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Effectiveness of Public-Service Ethics and Good Governance in the Central Administration of the EU-27

Evaluating Reform Outcomes in the Context of the Financial Crisis

Christoph Demmke and Timo Moilanen

Comparative studies of public-service ethics at the central governmental level in the EU Member States have a rather short history. Particularly, only a few studies have discussed the institutionalisation of ethics and the effectiveness of ethics instruments. Filling this gap and taking one step further, this particular comparative study analyses to what extent the transition towards a new and more complex concept of ethics and governance has proved effective and fruitful. The authors argue that discussions about ethics should be better integrated into other policy areas that affect the behaviour of public officials. These include public management reforms, human resource policies and leadership styles, perceptions of organisational fairness, impact of the ongoing financial crisis as well as cost-and-benefit considerations. The book provides a comprehensive view and analysis of the developments in the field of public-service ethics.


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In the last decades governments have become ever more active in introducing new accountability mechanisms, ethical standards, antidiscrimination rules, di- versity policies, transparency policies, citizen orientation programs, etc. Because the principles of good governance are such prized political and administrative values, the usual assumption has been that there can never be too much of it256. Consequently, the meaning of ethics has consistently widened over the years257. For example, in the field of managing conflicts of interests, more governments have moved from managing conflicts of interests through top-down approaches (prohibitions, restrictions, criminal and administrative sanctions) to more com- plex approaches including education, training, transparency requirements, intro- ducing preventive policies (regulating post-employment) and better monitoring systems. Despite the existence of, in many cases very impressive, ethics management sys- tems and numerous laws, regulations and codes in place, the Member States of the EU continue to define more issues as unethical. Despite this trend, there is little evidence about the effectiveness of ethics rules. If the public service is to function effectively in an increasingly fluid and globalised environment, where working conditions and external circumstances change rapidly, it must be able to work with a wide range of sectors including private enterprise, the non-profit or third sector, and the citizenry. This has three crucial, interrelated implications for public sector ethics. Firstly, public sector employees must be able to make the right ethical decisions in all situations. This will become even more of a challenge when they have to work in partnership with people...

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