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Ten Principles for Forming an Ethical Government

Bojan Bajić, President of WEFEC

After my interview was published on the site, in which I spoke about the historic moment for the formation of the Ethical Government in BiH at any level where possible, I received dozens of invitations from readers and suggestions to present the idea and concept in more detail.

Convinced that the moral renewal of our society is a precondition for a better life and prosperity in BiH, and that this most difficult reform can only be led by responsible politics, I decided to present the concept of Ethical Government in 10 concise principles for its formation.

I am also writing this text in honor of my friend Boris Divković, who is unfortunately no longer with us, and whose repeated repetition of the idea that we must return morality to politics, as a basic and pervasive basis for all other politics, still strongly resonates with me.


Ten Principles for Forming an Ethical Government


1. (Leading the moral revival of society)

The ethical government has a historical role to lead the society on the path of moral revival by its example in its four-year mandate. The ultimate goal of the Ethical Government is to ensure the highest level of moral responsibility of the public service and politics as such in the performance of the duties of managing the entrusted funds and duties by citizens and all taxpayers. Ordinary government has, among other priorities, the fight against corruption and all abuses, but the Ethical Government takes this area as a basic issue on which the development of all other sound policies rests;

2. (Moral officials)

Ethical government is committed to high ethical principles and standards at the official level. An ethical voice from the top is key to the development of moral behavior at lower levels of service. The administration is mostly corrupted by the immorality that comes from the top, and such a bad administration then corrupts the whole nation from the core. Coalition Ethical Governments must establish criteria for the ethical and moral integrity of appointed officials and their biographies. If an official cannot play the role of a moral and ethical role model for young people, then the eventual expertise, intelligence and resourcefulness of such an official will certainly be used against the interests of citizens and the common good;

3. (Taking responsibility)

The ethical government is responsible for preventing the occurrence of irregularities and all violations of the law in the depth of performing work in the public service, and never transfers such responsibility to the police, the prosecutor’s office and the courts. Preventing a criminal offense from happening in public service in general is the sole responsibility of the Ethical Government, because judicature in its nature occurs after the occurrence of a criminal offense committed by a public service during the performance of its duties and which it did not prevent in a timely manner. For scandals arising in the public service, the Ethical Government assumes responsibility, offers resignations and takes corrective measures, regardless of the efficiency or inefficiency of judicial penal mechanisms. The statement by officials that the prosecution should do its job, without taking responsibility for the emergence of unethical scandals in its area of ​​responsibility, is usually misleading the public;

4. (Ethics by depth of public service)

The ethical government, even when it managed to establish a high level of ethical behavior at the official level, still did not do enough to achieve an enviable level of ethical, professional and legal conduct of public service in depth, even though this step is absolutely necessary to heal the entire public sector. Modern and prosperous countries have faced the same problem in the past, when even those honest officials have fallen into the trap of long-standing habits and bad practices in the administration that remains, and officials rotate. The problem has been solved by developing a new control function in the public service capable of stopping an irregularity at the stage of occurrence, rather than having such cases subsequently detected when the damage has already been done. This new control function is called COMPLIANCE function in the world , and is characterized by independence, the right of access to all departments, processes, as well as reporting to a higher level of decision-making than all executive functions. For example, the Assembly elects the Prime Minister, but at the same time appoints the Chief Officer of the Office for Ethical and Legal Compliance of the entire government and the entire public service, who has the power to suspect, monitor and document irregularities even of the Prime Minister. He demands all corrupt processes to stop , while the damage has not yet occurred. He also calls on the judicial authorities for help when irregularities have the characteristics of a criminal offense. The Prime Minister does not have the authority over Chief Officer, as both functions are appointed in the Assembly;

5. (Completeness of control mechanisms)

Relationship of the control function of compliance with other control functions such as internal and external audit, as well as anti-corruption strategies. In BiH, there is a systemic error or systemic shortcoming in the establishment of an effective system of control over the conduct in the public service, where through various public administration reform projects, the error has crept in that the so-called first and third lines of defense of the organization were established, and the second line that is of fundamental importance and without which public administration reform cannot succeed anywhere in the world has been skipped:

The first line of defense – a system of internal controls that further defines and prescribes lawful conduct: regulations, procedures, various rules of conduct, instructions, etc.
Second line of defense – Compliance control function, which ensures control of compliance with behavior and actions at the time when the work is prepared and performed, as well as strengthening the capacity of the public service for ethical and compliant behavior.
Third line of defense – Internal audit control function, periodic and planned control of the implemented processes, mainly of a subsequent nature – post festum, in order to determine the compliance of the implemented processes with the prescribed ones.

The first line may not be perfectly set in BiH, but it is certainly solid, because practice has shown that the current level of regulation is not respected at a satisfactory level. The second line, as already mentioned, has been crossed in all reforms, although it is of fundamental importance for the prevention of the occurrence and stopping of the harmful act at the moment when it occurs. We can also think in a way that this control function may have been intentionally left out of the previous reforms. The third line has been established in BiH, but it is almost completely ineffective because it cannot give a result without the establishment of the second control function. Internal audit, as well as external audit, and the police, prosecutor’s office and judiciary, have the primary effect of detecting omissions after they have been committed, usually after the damage to the public interest, with only implicit preventive action as a warning for future perpetrators. All of these now ineffective post-festum control functions from the third line and repressive external functions will come to life when this missing link control function from the second line of defense is established, which will assist them but also take their findings into their own corrective action plan.

Anti-corruption strategies for the public service, surprisingly, skipped the inclusion of the control function from the second line of defense in their plans, and for that reason they remained a dead letter on paper.

This section took up more space than all other principles, but it is important because the long-awaited establishment and functioning of a fair government at the official level will again be threatened by scandals in the depths of public service, which would create new disappointment and apathy among citizens. Chance for an ethical turnaround and public confidence in the announced Ethical Government would be collapsed. As BiH no longer has time to wait, effective control functions must be established immediately in order for the Ethics Government to be formed and maintained as such.

6. (Transparency in work)

Ethical government is based on the principle of transparency of everything it does. Everything must be public and proactively transparent to the public. Ordinary government waits to act on someone’s request for access to information, and the Ethical Government bases its reputation on presenting its work to the public in a public and transparent manner. Any process that is done transparently supports the confidence that the government has no ultimate intention, any process that the Ethical Government would hide from the public would call into question its sincerity and honesty.

7. (Competence)

Ethical government and the selection of competent people is ensured after the implementation of all other principles, which introduces zero tolerance for unethical behavior and all irregularities, which opens the space for institutions and departments to be run by quality people, and not people with connections. Then the quality of public services and professionalism will flourish very quickly. A government that establishes an environment of ethics will attract the competent, and this then leads to projects planned and run exclusively for the common good.

8. (Ethical Coalition)

Ethical government and a coalition of several parties. If we define BiH as a pre-political society that has not yet defined institutions as a public good in the function of exclusively public interest, which should be led by officials and public servants who serve the common good and not personal interest through abuse of those institutions, then we must know that it is illusory talk about the division of parties into right, center and left on the political spectrum, as long as all three corrupt institutions. In this situation, we are no longer talking about left and right ideologies, but about the collapse and erosion of the entire legal order. Therefore, the time has come for coalitions to be formed on the basis of ethics and honesty, regardless of which side of the spectrum that morality came from, in order to lay the foundations for strong, independent, professional and moral institutions in the coming period. Once such foundations are established, coalitions and governments can then differentiate according to ideological differences. If this step is not taken, the left and the right, the center and the abstainers will move out of the country, that is , everyone who can will leave. Practice from prosperous countries shows us this principle, because from time to time there are changes in the ideological directions of governing policies, but the independence, impartiality, ethics and legality of the institutions of the system remain more or less at a high level.

9. (Ethical government and economic development)

In BiH, there is a misconception that sustainable economic development can be achieved without introducing an ethical and fair environment for entrepreneurs and investors, and the economy as a whole. In a country where institutions are not professional and equal to all, where the principle of protection and promotion of the ones with connection prevails, such an economy will never be competitive in today’s open, strictly regulated, connected and global market. An economy where the principle of ethics does not rule, favors only selected companies that use tenders, incentives, concessions and other public sources only for personal gain. The task of the Ethical Government is to reach zero tolerance for all types of abuse and unprofessionalism of the public service, and the economy, free from unethical pressure, will start placing the best ideas, projects and investments that no economy minister will ever be able to think of. The role of the Ethical Government is to create a fair and stimulating environment for BiH entrepreneurs who have been connected to European and other markets for years and who know best what is profitable and what can be developed. An ethical government only needs to listen to their ideas and experience and create an environment for their realization. Governments that talk about economic development and attracting investments, and which are shaken by corruption scandals, are the most common fraudsters. So money will not be a problem when we defeat the immorality and illegal behavior of the authorities.

10. (Ethical government and hope for the future)

The parties that establish the Ethics Government will print a new page for the future of BiH. It is the starting point of the moral rebirth of the whole society. This is a moment desired by the vast majority of BiH residents, especially under the influence of the experiences of a family that has lived in Scandinavian and Western European countries for years and which always emphasizes morality as a ubiquitous value in institutions and society, on which the economy is built and made high standard of living in Europe. The success of our people in developed and ethically established societies is the crowning proof that people are not a problem of BiH, but politics. In this way, it will be possible for all Bosnians and Herzegovinians to unleash the goodness they have traditionally carried with them for centuries, and which is still clearly reflected under the layers of harmful influence of bad administration and politics in recent decades. It is a turning point after which BiH can embark on a path of development and prosperity. This is the reason for staying in BiH.

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