21 August 2012

Space for Transparency, the blog published by Transparence International features a concise comparison of the codes of conduct applying to central government officials in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom.

“Codes of conduct in action; common law states” is the fourth article in a series looking at the key features of codes, the different applications in different country contexts, the extent of their coverage, and their overall effectiveness. The intention is to consider what is needed to ensure that the codes don’t become politicised, that they are fit for purpose in getting officials to behave better and catching them when they don’t.

Transparency International sees the articles forming a rule book for what it expects from those in the public service – helping citizens, communities, and officials better understand the benefits and challenges of using codes  to build the overall integrity of government.

The comparison of Australia, US and UK highlights the differences in aspiration and effect, despite the common law jurisdiction which they share.

“For example in the United States, the code of conduct covers all federal officials and employees … including elected members of Congress. This feature contrasts with other common law countries, such as the United Kingdom, where specific codes have been adopted based on different types of public servant or officials.

The United States also stands apart from other common law countries in that it sets a very strict and low value for gifts that can be accepted by public officials. The question of gifts, as noted in this blog series, is covered but can often be handled more loosely depending on the cultural context and accepted practices.

The … post looks more in-depth at the US as well as those established in other common law countries, including Australia and the UK. It provides information on the reach of coverage and how these codes are currently being implemented in practice. …”

Other articles were  titled:

  • Codes of conduct: a tool to clean up government?
  • Codes of conduct: benefits and challenges
  • Codes of conduct and the legal system: ideas and implications

The next post in the series will focus on examples from continental law countries.