Gayblack Canadian Man

Foreign Policy Analysis

Public Service Integrity: Oxford University’s Dr Nikolas Kirby


“What happens if we actually think about
integrity not just simply as the absence of corruption but actually is a much more
positive and substantive concept and perhaps a concept with which we might
get more traction in changing government than just simply focusing on minimizing
corruption. If we think about abuse of office in this kind of very minimum
standards approach, the first thing is that only focus allows us to evaluate a very
narrow set of negative behaviors so and unethical behaviors so it doesn’t encapture any analysis of for example being inefficient or using your office
to achieve ideological gain you know in corruption it says well use only corrupt
if you use it for private gain but not for the ideological gain. Small things
like stealing stationery don’t apply it also let you know it doesn’t take in the
way in which we might interpret our rules or interpret the bounds of our
office in very convenient ways that serve our own private
interests but are as it were not breaches of any minimum standards or rules
and I think the most important thing is that if you have a corruption
approach and that’s your major tool that you want to use it means you
constantly have to create more and more rules more and more minimum standards
which means you have to regulate the public officer more and more finely
tuned but of course as you know whenever you actually try to practice that rules
run out because rules cannot always have to be set at some level of generality
and within that rules have to be interpreted and have to leave discretion
but the idea of corruption gives you no ability to analyze what you do within
that. Who watched Yes Minister? Anyone? Yeah well my mum forced me to and in the 80s and I always think of that because does anyone remember the
hospital episode so yes so sir Humphries favourite hospital in
the whole system’s the best performing Hospital Minister you know I would say
it’s the absolute pinnacle of public servant performance and what is
there anything wrong with it there’s only one thing wrong there’s no patients
now you could think about that would be an environment which there is
absolutely no corruption at the individual level you can imagine every
every pen pusher pushing pens in the most you know effective minimum
standards way that you can want no one is stealing pens, no one is abusing
the way their office for any private gain yeah it seems that there
it’s not merely that the hospital is failing a performance target in fact
it’s probably fulfilling the performance targets because part of the problem is
it’s only performance targets were targets around administrative
efficiency but it’s actually some it’s it’s corrupt at some level or I would
argue it lacks integrity in a way that’s just not captured by a current
definition of corruption there seems to be something that’s ethically wrong with
that institution that’s just not captured in our current conceptual tools
if we just focus upon fighting corruption as our number one ethical and only
ethical aim with in within the institution it creates a lot of problems
first of all it can lead to a compliance culture so that’s going
to match up with a psychological framework which means you prioritize
making sure that you fulfill the rules all the time but also then you feel
you’re only accountable for filling the rules and not what you do beyond them
rather than as it worth thinking about what am I trying to mean to be do within
the rules or despite the rules what am I what is the actual point of being here
and that as a worker can lead to a lot of inefficiencies in your
organization so there’s a lot of work that says there’s a limit
the amount of rules that you can have about corruption until it becomes
completely counterproductive to performance

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