1. Commitment

High-level political and managerial commitment to enhancing public integrity and reducing corruption ensures that the public integrity system is embedded across the wider public management and governance framework. In particular, it enables institutions with central responsibility for implementing elements of the integrity system to be adequately staffed and equipped, so that the integrity agenda is sustainable (Brinkerhoff, 2000[1]). Furthermore, commitment from both senior political and management leaders enhances the coherence and comprehensiveness of public integrity systems. Commitment is demonstrated when integrity reforms are integrated into senior political and managerial governance agendas, and are based on in-depth analysis that recognises the complexity of integrity problems, rather than highly visible but short-term fixes (Brinkerhoff, 2000[1]).

Accordingly, the OECD Recommendation on Public Integrity states that adherents should “demonstrate commitment at the highest political and management levels within the public sector to enhance public integrity and reduce corruption, in particular through:

  1. a. ensuring that the public integrity system defines, supports, controls and enforces public integrity, and is integrated into the wider public management and governance framework;

  2. b. ensuring that the appropriate legislative and institutional frameworks are in place to enable public-sector organisations to take responsibility for effectively managing the integrity of their activities as well as that of the public officials who carry out those activities;

  3. c. establishing clear expectations for the highest political and management levels that will support the public integrity system through exemplary personal behaviour, including its demonstration of a high standard of propriety in the discharge of official duties” (OECD, 2017[2]).

Commitment is demonstrated when mutually supportive integrity reforms are backed by the necessary legislative and institutional frameworks that clearly delineate responsibilities. The principle on commitment advocates for commitment at the highest political and management levels as a prerequisite, with the following in place:

  • The public integrity system defines, supports, controls and enforces public integrity and is integrated into wider public management and governance frameworks.

  • The legislative and institutional frameworks enable public sector organisations and public officials to take responsibility for managing integrity.

  • Clear expectations are established for the highest political and management levels and demonstrated when they carry out their daily functions.

A public integrity system, as broadly understood, is comprised of the legislation and the institutions in place to define, support, control and enforce public integrity. Establishing an effective integrity system starts with a clear definition. At the highest political and management levels, a clear understanding of the integrity risks within the public management and governance framework (for more, see Chapter 10) is a prerequisite to setting a common definition of public integrity (see Box 1.1). Political leaders and senior managers’ common understanding informs the various integrity responsibilities, strategies and standards that constitute the system (for more, see Chapters 2, 3 and 4, respectively). A common definition also provides clarity to all actors within an integrity system with regard to the ultimate goal of their functions and activities and the desired future state of the integrity system.

Once defined, public integrity requires high-level commitment to support, control and enforce it. Core elements that support public integrity aim to ensure that public officials understand their integrity roles and responsibilities, and can rely on the financial and human resources and guidance available for maintaining public integrity. Core elements also include a strategic approach to public integrity, high standards of conduct, mobilising society, leadership, a merit-based public sector, capacity building and awareness raising, and open organisational cultures (for more, see Chapters 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9, respectively). Core elements that control public integrity focus on ensuring the effective accountability of the system, by managing, monitoring and scrutinising the development, implementation and review of commitments. This includes risk management, internal controls, and internal and external oversight, as well as participation by external stakeholders (for more, see Chapters 10, 12 and 13, respectively). Finally, core elements that enforce public integrity focus on detecting, investigating and sanctioning public integrity violations, and include the disciplinary, administrative, civil and criminal regime (for more, see Chapter 11).

Enhancing integrity is not just the responsibility of one institution, nor is it solely focused on the core elements (for more, see Chapter 2). A wide range of actors (e.g. finance, legal, internal control, human resource management, procurement) have a role in integrating public integrity into the public management and governance framework. Although their primary purpose is not to directly support, control or enforce public integrity, without them the system could not function. To ensure effective implementation, the integrity system’s core and complementary elements are integrated into the wider public management and governance framework. A number of factors can support integration, including:

  • Developing and implementing a fair system for the recruitment, selection, review and promotion of civil servants at all levels, and strengthening the openness and accountability of the processes (for more, see Chapter 7). This may include specific performance mechanisms for leaders and their integration into the governance system (OECD, 2018[3]).

  • Adopting a risk-based approach to public integrity, as well as internal control, inspection and audit functions and procedures (for more, see Chapter 10).

  • Strengthening accountability of public organisations and officials through external oversight functions and procedures, as well as procedures to handle complaints and allegations (for more, see Chapter 12).

  • Building the capacities of and supporting and training public officials at all levels to clarify expectations for high standards of conduct, and implementing those standards across the public sector and with external partners (for more, see Chapters 4 and 8).

  • Creating open and safe environments, where the highest political and management levels ensure measures are in place to engage and empower employees and encourage them to voice ideas and concerns without fear of reprisals, and are responsive and credible in addressing these inputs (for more, see Chapter 9).

Ensuring commitment to public integrity involves clearly stating within the legislative and/or institutional frameworks the responsibility of all public organisations for managing integrity. Chapter 2 elaborates on the specific responsibilities that encompass the elements of the integrity system, including assigning clear responsibilities and establishing mechanisms to ensure co-operation during implementation. Before responsibilities can be delineated, however, having a clearly stated principle that all public sector organisations are responsible for integrity can help to cultivate ownership and buy-in.

Some governments use legislation as the primary vehicle to make it possible for public sector organisations to assume responsibility for integrity (Box 1.2). In other cases governments use the institutional framework, such as an integrity strategy or corruption prevention plan. In the Czech Republic for example, the current anti-corruption plan identifies the role of each individual ministry, while also identifying a government council to co-ordinate the country’s anti-corruption and public integrity (Office of the Government of the Czech Republic, 2018[4]).

Governments can also ensure that the appropriate legislative or institutional frameworks specify the role of upholding integrity for all public officials. One way to ensure this is through the law that governs the civil service. For instance, in Australia, the Public Service Act 1999 makes all public officials responsible for abiding by the values of the public service. These include “Ethical” values – the public service should demonstrate leadership, be trustworthy, and act with integrity in all that it does. Agency heads are additionally responsible for upholding and promoting the Australian Public Service (APS) Values and Employment Principles (Australian Government, 1999[7]). Similarly, in the Slovak Republic the 2017 Law on Civil Service contains the core principles that civil servants must uphold – including that of impartiality, which requires public officials to serve the public rather than their own personal interest (Government of the Slovak Republic, 2017[8]). Institutional frameworks that clarify the integrity roles of public officials could include codes of conduct or ethics, as discussed in Chapter 4.

Political commitment to integrity involves various political leaders, who play a key role in building trust in government. This usually includes presidents, prime ministers and elected and non-elected senior officials. Their engagement and commitment to public integrity have several advantages; first, they demonstrate to public officials and society more broadly that integrity is a governance issue that the government takes seriously. Second, by ensuring that the appropriate financial, human and technical resources are in place, high-level commitment facilitates the functioning of the integrity system. To enable high-level commitment at the political and management levels, the following elements are required:

  • Integrity expectations for the highest political and management leaders are codified into legislative and institutional frameworks.

  • Policy tools and instruments support political and management leaders and allow them to demonstrate personal commitment to high standards when carrying out their official duties.

Given the high expectations that political and management leaders will serve the public interest, it follows that higher standards apply to the highest political and management levels. At a minimum, integrity-related offences such as bribery, nepotism and favouritism are generally covered in specific pieces of legislation which, taken as a whole, form a body of legal expectations for the behaviour of the highest-ranking officials, as well as all other public officials. In addition, higher standards are specifically tailored to the positions these officials occupy; they form the basis of expectations as well as exposure to corruption risks (Box 1.3).

For senior management (appointed or elected), meeting clear expectations suggests embedding the following standards into the legislative framework:

  • acting with integrity

  • serving the public interest

  • preventing and managing conflict of interest and integrity-related offences

  • being accountable for the functions carried out.

Tailored mechanisms can guarantee implementation of those standards and include:

  • Adopting a risk-based approach to ministerial portfolios and regulating conflicts of interest. Additionally, reducing the potential occurrence of conflicts of interest may require regulating the interests of political advisors to ministers.

  • Disclosing assets, interests, gifts and benefits accepted.

  • Prohibiting or restricting certain secondary activities while in office.

  • Regulating mobility to the private sector upon leaving public functions, notably through cooling-off periods and specific post-employment restrictions especially regarding the previous sector(s) controlled while carrying out public duties.

Specific accountability, verification and enforcement mechanisms safeguard high standards of integrity and help both to prevent potential issues and to detect and sanction violations. There are a number of mechanisms available, including for example asset declaration for senior political and management levels (Box 1.4).

Likewise, elected or appointed political officials (e.g. prime ministers, presidents, ministers, members of parliament, etc.) should also commit to demonstrating high standards in carrying out their mandate. These standards may be clarified in the legal and regulatory framework and/or internal documents such as the rules of procedures. They cover:

  • acting with integrity

  • serving the public interest and preventing and managing conflict of interest, including incompatible functions and activities, while in office and upon leaving it

  • being accountable to the public.

Implementing actions to apply high standards for the highest political officials includes the following measures:

  • developing, reviewing and maintaining high standards of conduct within the congress or parliament

  • preventing and managing conflicts of interest and codifying incompatibilities, prohibitions and restrictions on outside secondary activities

  • detailing immunities or parliamentary privilege that protect MPs from civil or criminal liability in the course of their mandate, and rules to lift immunity in the legal framework or rules of procedures, safeguarding their right to challenge the government but not aimed at protecting crimes (GRECO, 2017[10])

  • regularising asset and/or interest reporting

  • declaring gifts and benefits accepted

  • increasing the transparency of legislative processes (e.g. impact assessments, proposals, standing or ad hoc committee meetings, amendments, votes, etc.) and functioning (e.g. budget, remuneration, benefits, gifts and hospitality, etc.) as well as regulating access to and influence on legislative processes

  • supervising and monitoring implementation of these rules, standards and tools, to ensure and improve accountability, verification, enforcement, and efficiency of the system.

With higher and more politically exposed positions and responsibilities come increased scrutiny and accountability. In addition to legislative measures, codes of conduct or ethics that take into account the levels of exposure and responsibilities of political leadership can support them in adopting higher standards of behaviour (Box 1.5).

While societies can legislate clear expectations for behaviour at the highest political and management levels, implementation requires genuine political will to take integrity seriously, invest in it and maintain it on the reform agenda. Political will can be understood as “the commitment of actors to undertake actions to achieve a set of objectives – in this instance, reduced corruption – and sustain the costs of those actions over time” (Brinkerhoff, 2010[12]).

Support for the public integrity system can be demonstrated in several ways, including the degree of analytical rigour, mobilisation of support, and continuity of effort (Brinkerhoff, 2000[1]). For example, the analytical rigour of a reform strategy can indicate the extent to which high-level leaders take integrity seriously. An indicator of weak commitment to public integrity can be reforms that are not targeted, focused solely on short-term fixes, and not informed by the economic, social and institutional realities of the country or public organisation. A strong indicator of visible support, on the other hand, is when high-level political and management leaders introduce reform strategies that target both short- and long-term challenges and are based on evidence, including insights from integrity risk assessments, public opinion surveys, and international benchmarking studies.

In addition, the extent to which high-level political and management levels mobilise key stakeholders in designing and implementing the public integrity strategy can also be an indicator of commitment (for more, see Chapters 3 and 5). High-level leadership that is open to the input of others demonstrates commitment to identifying the key problem areas and developing targeted, informed strategies to address them (Brinkerhoff, 2000[1]). Working with stakeholders can also provide leadership with a support network to overcome potential resistance to the reforms. Moreover, political will can be demonstrated when stakeholders can effectively hold high-level leaders accountable for their actions and implementation of the reforms (Johnston and Kpundeh, 2002[13]; Corduneanu-Huci, Hamilton and Ferrer, 2013[14]).

Support is also demonstrated when adequate human, financial and technical resources are assigned to implement the integrity reforms, and there is regular monitoring and review of the reforms to inform updates to the integrity strategy (Brinkerhoff, 2010[12]; Brinkerhoff, 2000[1]). Ensuring that the necessary resources are in place, and that evaluation and monitoring inform further changes to the reform strategy, demonstrate that senior leaders are committed to implementing a sustainable public integrity reform agenda.

Although challenges vary depending on the specific context, a common challenge is ensuring high-level political and management support for public integrity. Indeed, senior political and management leaders may not support public integrity at all, or may prefer short-term, reactive solutions as opposed to long-term solutions that are costly and time-consuming. Short-term changes such as drafting a piece of legislation or establishing a committee or body allow high-level leaders to rapidly react and show commitment to public integrity. However, while such changes may be necessary in some cases, many times it is the costly, time-consuming long-term reforms that are needed to address the entrenched challenges. Confronted with the reality that these reforms may not deliver immediate political gains, senior leaders may choose to exclude or delay them. Yet visible commitment to public integrity requires senior political and management leaders to implement the necessary reforms, whether they are long or short term.

Addressing a lack of support, whether total or a sole preference for short-term solutions, requires a combination of sound analysis and the engagement of key stakeholders, as well as continuous monitoring and review to inform reforms, as discussed in Section ‎1.2.3. Establishing accountability measures is an additional way to ensure sustainable commitment. Oversight functions such as supreme audit institutions can provide an independent assessment of the level and quality of outputs and outcomes resulting from the commitments. These bodies can make recommendations to further strengthen the public integrity system, and report to parliament or government on the quality of the reforms (for more, see Chapter 12). Other external accountability entities, such as business or civil society groups, can put pressure on leaders to implement reforms in necessary areas.

Tools can also be used to hold high-level leaders accountable in maintaining integrity. For instance, requiring senior political and management levels to disclose their personal interests and ensuring these are verified can help prevent and manage conflict of interest and support impartial decision making. Such measures can also inform public support for reforms, particularly when they indicate that integrity is not a high priority for senior leadership. These mechanisms, in addition to appropriate sanctions when provisions are not complied with, represent means for leaders’ and managers’ commitments to be monitored and for them to be held accountable.


[7] Australian Government (1999), Public Service Act 1999, https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2019C00057 (accessed on 24 January 2020).

[12] Brinkerhoff, D. (2010), “Unpacking the concept of political will to confront corruption”, U4 Brief, No. 1, U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Bergen, https://www.u4.no/publications/unpacking-the-concept-of-political-will-to-confront-corruption.pdf.

[1] Brinkerhoff, D. (2000), “Assessing political will for anti-corruption efforts: An analytic framework”, Public Administration and Development, Vol. 20/3, pp. 239-252, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/1099-162X(200008)20:3<239::AID-PAD138>3.0.CO;2-3.

[14] Corduneanu-Huci, C., A. Hamilton and I. Ferrer (2013), Understanding Policy Change: How to Apply Political Economy Concepts in Practice, World Bank, Washington, D.C., http://dx.doi.org/10.1596/978-0-8213-9538-7.

[6] Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community (2014), Rules on Integrity, Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community, https://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/downloads/EN/publikationen/2014/rules-on-integrity.html?nn=5762170 (accessed on 22 August 2019).

[5] G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group (2018), Compendium on Measures to Encourage Public Organisations to Implement Anti-Corruption Policy.

[8] Government of the Slovak Republic (2017), Law 55/2017 on Civil Service, https://www.slov-lex.sk/pravne-predpisy/SK/ZZ/2017/55/20190701 (accessed on 10 September 2019).

[11] Government of the United Kingdom (2018), Ministerial Code, Cabinet Office, London, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/672633/2018-01-08_MINISTERIAL_CODE_JANUARY_2018__FINAL___3_.pdf.

[10] GRECO (2017), Corruption Prevention: Members of Parliament, Judges and Prosecutors - Conclusions and Trends, Council of Europe, Strasbourg, https://rm.coe.int/corruption-prevention-members-of-parliament-judges-and-prosecutors-con/16807638e7 (accessed on 24 January 2020).

[9] HATVP (2018), Ethics of Public Officials, https://www.hatvp.fr/en/high-authority/ethics-of-publics-officials/ (accessed on 1 August 2019).

[13] Johnston, M. and S. Kpundeh (2002), Building A Clean Machine: Anti-corruption Coalitions and Sustainable Reform, World Bank, Washington, D.C., http://siteresources.worldbank.org/WBI/Resources/wbi37208.pdf.

[3] OECD (2018), OECD Draft Policy Framework on Sound Public Governance, OECD, Paris, https://www.oecd.org/gov/draft-policy-framework-on-sound-public-governance.pdf.

[2] OECD (2017), OECD Recommendation of the Council on Public Integrity, OECD, Paris, https://legalinstruments.oecd.org/en/instruments/OECD-LEGAL-0435 (accessed on 24 January 2020).

[4] Office of the Government of the Czech Republic (2018), Vládní koncepce boje s korupcí na léta 2018 až 2022, Ministry of Justice and Chairman of the Legislative Council of the Government, Office of the Government of the Czech Republic, http://www.korupce.cz/cz/rada-vlady/rada-vlady-pro-koordinaci-boje-s-korupci-121697/ (accessed on 22 August 2019).

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