Transparency International

This Anti-Corruption Helpdesk brief was produced in response to a query from one of Transparency International’s national chapters. The Anti-Corruption Helpdesk is operated by Transparency International and funded by the European Union

Query

Has the effectiveness of parliamentary codes of ethics been proven in practice? Best practice examples of the adoption procedures and codes would be much appreciated.

Note

This answer is also available in French.

CONTENT

1. How effective are codes of conduct?
2. Codes of conduct for parliamentarians: Best practices
3. References

CAVEAT

There is little research on the effectiveness of codes of ethics or codes of conduct. This answer is mostly based on the findings of a study conducted in the United Kingdom in 2004.

SUMMARY

The overall purpose of codes of conduct for parliamentarians varies across countries. They usually aim at promoting ethical behaviour and preventing unethical behaviour, providing for a set of ethical standards, increasing public trust in and respect for the institution, as well as establishing rights and responsibilities for parliamentarians. In terms of scope and content, codes for parliamentarians that are referred to as “good practice” codes often articulate general principles of ethics and address conflicts of interest, gifts and favours, asset declaration, outside activities, nepotism, post-public employment and relations with lobbyists.

Studies have shown that the existence of a code is perceived by parliamentarians as helpful in certain situations, such as in preventing technical infringements, “protecting” them when dealing with constituents and local parties, as well as increasing scrutiny both inside and outside the house.

There are also ongoing discussions among scholars of what constitutes an effectively designed and well implemented code. The effectiveness of a code of conduct for parliamentarians may depend on a range of factors, including a process of consultation and discussion prior to the enactment of the code, the existence of an active civil society, free media, a functioning integrity system, an effective protection mechanism for whistleblowers, and on parliamentarians’ commitment. The simplicity/accessibility of the code and oversight mechanisms also appears to be important.

Authors

Maíra Martini, Transparency International
Input from Tinatin Ninua, Transparency International, tihelpdesk@transparency.org

Date

06/02/2012

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