The President needs to instruct his Minister of the Public Service to draft a Code of Conduct for Government employees. The recent disclosures in this newspaper about the business interests of persons employed within the government can only be redressed through an enforceable Code of Conduct for those who work with the State.
The Integrity Commission has a Code of Conduct. But this is aimed at encouraging the financial disclosures by public officials. That code of conduct, however, does not constrain public officials from having businesses which stand to benefit or have the potential to benefit from the official’s direct or indirect influence within the governmental system.
There is need for a Code of Conduct for public servants, inclusive of public officials which would require them to not only declare their interests in private businesses but also to limit such involvement where it is possible for public servants and public officials to use their office to benefit their private interests.
At present, public service rules dictate that before any public servant undertake any other form of employment he or she must receive approval. But employment is distinguishable from private business interests.
There is nothing in the public sector rules which prohibit a public servant from setting up a private company or acquiring lands and concessions from government for personal interest.
People have a right to pursue their private interests but this must not clash or conflict with their public duties. It is always best to ensure that there is no possibility of this happening and the best way for this to happen is for there to be an enforceable code of conduct to regulate what public officials can and cannot do while they are in the employ of government.
The private sector and the governmental sector are not mutually exclusive. In some instances, such as in the health and education sectors, they are in competition. In other instances, it is possible for someone to use their positions to further their own interests.
For many years there have been concerns that many doctors within the public health system were moonlighting at private hospitals and private clinics. There is a temptation to assume that nothing is wrong with this so long as the doctors do not undertake private work on Government’s time.
But who is to check that doctors do not undertake private consultations when they are supposed to be at work in public institutions? What is there to prevent a doctor working in the public sector from using his position to solicit patients for his private clinic? What is to prevent doctors running tests for their private clinics at public institutions?
It is precisely because of these difficulties that some countries prohibit doctors working in the public health system from having a private practice. They say that one cannot serve two masters at the same time, especially when these two masters are in competition.
The government should consider prohibiting doctors who work within the public health system from having private practices. But they should, in return, ensure that these doctors are paid handsomely.
Similarly, an enforceable code of conduct is necessary to prevent any public official from receiving land, oil blocks of mining concessions from Government. No public servant should be allowed to tender or benefit from any government contract, period. This will ensure that public servants do not use their positions for their own private gain.
If you hold public office and you want be a land speculator, resign and go into the real estate business. If you want to drill for oil, go into the oil drilling business and resign from government. But so long as you are on the government payroll, you should not be into any private business.
All of your private investments, made prior to you assuming public office, should be put into a blind trust.
The President of Guyana would win a great deal of admirers if his government produces an enforceable Code of Conduct which places limits on what public servants can do while employed by the State. The President would be seen to be doing something positive to remove temptation and to ensure that public office is not abused for private ends.
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