New International Team for integrity and Good Governance
A boost for integrity
‘Be the change you want to see’. This title of an action programme is a nice result of the 4th Integrity Course for 25 civil servants from Turkey and The Balkans. The participants are self-convinced and visionary. In Bosnia & Herzegovina corruption is a burning issue. Legislation and anti-corruption campaigns do battle against abuse of power and self-enrichment. Strengthening integrity to prevent corruption has led in Montenegro that 60% of public organisations developed an integrity programme. Goal: building trust in public institutions. Awareness and training are in Kosovo new instruments to integrate integrity into de government’s policy. Integrity as characteristic of government is also the objective in Serbia. The action plan focuses on the (high) managers to set the example to their employees. In Turkey ethical commissions exist since 2005. However since 2008 are slowly extinguished. A new impulse is needed. The action plan foresees in training programs for civil servants. Interesting idea is to develop a scorecard for ministries and present a red, orange or green card to the managers to activate them to take integrity seriously. Albanian participants show realistic. Corruption always will exist. People always are looking for loopholes, but a transparent organisation, ethical leadership, improvement of quality of work and the maintenance of the Code of Conduct increase alertness. Small things are important; also in Macedonia. Next to the oath of office participants plan a questionnaire of officials to find the vulnerable issues and risks. Just as The Dutch Civil Servant Act means, they want to introduce the cornerstones of integrity in public organisation.
Islands of Integrity
With the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 4 courses more then 100 policymakers are trained. Together they build bridges for a regional network to encourage, advice and inspire each other. Young, energetic and curious professionals with heart for the public good. That agrees optimistic!
May I warn you?
A few years ago a city manager asked me: “Henk, if you appoint the wrong people, is that related to integrity?” I replied in the affirmative. People who are not fit for a function cost society a lot of money, don’t provide solutions and irritate employees. That damage cannot be justified. Careless appointments happen due to the old boys network mechanism, bad screening or not taking signals from the organisation seriously. The damage occurs later. Because policymakers are involved a thorough analysis how this was possible does not take place. I recently heard of the appointment of an interim manager by a public organisation. I know the person who was appointed and from reliable sources I know about his inadequate performance and disappointed working results. There are also doubts about his behaviour.
This appointment in a familiar organization gives me the next dilemma: Should or shouldn’t I inform the organisation about my concern? The arguments not to do are, among other things: ‘It’s not my business’ and ‘I submit myself to gossip’. Moreover, I can damage the person. But I keep doubting, because we are talking about public money and it’s well known that some interim managers jump from one failure to another without anyone realizing. I weigh the damage which can be inflicted on the person to the damage which can be inflicted on the organisation. This situation keeps me pretty occupied. This is another reason to take a decision.
Very soon I will meet the director of the organisation, whom I have worked together with. I‘ll take him into confidence and share my concern. He can then decide himself if my information is relevant or not.
Trust as a Pitfall
The recent resignation of the Dutch Minister and the state secretary of Justice and Security has all to do with trust. The reason for their resignation was a forgotten deal 15 years ago with a criminal. The then prosecutor was the current state secretary and he didn’t remember whether he paid € 1,5 of € 4 million, even when proof of the transaction was shown on television. Trust, we learned from this case, is a tricky word and often confused with loyalty. You trust someone who means well and therefore does well. In a worst case scenario you become susceptible for blackmail. You don’t know what the other will do with your trust. A difficult situation arises when the other does something he knows you won’t expect. He is ashamed about it and keeps the incident or error hidden. It seems the incident will disappear forever. We often expect entrustment and loyalty, especially when we esteem ones’ personal integrity. To some extent that’s right. The Mayor of Amsterdam has stated that governing is people’s work, also on the highest level.
To Be Honest, you need support
Too much trust includes a risk, as the resignation of these two government ministers made clear. Next to their honesty, people do have their eccentricity. Especially when they are in power. Both politicians were ironically known as ‘Crime fighters’, but were not able nor willing to admit an error. They ignored the facts or keep asking for entrustment. This € 4 million case grew out to be an inescapable trap. We don’t know if the civil servants at their department withheld information or that the ministers ignored the warnings of their employees. This case makes it clear that public government is nothing without transparency and openness. Next to a culture of commenting on each other, an independent press as an irritant for administrators – regardless how merciless they are towards those involved – is indispensable for democracy and the rule of law.
You can see happen corruption?
The end of 2013 the Dutch judge sentenced to three years a provincial representative because of corruption, money laundering and forgery. ‘Passionately’ and ‘Innocent’ he called himself and the verdict a ‘miscarriage of justice’, he stated. In many countries, a typical reaction of people who have been convicted of abuse of power and corruption. The judge, however, charged the suspect hard to not feel responsible for his behaviour and embarrassing the confidence in the government. Also in a more recent case the suspected aldermen claims to be ‘innocent’.
Strong Personalities. Risk of Corruption
In both cases is found to exist strong and motivated personalities. Public servants tell about political directors who talk with businessmen, but in private. They take decisions without any involvement of civil servants. Contradiction does not appear possible. Criticism is withheld or ignored. ‘I’m political responsible, so you do what I say’, is the credo. Frustration among observant officials, leaking motivation, and small talks with the coffee machines are the sequel. If later the judge condemned the politician, the society pays the high financial damage without being able to deduct the convicted.
See, Know and Act
Exactly how the process is done shows a new Spanish documentary ‘Corruption, the harmful organism’. Public servants give concrete examples about political elected officials and managers who ignore their criticism about possible abuses of law. Thus they bring the government in disrepute and reject the instrument of self-cleaning capacity. Playing the injured innocent when they are for court, shows that they are not competent for a public job.
The documentary ‘Corrupción, el organisme nocivo’ can be seen on www.corrupcionorganismonocivo.com. Subtitle in English follows
Where has that 240 million dollar gone?
Promotion of integrity is often second or third priority. ‘No budget’ is the most famous clincher. In 2013 OESO reminds The Netherlands to act more forcefully against companies that are involved in corruption abroad. The public prosecutor prosecuted only 8 of the 22 known corruption cases. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs convene a target group. The message to the participants, including organization for CSR and transparency, was disappointed. The Ministry has no money for the work to be done.
Fund for Integrity
At the same time Public Prosecution makes an arrangement with an international operating Off Shore Company. An arrangement means that no one comes to court despite committing a crime. The penalty and the arrangement amount together 240 million dollars. $ 200 million as compensation for unjustified obtained profits. Let’s say money that was spent on bribes.
Where has this money gone? Probably to the general state budget! Not to organisations that fight corruption and develop programmes for business integrity.
With corruption are large sums of money involved. With more manpower Public Prosecution could prosecute suspected companies more effective and bringing to court. The penalties and arrangements could contribute to a fund to finance integrity programmes. Indeed, bad money to good money! Not only in The Netherlands but also in all countries. It involves huge sums.
The clincher of ‘no budget available’ then is off the table
Freedom of expression versus the Right to Insult
The current debate is about he right on insult as unlimited freedom. However, the question is different: Do I allow myself the freedom of expression without acceptance of persons?
- I’m free waving my arms.
- I can do that unobstructed till I approach the nose of someone else.
- Then my freedom meets the security of another.
- His interest determines my use of freedom.
Integrity stands for debate and investigation of the arguments of the other and me to act yes or no. It could be right to insult another, as it could be justified when a competent authority kills a person. To take a decision weighing of arguments is needed. The principle of freedom may lose out the principle of security and respect.
In Tirana, Skopje, Ankara en Belgrade participant of the Integrity Course received my book: ‘To Be Honest… Finding Inspiration and Integrity in Public Service and Business’.
The told their experiences back home. Four stories are noting:
- Macedonian Boarder Police improved organisation. No more long queues mean less chance that drivers pay small amounts of money to pass faster the boarder.
- In Serbia the procurement procedure is reassessed and more transparent. The State Exam for new civil servants pays attention to integrity.
- In Albania Ministry of Interior develops an integrity program for after the elections.
- New collaboration arises: As a Serbian colleague said: Now I’ll just check my colleague in Kosovo.
My new website about HRM and integrity will report every two weeks news and challenging facts about the progress of good governance, CSR and integrity. Please don’t hesitate to give your comments and experiences to get an inspiring debate. See button ‘leave a comment’ at the top.
Success with the implementation of integrity!
Welcome in 2015
2015 started baffling because of some pencil marks. In Paris 12 people were killed because of free expression and image. Policemen lost their lives when defending this principle. In Africa and Yemen murderous gangs patched human values to their boots. Fear and sadness undermined the best wishes for a pleasant and successful 2015.
However, the same days millions of people distribute an enormous tap to the criminals defending the human dignity. This solidarity gives us hope and energy.
If you look closely, you see many initiatives for responsible governance and entrepreneurship. This year we like to pay attention to people who, sometimes against the current, try to improve the worthiness of the government and business. Moral values and norms design the personality of people and show their identity. They prevent affection of their integrity by close protection. Managers from the Balkans articulated like: Integrity should be an integral part of our work. Integrity ensures that the decisions we make are made on justified basis and treatment.
These statements you may find in my new book: ‘To Be Honest… Finding Inspiration and Integrity in Public Service and Business’. A book with concrete suggestions how to apply integrity and responsible management into the organisation. ISBN: 978-94-9106-142-4, 161 pages, € 15,00.
My sparkling new website about HRM and integrity – www.henkbruning.nl – will report every two weeks news and challenging facts about the progress of good governance, CSR and integrity. Please don’t hesitate to give your comments and experiences to get an inspiring debate.
Success with the year of integrity!