The Code of Conduct for State Officials in Executive Bodies, adopted by the Government, aims to ensure the ethical conduct of officials – by having them supervise themselves. Gong warns that by creating such ‘anti-corruption etiquette’, the Government is only feigning a desire to regulate the behaviour of state officials, as officials are supposed to assess the ethics of their own behaviour. Simply put, the Government passed the Code, which is actually a set of rules of conduct through which the ruling bodies should monitor – themselves.
The Code prescribes the principles of public interest protection and preservation of the citizen’s trust, the rules of exemplary behavior and result responsibility, as well as rational use of public resources. The implementation of the Code, however, will be overseen by the Council, which includes two state executive officials; one a member of senior civil servants whose position depends the decision of the ruling majority, while only two independent experts have a seat in this preventive and advisory body.
This anti-corruption code, a set of rules of conduct, was adopted by the Government after weakening one of the key anti-corruption bodies. We remind that the Commission for Conflict of interest has lost its previous authority to decide on the violation of the Principle of Conduct because, as explained by the Minister of Justice and Administration Ivan Malenica, the Commission was not established to act as an ethical body. The Government finally established an ethical body, adopted the Code of Ethics, but instead of an independent oversight mechanism – as we have in the Commission, which opened cases against members of the government – the government also established a new, political body where the independent experts are in the minority. The question arises, what if these two bodies have different opinions on the same topic?
In order for the Code of Ethics to achieve its purpose and help protect the officials’ integrity, there must be a body responsible for the monitoring of the Code’s implementation, as noted by the latest report of the Council of Europe’s Anti-Corruption Body GRECO. However, instead of strengthening the independent Commission and specifying the authority it has in regards to the Principle of Conduct, the Government of the Republic of Croatia has established a special Council, but only to satisfy the form and obscure the content.