Chapter 3. Strengthening public ethics in Thailand

This chapter reviews the Thai policies and practices related to the promotion of a culture of integrity in the public service. In particular, Thailand could strengthen the guidance offered to civil servants on the Code of Professional Ethics for the Civil Service, by assigning to the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) a role as leading agency for training, advisory and receiving of the Code. Thailand could also mainstream integrity policies in human resource management and ensure the enforcement of integrity standards. Finally, Thailand could improve the monitoring and evaluation framework for integrity policies.

  

Introduction: Towards a culture of integrity in the public sector

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 among 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, 2017[1]) 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 conduct expected of public employees in an easily comprehensible, 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. Key elements of cultivating a culture of integrity comprise, 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.

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, and when they are supported by sufficient organisational, financial and personal resources and capacities. In turn, high staff turnover, lack of guidance and weak leadership are impediments to an open organisational culture where advice and counselling can be sought to resolve ethical problems.

Thailand faces certain challenges related to the culture of integrity in the public sector, according to recent research on 117 government agencies (Chokprajakchat and Sumretphol, 2017[2]):

  • Ethical leadership: A majority of civil servants identified the problem of a lack of commitment at the executive or senior management level. Almost half of the civil servants noted the problem of executives themselves violating the Code.

  • Social patronage is reportedly deeply entrenched in the Thai public administration. Around four-fifths (80%) of civil servants noted the problem of social patronage and clientelism.

  • Authoritarian and conservative values in the public service may result in a closed organisational culture with little room to discuss ethical situations or dilemmas.

Misconduct appears to a certain degree to be an integral part of the civil service culture, and civil servants acknowledge and self-report various violations of the Code, such as “misuse of public time”; “violation of the official regulations”; “a lack of devotion to duty/use of public time for personal business”; “use of public properties to seek profits for themselves or others”.

Thailand could consolidate its anti-corruption training and awareness-raising efforts for the public sector in PACC, which should be the leading agency for drafting and reviewing the Code of Professional Ethics for Civil Servants

In Thailand, the moral and ethical standards for public servants are embedded in the legal and regulatory framework, which describes the minimum obligatory standards and principles of behaviour for civil servants. The laws and regulations state the fundamental values of public service and provide mechanisms for investigation, disciplinary action and prosecution.

  • The Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand, B.E. 2550 (2007)

The 2007 Constitution, Section 279, states that the ethical standard for persons holding political positions, government officials, and state officials of all categories, shall be in conformity with the established Code of Ethicswith the mechanism and system of enforcement, and shall have punishment procedure for each degree of violation. Any violation to comply with the ethical standard will be considered as the breach of discipline. Section 304 prescribes that the codification of ethics should be completed within one year of the promulgation of the Constitution.

  • The Public Administration Act B. 2550 (2007)

The public administration, in accordance with the Public Administration Act, expects public agencies to function on principles of good governance; focusing on accountability, promoting public participation, disclosing information and monitoring and evaluating performance.

  • The Civil Service Act, B.E. 2551 (2008)

The Civil Service Act (2008), Chapter 5: Upholding the Ethics of Officials, Section 78, prescribes that a civil servant must uphold the ethics of officials as prescribed by the government agency, instilling honour and dignity in officials in the public service (Box ‎3.1).

  • Code of Professional Ethics for the Civil Service (2009)

Box ‎3.1. Ethics provisions in the Civil Service Act (2008)

Chapter 5: Upholding the Ethics of Officials

Section 78. A civil servant must uphold the ethics of officials as prescribed by the government agency, with the objective of achieving good officials who exhibit honour and dignity, in particular with respect to the following matters:

(1) adherence to and relentless insistence on taking the correct action;

(2) honesty and responsibility;

(3) transparent and accountable performance of duties;

(4) performance of duties without any unfair discrimination;

(5) result-based determination.

A government agency shall prescribe rules on ethics of officials in accordance with the work descriptions in such government agency, pursuant to technical principles and professional ethics.

When prescribing rules on ethics of officials under Paragraph 2, a hearing shall be held for officials and the rules shall be published for public notice.

Section 79. Where a civil servant fails to comply with the ethical standards stipulated in the Civil Service Act but which does not constitute a breach of discipline, the supervising official shall issue a warning, and take the matter into consideration with regard to appointments, salary increases or to order such official to undergo training.

Source: (Thailand Law Forum, 2008[3]).

The Office of the Civil Service Commission, as the leading agency in human resource management of the civil service, introduced the Code of Professional Ethics for Civil Service, promulgated in 2009. The Code provides ten directives of conduct for civil servants. They are summarised in Box ‎3.2.

Box ‎3.2. Ten Directives of the Code of Professional Ethics for the Civil Service
  1. A civil servant shall hold high moral principles and uphold righteous and moral conduct.

  2. A civil servant must have a good conscience and responsibility for duties, devote him/herself to and perform duties with expedition, transparency and accountability.

  3. A civil servant must separate personal affairs from office, and uphold the country’s public interest above personal gain.

  4. A civil servant shall refrain from seeking personal gain in an untoward manner using his/her office, and shall not commit any act in conflict between personal gain and public interest.

  5. A civil servant must honestly abide by and comply with the Constitution and the law.

  6. A civil servant shall honestly and fairly perform his/her duties, with political neutrality, and serve the people with a friendly disposition and without unfair discrimination.

  7. A civil servant must strictly and expeditiously comply with the law on official information, and must not use information that is obtained in the performance of duty for personal gain, but shall provide complete, accurate, up-to-date information for the people.

  8. A civil servant must aim for the success of the mission, strictly maintaining quality and professional standards.

  9. A civil servant must support the democratic form of government, with the King as head of state.

  10. A civil servant must behave in such a way as to preserve his or her reputation and to preserve the dignity of civil servants.

Source: Code of Professional Ethics for the Civil Service (2009).

A country’s ethics infrastructure has at its base a legal framework in which laws, regulations and codes define the basic standards of behaviour for public servants and enforce them through disciplinary systems and prosecution. However, the content of legal provisions and policies remains on paper if it is not adequately communicated and instilled. Mechanisms for socialisation and implementation need to be in place for public servants to learn and adopt ethical norms, standards of conduct and public service values.

In Thailand, the Code of Professional Ethics for Civil Servants is relatively well known among civil servants, and most of the ten Directives in the Code are clear and well understood. However, how to apply the principles in daily situations in the professional environment is not fully understood. For a majority of civil servants, the content of the Code is too abstract. (Chokprajakchat and Sumretphol, 2017[2]).

This lack of coherence and co-ordination has impeded the effective transmission of socialisation and implementation mechanisms on integrity to Thai civil servants. NACC, PACC and OCSC provide various types of guidance to civil servants on public ethics and the provisions of the Code of Professional Ethics for Civil Servants. All three organisations conduct training and awareness-raising activities for civil servants. The content, format and quality of the trainings vary, however, and their impact is not measured. Little to no co-ordination occurs on curriculum development, content, training materials and monitoring. Furthermore, OCSC is responsible for the development and review of the Code of Professional Ethics for Civil Servants. PACC is consulted in this review process, but NACC is not, although NACC holds the mandate to formulate ethical standards for the Constitutional Court, independent institutions, and politicians. In addition, PACC manages a network of Anti-Corruption Operation Centres to promote ethical behaviour in line ministries and public institutions. Meanwhile, the OCSC Ethics Promotion Section undertakes similar activities to promote the standards of the Code. The current activities lack coherence in both content and format, and the resources could be spent in a more efficient fashion.

As stated in Chapter 2, PACC should be granted and should consolidate the mandate for public sector integrity. This approach should be applied to public ethics in general, and to the review process of the Code of Professional Ethics for Civil Servants and to ethics training and awareness-raising for civil servants more specifically.

First, this would increase the coherence of the guidance package on integrity provided to civil servants. Similar messages can be replicated through various channels and formats; curriculums and training materials can be built in line with similar content and examples; the review process of the Code of Professional Ethics for Civil Servants may be informed by emerging risks or cases; resources can be used to create new formats, such as online training courses. In this way, PACC can further build its expertise and capacity in offering training, and could provide specific integrity and anti-corruption training to other institutional partners, such as OCSC. For example, OCSC could invite PACC to conduct the training for new civil servants, as part of their induction into the service.

Second, this would maximise the advisory role of the Anti-Corruption Operation Centres across the various government institutions, given that this network is run by PACC. The ACOCs can provide advisory services to civil servants on ethical dilemmas. This advice can be made consistent with the training materials. ACOCs can spot emerging risks or new dilemmas, which can be used in training and inform organisation-specific training modules. It should be noted, however, that the capacity and technical expertise of the ACOCs is limited. Its capacity should be increased if it is to fully exercise its functions.

Third, this would enable PACC to measure the quality and the impact of the training and awareness-raising campaigns. Participants could provide feedback on the quality of the training modules, which can be used for improvements. The training data can also be compared with the evolution of the ITA score and the implementation level of the provisions of the Code, to give an account of the effectiveness of the training.

Consequently, OCSC may focus on integrating public integrity in HRM processes in the public service, such as recruitment and career enhancement. To this extent, the expertise of the OCSC Ethics Promotion Section should re-focus on HRM processes. Alternatively, the capacity of the OCSC Ethics Promotion Section could be integrated into PACC.

Finally, a multi-stakeholder consultation process has not been employed for revising the Code of Professional Ethics for Civil Servants. A sense of ownership could be encouraged by broader consultation among stakeholders, including OCSC, NACC and representatives of line ministries, the private sector and civil society. Because PACC is proposed as the leading agency for public sector integrity, it would take over the role of revising the Code from OCSC, which is currently responsible for this process.

To increase prevention and management of conflicts of interest, Thailand should include a definition of conflict of interest in its Code of Professional Ethics for the Civil Service

Clarity on what constitutes a conflict of interest not only helps civil servants to recognise potential conflicts of interest before they occur, but facilitates the management of conflict- of-interest situations and helps to judge whether a case may be in violation of the Code, for example when considering reporting wrongdoing. A clear definition also helps to apply the same standard across government institutions and ensures policy coherence.

In Thailand, the Code of Professional Ethics for Civil Service (2009) refers to the conflict between private gain and the public interest. Directive IV of the Code of Professional Ethics for Civil Service (2009) stipulates that “A civil servant shall refrain from seeking personal gain in undue manner from using his/her office, and shall not commit any act in conflict between personal gain and public interest”. This provision remains conceptual and provides limited guidance on which situations are in violation of the Code and which are not.

Thailand could refine the concept of conflict of interest in more detail and integrate the definition in the integrity policy framework. For this purpose, it can draw on the experience from OECD countries such as Poland and Portugal, which have embedded a definition of conflict on interest in the regulatory framework (Box ‎3.3).

Box ‎3.3. Definitions of conflict of interest 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 the private interests of a public official, in which the public official has private-capacity interests that 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 have put recent emphasis on providing public officials with a general legal definition applicable across the public service that addresses actual and perceived conflicts of interest. The 2002 Code of Administration Procedure in Poland covers both forms of conflict: 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[4]).

To strengthen the application of the Code of Professional Ethics for Civil Service, Thailand should offer civil servants practical examples of ethical dilemmas and include specific guidelines for resolving them

The legislative framework and the Code of Professional Ethics for Civil Service sets out the principles for prevention of conflicts of interest, but too few practical guidelines and examples are available. Although the provisions of the Code are relatively well-known, the understanding of how to apply the principles in daily situations in the professional environment is limited. For a majority of civil servants, the content of the Code is too abstract. As a result, application of the provisions of the Code in the daily work of civil servants remains a challenge, and civil servants struggle to identify ethical dilemmas in a timely fashion and are often unsure about the appropriate response (Chokprajakchat and Sumretphol, 2017[2]). To encourage the uniform application of the Code’s provisions, the Anti-Corruption Operation Centres in a number of line ministries (for example, the Ministry of Treasury, Ministry of Commerce), have issued handbooks on dealing with conflicts of interest. This is a promising development, and PACC can also support civil servants in a number of ways:

  • map frequently occurring ethical dilemmas and conflict-of-interest situations, for example, related to gift giving, contact with suppliers and recruitment;

  • provide examples and practical guidelines on how to solve ethical dilemmas and conflicts of interest. These practical guidelines may be promoted through the network of Anti-Corruption Operation Centres, to support managers and staff of public institutions to efficiently manage and resolve situations that occur frequently;

  • Develop in-class and online training modules based on the practical guidelines. Thailand may wish to consider the experience of the region of Flanders in Belgium (Box ‎3.4).

Box ‎3.4. 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 confront an ethical choice and where it is not clear how they might resolve the situation with integrity. The facilitator encourages discussion between the participants about how the situation could be resolved, in order to explore the different choices. The debate over the possible courses of action, rather than the solution, is the most important element here, as it will help participants identify different opposing values.

In most training courses, the facilitator uses a card system. The rules are explained and participants receive four option cards, bearing the numbers 1, 2, 3 or 4. The dilemma cards are then placed on the table. The dilemma cards describe the situation and give four options on how to resolve the dilemma. In each round, a participant reads out the dilemma and options. Participants each indicate their choices with the option cards and explain the motivation behind their choice. Participants then discuss the different choices. The facilitator remains neutral, encourages debate and suggests alternative ways to approach the dilemma (e.g. the sequence of events and 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 it should already have 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, because the chief of cabinet has already called. What should I do?

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

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

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

  • I do not send the information and come up with a pretext and a promise to send on the briefing tomorrow.

Other dilemma situations could cover the themes of conflicts of interest, ethics, loyalty, leadership etc. The training 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: Website of the Flemish Government, https://overheid.vlaanderen.be/omgaan-met-integriteitsdilemmas (in Dutch).

To strengthen compliance with the provisions of the Code of Professional Ethics for Civil Service, PACC and OCSC could disseminate information on the available and the applied sanctions for misconduct

Sanctions can have a deterrent effect and encourage civil servants to follow the provisions of the Code of Professional Ethics for Civil Service. For this mechanism to work, it is necessary for civil servants to know that sanctions may be applied in case of misconduct, and also that these sanctions are in fact being applied. If not, a culture of apparent impunity may undermine the potential power of sanctions.

In Thailand, the Civil Service Act, B.E. 2551 (2008), Chapter 6 is dedicated to the disciplinary regime, including reasons for disciplinary measures and possible punishment (Box ‎3.5). Chapter 9 describes the disciplinary proceedings, including the investigation and possibilities for appeal.

Box ‎3.5. Disciplinary punishment in the Civil Service Act, B.E. 2551 (2008)

Chapter 6: Discipline and Maintenance of Discipline

Section 88. A civil servant who commits a breach of discipline must receive a disciplinary punishment, unless there is reasonable cause for exempting punishment, as provided in Chapter 7, Disciplinary Proceedings. There are five modes of disciplinary punishment, as follows:

(1) written reprimand;

(2) deduction of salary;

(3) reduction of salary;

(4) dismissal;

(5) expulsion.

Source: (Thailand Law Forum, 2008[5]).

These provisions are little-known by civil servants. More than half of civil servants report that there have not been informed or that they do not know whether their agencies have prescribed punitive measures against violators (Chokprajakchat and Sumretphol, 2017[2]). Therefore, PACC could integrate the topic of disciplinary measures and sanctions as part of the awareness-raising efforts and ethics training for civil servants.

According to the Civil Service Act, the OCSC Bureau for Disciplinary Standards is responsible for penalising civil servants. The number of cases per year is classified information, but OCSC reportedly deals with approximately 100 to 300 cases per year. OCSC has published anonymised examples of cases of disciplinary punishment in The Guidelines for Disciplinary Punishment. Quite apart from the examples, a number of benefits and reasons can justify publishing generic statistics and characteristics on all cases:

  • The data can provide evidence on particular risks related to specific sectors and/or organisations;

  • Information about the sanctions and the response of management will help dispel the notion of perceived impunity;

  • Information on the management responses will encourage public institutions to go beyond individual measures and to take structural measures to prevent similar cases in the future;

  • Public accountability of the OCSC.

Under the leadership of NACC and in consultation with PACC, a systematic review of the implementation of the Code across government agencies should be integrated in the annual Integrity and Transparency Assessment (ITA) of government

The implementation of the Code is currently not linked with the annual ITA or with the National Anti-Corruption Strategy objectives. A decision to link them would offer certain advantages. First, if implementing the Code is integrated into the annual ITA, better results can be expected from the implementation of the Code. Indeed, studies have found that measuring the implementation of the Code helps reduce integrity violations. In agencies that do not assess the implementation of the Code, violations of the Code were higher. Measuring the response can draw the attention of civil servants to the Code and its provisions, and at the same time send a signal that the implementation of the Code is relevant (Chokprajakchat and Sumretphol, 2017[2]). Two mutually reinforcing impulses play a role: the measuring draws the attention of civil servants to the Code and its provisions, and simultaneously sends a signal that the implementation of the Code is relevant.

Second, this would reinforce and balance the ITA, as new data on the actual ethical behaviour of civil servants filled out the picture. This approach would counter the possible criticism that ITA is now merely a check-the-box exercise that reveals little about the rollout of the ethics framework.

Third, because the National Anti-Corruption Strategy lacks indicators related to organisational integrity in the public sector, adding the assessment of the implementation of the Code to the ITA could fill this gap. The data about the implementation of the Code may cover the degree of staff members trained on integrity issues, passing a knowledge test about the code, using the gift policy arrangements. The ITA framework, including data on the implementation of the Code, can serve as indicators for organisational integrity in the public service, and would make it possible to set specific targets. In this way, integrity policy could be monitored and adjusted where needed.

NACC, as leading agency for the design of the ITA and for the National Anti-Corruption Strategy, should lead this effort and explore the feasibility and practical next steps in co-operation with PACC, which is implementing the ITA.

The ITA, including the implementation of the Code, may serve as a key performance indicator of public institutions, aligning the organisational objectives with the integrity policy framework. This would send a strong signal that integrity and organisational performance are mutually reinforcing, and it would help mainstreaming integrity policy in the daily operation of the organisation. As a good practice for mainstreaming integrity policy across government institutions, a number of OECD and partner countries have adopted the practice of tailored corruption prevention plans for ministries and government agencies. The ITA could be the starting point for developing such an approach in Thailand.

Since human resources management (HRM) practices may contribute to public sector integrity, OCSC could consider further mainstreaming integrity in human resources processes in the civil service, including in recruitment and career enhancement

Public ethics and the management of conflicts of interest are about directly or indirectly changing the behaviour of an organisation’s human resources. HRM policies are part of both the problem and the solution of promoting integrity in public administration. Factors such as a high level of politicisation that encourages loyalty not to the public but to the party or “patron” in power, a low culture of performance orientation, poor rewards and salaries, low levels of contract security, a lack of training and professionalism, a high staff turnover, lack of guidance and a lack of commitment from the highest levels are impediments to an open organisational culture where advice and counselling can be sought to resolve ethical problems. This can lead to opportunities for and rationalisation of corrupt practices, and also to low levels of integrity. If staff rotation is high, less importance may be attached to a strong ethics culture in the workplace, since employees are not employed for long enough to feel engaged with public integrity values and apply them in practice.

In Thailand, human resources processes are separated from the public integrity agenda, and integrity measures are not yet reflected in HR processes of recruitment and career enhancement. With reference to the Civil Service Act, OCSC has a leading role in human resources management in the public sector and thus has leverage to promote integrity in HRM processes throughout government institutions. Table 3.1 provides an overview of possible measures:

Table ‎3.1. Mainstreaming integrity throughout HRM processes

HRM practices

Mainstreaming integrity

Human resources planning

Assessing integrity risks of different positions and planning accordingly

Entry into public service

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

Professional development, training and capabilities certification

Customised training on integrity policies

Performance evaluation and career enhancement

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

For employees: assessing adherence and compliance with integrity policies

Severance and exit from public service

Monitoring potential conflicts of interest arising from the nature of the next employment (i.e.the “revolving door”)

Two key areas deserve particular attention: recruitment and performance evaluations. The recruitment process offers the first point of contact between the employer and potential future employees. Ideally, the employer would like to ensure, in addition to the usual criteria, that the candidates conduct themselves with integrity and understand and agree to the ethical principles and values of the public service. Procedures at this stage typically consist of background checks with past employers and checking criminal and disciplinary records, but there is also a need to state clearly what is expected from the future public servants in terms of values and behaviour. Australia provides a good example of mainstreaming integrity in recruitment (Box ‎3.6).

Box ‎3.6. Recruitment processes and integrity: Experience from Australia

“Filters” can be built into a recruitment process to ensure that 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-selection by applicants.

  • As part of the online application, more targeted integrity questions were asked about their background and experience, for example, questions about dealing with authority, diverse cultures and financial management. This provided baseline 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 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 reduction in disciplinary issues and increased retention rates for new recruits.

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

The regular performance evaluations conducted by the responsible public managers and their staff offers an important entry point for integrity policies. Thailand could aim at a stronger involvement of public managers with staff responsibility, providing specific training and clear guidelines on how they should exercise judgement 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 conflicts of interest. Performance evaluations can be used to transmit values and expectations, although they are usually focused only on the past objectives and future goals of employees.

At such meetings it can be helpful to explicitly address the subject of public ethics and conflicts of interest, tailored to the specific job profile and related risk areas (for example recruitment, procurement, accounting etc). In this way, the meeting goes beyond the evaluating past performance. If taken seriously, and not as a check-box exercise, regular discussions of this kind would provide the opportunity to set the tone from the top. Including integrity in the criteria for the professional development of the public servants could also be considered.

To strengthen integrity in the legislative branch, Thailand could increase the effectiveness of integrity policies of the House of Representative and the Senate, including in developing and implementing the code of ethics

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate are independent bodies with their own integrity policy, including a Code of Conduct. However, the Code of Conduct does not stipulate preventive or administrative rules for prohibitions or restrictions for members of parliament (MPs) to accept gifts and other advantages, or a specific procedure to follow for reporting and authorising, for declaring or for returning undesired or unacceptable benefits. Moreover, in the development process of the code of conduct, the implementation as well as for sanctioning, an Ethics Committee solely composed of members of the House of Representatives and the Senate is involved, which may lead to a culture of self-protection and impunity. It is telling that the Ethics Committee has issued not one sanction to date.

It is thus recommended that Thailand reinforce integrity policies of the House of Representative and the Senate, which can be done in various ways. First, the Code of Conduct can be amended to include a gift policy for MPs, for example through restrictions and a gift registry. Second, although the current approach of an Ethics Committee is common throughout the world, Thailand would appoint an integrity officer to deal with the implementation and monitoring of the Code of Conduct in the House of Representatives and the Senate. The integrity officer can help to ensure that integrity standards are maintained across legislatures and composition of the parliament. Examples include the United Kingdom’s Parliament and Queensland’s Parliament in Australia (Box ‎3.7).

Box ‎3.7. Integrity Officers in Parliament

Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards in the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards deals with the application of the Code of Conduct and related rules that apply to Members of Parliament. The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is appointed for a fixed term of five years and is an independent officer of the House. The Commissioner’s key responsibilities include:

  • overseeing the operation of the Register of Members’ Financial Interests;

  • advising the Committee on Standards about the interpretation of the Code of Conduct and, if necessary, proposing changes to the Code;

  • providing confidential advice, guidance and training for MPs on matters of conduct and ethics;

  • producing an annual report to the House of Commons on their findings.

The Commissioner can also investigate allegations that a named member has breached the rules contained in the Code of Conduct. These findings are then reported to the Committee on Standards to adjudicate and to recommend any appropriate sanction.

Queensland Integrity Commissioner

The Queensland Integrity Commissioner is an independent officer of the Queensland Parliament responsible for providing advice on issues of ethics and integrity, and for overseeing the lobbying register.

Under the Integrity Act 2009, the Commissioner can issue written advice to Ministers, MPs, senior civil servants and other government employees about ethics and integrity-related issues. For example, the Commissioner can offer advice and guidance on conflicts of interest or meet with individual MPs to discuss any issues that may arise in relation their declaration of financial interests. As well as maintaining the lobbying register, the Commissioner also monitors compliance by lobbyists and government with the Integrity Act and the Lobbyist Code of Conduct.

Sources: (UK Parliament,(n.d.)[6]); (Queensland Integrity Commissioner,(n.d.)[7]).

Proposals for action

  • To provide a coherent and cost-effective guidance package for civil servants on public ethics, Thailand should consolidate its anti-corruption training and awareness raising efforts for the public sector within the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC). Similarly, PACC should be the leading agency for drafting and reviewing the Code of Professional Ethics for Civil Servants.

  • To allow effective prevention and management of conflicts of interest, Thailand should integrate a definition of conflict of interest in its Code of Professional Ethics for the Civil Service.

  • To strengthen the observance of the Code of Professional Ethics for Civil Service, Thailand should guide civil servants with practical examples of ethical dilemmas, and include specific guidelines for resolving them.

  • To increase compliance with the provisions of the Code of Professional Ethics for Civil Service, PACC and the Office of the Civil Service Commission (OCSC) could disseminate information on both the sanctions available and the sanctions applied for misconduct.

  • Under the leadership of National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) and in consultation with PACC, a systematic review of the implementation of the Code across government agencies should be included in the annual Integrity and Transparency Assessment (ITA) of government institutions and should be linked with the National Anti-Corruption Strategy objectives.

  • As HRM practices may help contribute to public sector integrity, OCSC could consider further mainstreaming integrity in human resources processes in the civil service, including in recruitment and career enhancement.

  • To encourage accountability, Thailand could strengthen the effectiveness of integrity policies of the House of Representatives and the Senate, by developing and implementing the code of ethics.

References

[2] Chokprajakchat, S. and N. Sumretphol (2017), “Implementation of the code of professional ethics for Thai civil servants”, Kasetsart Journal of Social Sciences, Vol. 38, pp. 129-135, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.kjss.2016.03.004.

[4] 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.

[1] OECD (2017), OECD Recommendation of the Council on Public Integrity, http://www.oecd.org/gov/ethics/Recommendation-Public-Integrity.pdf.

[7] Queensland Integrity Commissioner((n.d.)), Commissioner profile, https://www.integrity.qld.gov.au/about-us/commissioner-profile.aspx (accessed on 13 February 2018).

[3] Thailand Law Forum (2008), Civil Service Act Thailand, chapter 5, sections 78 and 79, http://www.thailawforum.com/database1/civil-service-act-10.html.

[5] Thailand Law Forum (2008), Civil Service Act Thailand, B.E. 2551, chapter 6, section 88, http://www.thailawforum.com/database1/civil-service-act-11.html.

[6] UK Parliament((n.d.)), Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Office, http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/standards-and-financial-interests/parliamentary-commissioner-for-standards/parliamentary-commissioner-for-standards/ (accessed on 13 February 2018).