Representatives of Croatian local authorities gathered in Zagreb to discuss the results of public ethics benchmarking, conducted by the Centre of Expertise for Good governance in cooperation with national partners and experts. The goal of Public Ethics Benchmarking for the local governments in Croatia in 2019-20 was to develop and test a national tool to strengthen the ethical infrastructure of local public administration. The project helped identify the existing level and quality of ethical governance in participating municipalities, identify their strengths and weaknesses and encourage the improvement and integration of advanced policies to build transparency and accountability mechanisms, in order to prevent corruption and support the envisaged local government reform.
The Croatian national score card revealed the areas where improvements were needed the most, such as internal regulations and solutions related to ensuring ethical conduct and transparent functioning of local councils and councillors; internal control and audit of local authorities; a more systematic and transparent approach to the legality control of the activities of local administration, need for regulation of behaviours that are a potential source of corruption; need for raising awareness and systematic training on ethical issues, and so on. After discussing these results with the municipalities, the Centre of Expertise and its partners proposed coaching and advice for the preparation of municipal improvement plans, as well as training programmes for local authorities and the next steps for larger and more comprehensive reforms at the national level.
Council of Europe proposes a positive approach that mainstreams public ethics as an important element of good governance. It recommends appropriate strategies, institutions, legislation, regulations, codes of conduct, and guidance which, in their entirety, is the Public Ethics Framework. It guides Member States and public organisations to assess, develop, improve and deliver the Public Ethics Framework through three important tools:
- The 2020 Guidelines on Public Ethics
- The Guide on Steps to Implementing Public Ethics in Public Organisations
- Public Ethics Benchmarking toolkit for local authorities, which includes corruption risk assessment and benchmarking of public ethics at local level.
In addition, a new Benchmarking Tool for central authorities is being currently finalised to provide Member States with the means to, internally, assess progress on implementation of the Public Ethics Framework and, externally, undergo a benchmarking exercise to assess and improve implementation of the Public Ethics Framework. The tool provides the basis for sharing European good practice, mutual support for transfer of expertise and experience and improvement, and a progress-driven public ethics score card.