Select Committee on Public Administration Seventh Report


76. There is little point in merely stating principles unless they are cultivated and implemented with vigour and imagination. In itself, the Code cannot of course be a panacea for the maladies of public service. We have earlier noted the importance of improving motivation and tackling issues of morale. How can governments achieve this?

77. There is an instructive overseas example that has come to our attention. The Canadian Government has a well-developed programme for discussing with Federal public servants issues of values and ethics, aimed at trying to ensure that they are clear about their roles and the standards of behaviour and performance that are expected of them. Like the Public Service Code set out above, it recognises the importance of maintaining democratic accountability as well as high ethical standards and excellent performance . The core values include "democratic values" (including belief in responsible government and respect for the authority of elected office holders), "traditional" professional values (such as neutrality and speaking truth unto power) , "new professional values" (like quality, innovation and creativity), "ethical" values like honesty and "people" values (including fairness and decency).[42]

78. Of course these are just words. However, the Canadian Government clearly recognises that simple assertion will not achieve good performance. In July 2001 the Treasury Board of Canada set out a comprehensive programme of training and discussion, which is intended to explore how these demanding but important values can work in practice. One seminal report called for "an honest dialogue with employees". The aim was to make "the public service an employer of choice". As the public services in Britain continue their efforts to overcome staff shortages, there may be lessons to learn from this.

79. Whichever approach is taken, we conclude that there should be effective means by which the principles and practice of the public service ethos can be actively promoted. We therefore recommend that the Government and other public bodies should consider the creation of a Public Service Academy which would allow public servants of all kinds and at all levels to discuss and develop the practical application of public service principles for their own work. It should also embrace those providing public services from the private, voluntary and not-for-profit sectors. An Academy of the kind we envisage (and its exact form clearly needs further discussion) could be a beacon for developing and disseminating public service values, perhaps including a certificate in public service that everyone working in public services could aim to achieve. This would obviously go well beyond the work of the current Civil Service College, and beyond the leadership centres being established for such groups as headteachers and police officers. It would involve thinking in a unified way about all public services, and about the needs of all those people who work in them. The Government should also consider more systematically (probably through the Office of Public Services Reform), how all public servants should be given the chance to strengthen their appreciation of all aspects of the public service ethos as expressed in the Public Service Code . This might take as its model the Canadian programme of promoting public service values among federal employees. We do not see the Code merely as a piece of paper that sits on a wall or even in the pocket or handbag, but as something that provides a principled framework for action.

42   Report of the Auditor General of Canada, October 2000, Chapter 12 p 22 Back

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