The issues of professional ethics and personal integrity are becoming the topic of highest interest throughout the world. The rules contained in ethical codes that regulate the behavior of officials, employees, professors, doctors, judges, prosecutors, lawyers and all social groups that make up the public sector (those who are obliged to provide services to citizens) are current topics with which the Council of Europe (GRECO’s fourth and fifth evaluation rounds), the United Nations (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime training plans on ethics and integrity) and many other international organizations and bodies.
Immediately after this conclusion, I wonder if it’s worth talking about professional ethics in a country whose president refuses to sign decrees on newly adopted laws because he disagrees with the new constitutional revision adopted by the Parliament? He doesn’t like the new name of the country? It would be ethical to hand his resignation with the excuse that he does not want to be the President of North Macedonia. What is unethical is not signing decrees that contain the name North Macedonia, while he continues to sit comfortably in the presidential chair in the Office of the President of the Republic of North Macedonia.
Indeed, it is difficult to talk about the professional integrity of an MP whose closest and extended family has settled in public institutions, exactly during their term in office. And, it is wrong, it is completely wrong to ask these sons, daughters, sons-in-law, and daughters-in-law to resign. It did not even need to come to all of that. It should be covered in the various ethical codes that we never read, it should be prevented by various advisers in the institutions of power that we do not have.
It should include the solemn oaths, which they only see as a reason to get a new hairstyle, it should include recruitment or engagement contracts, appointment orders. That at the moment you violate your oath, you did not comply with the obligations written in the agreement / decision, and you have to resign from your post. On your own.
If you don’t do it willingly, then the “court of honor” in your institution will do it for you, in order to keep the good name of the institution, in order to increase public confidence in it. Of course, when such courts of honor will be held in our institutions. As is common throughout Europe, they are called councils of ethics, councils of honor, confidential councils, or advisers for confidential and ethical issues, etc. So they organize counseling and training, monthly meetings with the highest function holders pointing to each action, statement, action that violates their personal integrity or professional behavior. Of course, training is first given to explain the notions of professional ethics and personal integrity that everyone needs, from the lowest administrative officer, to a university professor.
In the past, it was not usual for ethical codes to contain penalties. Now international institutions demand it and we must adapt. Obviously, it is not enough just to write on paper what is required of us, we should also consider mechanisms (penalties) for the propagation of the written. In truth, our Parliament is the first that not only adopted the Code of Ethics last year, but also made its amendments that predicted fines, as well as a punishment of suspension from work in working bodies for MPs in which there was a conflict of interests or not they respected the provisions for gifts and so on. And I applaud to the work done. Well, now that they have yet to finish the job, those who according to the same Code should open procedures and punish, that would be really wonderful. In particular, we are waiting for the Committee on Mandate and Immunity Issues to sit down and adopt a Rulebook on the procedure, and finally to initiate proceedings both on the complaints that already exist, but also ex officio… for instance, on the conflict of interests of certain MPs. They should not wait for others to handle their nepotism, let them do it themselves.
Unlike the Parliament, our judges never reach a stage to develop procedures for implementing their Code of Judicial Ethics. A lot of projects were started, pretty good consultations were held in various hotel halls in the presence of media and foreign embassies, strategies, directions, and what not, but we just cannot see the implementation of this Code. Perhaps the crime in the country seems to be more refined than ordinary daily connections, employments and small gifts and services in their ranks, but we, the citizens in the country, would really like to see how honest judges deal with the dishonest or the less honest among them.
The same applies to officials in the executive branch. I’m not talking about corruption, petty or grand. That’s a whole other topic. Which stems from this one. I’m talking about unprofessionalism and lack of ethics. Last weekend I talked to a friend. He said, that he and 3-4 other colleagues went to the “state”. He was not satisfied with some situation in the ministry. He spoke incoherently and angrily. The highest clerk in the hierarchy told him to relax, to speak freely because all of the present “were one of ours”. He loudly screamed: “Well, not all of them are ours”, looking at my friend. And, indeed, she is not a member of the party. She is not a member of any party, for that matter. She has never been. She has been working in the ministry for the past 20 years. She does not have the highest managerial position, but she is content. I was furious when she told me about the attitude of the “state”, which I know personally and I’m ashamed of it. I told her where to go, where to complain… She looked at me surprised, and told me me that it had happened to her before. It has happened for almost twenty years. In the division of “ours” and “theirs”, she was mostly considered as a member of “theirs” because she was not among “ours”. She was neither alarmed nor offended. She will not file any complaints. But, because she considers the institution as a place where she needs to spend several hours a day. As less as she could. She takes every opportunity to leave early, do some personal stuff, she arrives late, often goes for a cup of coffee in nearby coffee shops with her colleagues or with other friends. Just that she could keep her distance from “theirs”.
Well, this is everyday life in every possible institution. And it is contrary to professional ethics. Training courses are needed. As there are training courses for good behavior at school (they are handed over to children in the early school days), so training courses are needed for behavior in administration (Government, Parliament, Court, Prosecution, etc.) in the first days of employment / appointment in you institutions , but also their repetition.
What makes administration employees spend less time at work is what in a very short time we will make us all spend as little time possible in the country. Unprofessional and unethical is what its called. Laziness, superficiality and ignorance. Let’s try to eradicate it when it at the very moment of hiring (getting a public office), and go on until it ceases to exist. For instance, let’s start with a demonstration exercise: resignation, cancellation, withdrawal, suspension, anything, as a measure to prevent a conflict of interest!
Views expressed in this article are personal views of the author and do not represent the editorial policy of Nezavisen Vesnik