to oversee the public integrity policy could be set up by introducing tools and processes for effective monitoring and evaluation.

  • Publishing annual progress reports and developing clear and transparent indicators would ensure the monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness of the asset and interest declaration system.

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