I don’t like to preach, but sometimes it seems necessary. The Daily Post yesterday revealed the legal advice behind the appointment of Mac the Knife to be interim Chief Exec at Liverpool City Council. It appears some of the advice was ignored.
The conflicts of interest are so blatant it raises some more serious questions about those involved and those around them. First, would a person with any integrity take up a role that was so evidently compromised? Second, if they did, when the conflicts are pointed out, would not the response be to resolve these unequivocally? And what of those around them? So what are we left with? People so lacking in a sense of integrity, so ethically compromied, that they will plough on regardless. Brass neck, or what?
And today we read that the new Chief Exec (mate of the interim) needed a £25k ‘golden hello’.
So, to the preaching. Lord Nolan, the first chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, set out the Seven Principles of Public Life (listed below). They are a little idiosyncratic in my view, but nevertheless they highlight some key issues for decision makers. Can many of the decisions around Mac the Knife and Co stand up against these principles? And where is the external scrutiny that polices these?
Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other benefits for themselves, their family or their friends.
Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties.
In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.
Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.
Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.
Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.
Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.