To avoid any corruption that may erupt due to a conflict of interest in which private interest may influence a public decision, it has been found useful to provide the legal framework for disclosing such private interests beforehand. Appropriate enforcement measures are also necessary to reinforce transparency and good governance. These laws should necessarily include provisions related to financial or asset disclosure, exploitation of one’s official position, regulation of campaign practices and public records, and open meetings requirements. Additionally, these laws should govern the conduct of those who seek some form of access to or influence in the government decision-making entity. It is important to bear in mind, however, that such laws are only as effective as the penalty provisions specified within them and their enforcement.
To ensure transparency and ethical conduct by government employees and officials by removing the temptation or the opportunity to engage in corruption.
To establish transparent frameworks for government officials with respect to decision-making processes especially, financial decisions.
To promote disclosure of private, personal and political interests by government officials and personnel.
To protect officials from any undue suspicions and instil public trust and citizen confidence in the administration of government.
To construct parameters by which those seeking business from or access to government are subject to certain ethical standards as well.
To limit undue influence through post-government employment restrictions.
To create mechanisms to sanction and/or reprimand violators of such laws.
Linkage to Transparency
Conflict of Interest Laws certainly promote transparency norms in principle; often though, realising such norms is challenging. There are specific ways, however, by which conflict of interest laws can promote transparency. For instance, the requirement that elected and appointed officials and other government personnel file financial disclosure forms, also referred to as statements of economic interest, which are subject to public inspection, is a cornerstone for transparent governance. Since these disclosure forms are legal documents; persons submitting fraudulent information are subject to criminal or civil sanctions. Inclusion of appropriate enforcement measures ensures that violations of such laws are punished. It is imperative, of course, that the enforcement mechanisms too reflect due process, i.e., that they are fair and transparent.
How It Works: The Key Elements
Creation: Conflict of Interest Laws can be part of national legislation or can be part of the municipal ordinances to be observed by the local authorities. The drafting of such legislation needs to reflect careful deliberation and public participation. Governments can begin by conducting surveys to determine the core values and concerns of the community and government employees, and identifying the most pressing problems.
The final document needs to be as clear as possible on intentions, legal structures and definitions. Some of the key aspects that a Conflict of Interest Law could provide for are as follows:
Training and education for public servants to enhance understanding of the conflict of interest laws.
Financial disclosures rules/guidelines.
Mechanisms for complaints and investigations.
Clear guidelines for prohibited interest and conduct including divesting of interest or disclosure of interest by public servants.
Post-employment restrictions on former public servants.
Clear penalties for those violating the provisions of the laws, as well as provisions to review the law from time to time to take care of any loopholes and gaps that may exist.
Application: The officials may be required to proactively identify personal interests that may conflict with their work either as part of the terms of employment or as and when the conflict arises. Officials may be removed from positions of influence to protect the public interest. The application of the Conflict of Interest Laws could be overseen either by the legal Office within the municipality/local government, or by an independent Commission or Board (see Box 37).
Management: The organizational structures may need to be sufficiently decentralised to ensure that enough independent officials are available to make decisions in the public interest if some officials have to be excluded.
Conflicts of Interests in Contracts - California, USA
Conflict of Interest Board - New York, USA
Further information and contacts
Fresno City Hall, 2600 Fresno Street,
Second Floor, Fresno, CA 93721-3600, USA.
Tel.: +1-559-621-7777; Fax: +1-559-621-7776
New York, USA
The Conflicts of Interest Board, 2 Lafayette Street, Suite 1010,
New York, NY 10007, USA.
Tel: +1-212-442-1400; Fax: +1-212-442-1407