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Integrity and integrity management in public life

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Integrity and integrity management in public life

In this 2017 University of Birmingham report the authors Heywood, P., Marquette, H., and Zúñiga, N. pay particular attention to the issues of culture and leadership in promoting appropriate models of integrity.

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  1. Integrity in public life is an essential component in establishing trust between citizens and their governments. However, over recent decades there has been increasing concern worldwide that standards of integrity are in decline. In part, that concern reflects a parallel focus on corruption as a core threat to good governance. The two concepts – corruption and integrity – are thus often understood as two sides of the same coin, an increase in one leading to a decline in the other.
  2. In practice, much of the attention devoted to integrity has been largely implicit: rather than exploring in depth what should be understood by integrity in public life, and how to achieve it, researchers, activists and policy-makers have too often seemed to assume that integrity will result from the elimination of corruption. Their focus has therefore overwhelmingly been on tackling corruption, rather than on promoting integrity.
  3. To focus primarily on corruption inevitably places emphasis on the negative behaviours we are seeking to prevent as opposed to the positive behaviours we wish to encourage. Integrity means more than just ‘not corrupt’, and involves doing the right thing in the right way.
  4. Lack of clarity about what integrity is has hindered attempts to promote it. In particular, the relationship between personal integrity and role-based integrity, as well as between integrity at the individual or at the institutional level, has resulted in confusion about the how the concept can be translated into practical action.
  5. Integrity thus entails complex relationships with other dimensions, and can be analysed from various perspectives. For the purpose of developing an approach to integrity management (that is, the formal framework to ensure ethical behaviour by public officials), the report distinguishes core characteristics of personal and political integrity. The former entails: wholeness (thinking beyond just the personal); action that is consistent with principles (doing the right things); morality (doing things for the right reasons); and process (doing things in the right way). The latter encompasses: normative justice; openness and transparency; citizen engagement; and impartial authorities.
  6. Predominant anti-corruption approaches respond to a logic that does not sit easily with the promotion of integrity. The reason is that policies designed to combat corruption are usually developed as a reaction or response to particular scandals, or else are designed to prevent specific behaviours. They are driven by an attempt to address the visible expression of corruption, focusing primarily on institutional configurations or regulatory frameworks, rather than the promotion of a pro-integrity mind-set amongst public officials.
  7. The report therefore addresses the issue of integrity management, focusing on what the OECD (2009) has referred to as an implementation deficit, as well as on the relationship between compliance-based and values-based approaches to ensuring high standards in public administration. The reports pays particular attention to the issues of culture and leadership in promoting appropriate models of integrity.
  8. The report is informed by fieldwork that was undertaken in Bolivia and Rwanda, as well as by desk-based research on relevant primary and secondary sources.

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    This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International licence (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)