Citizens expect public servants to serve the public interest with impartiality, legality, integrity and transparency on a daily basis. Core values guide the judgement of public servants about on how to perform their tasks in daily operations. To put the values into effect, a vast majority of OECD countries have established written, formal codes of behavioural standards.
They can set out in broad terms those values and principles that define the professional role of the civil service – integrity, transparency etc., or they can focus on the application of such principles in practice – for instance, in conflict-of-interest situations, such as the use of official information and public resources, receiving gifts or benefits, working outside the public service and post public employment. Ideally, codes combine aspirational values and more detailed standards on how to put them into practice.
In addition to the general standards applicable to all public servants, most OECD countries have developed supplementary codes for specific positions, in particular public office holders and senior civil servants, as well as professions working in sensitive areas, such as law enforcement, judiciary and national defence; the financially sensitive sectors (e.g. tax and custom administrations) and the professions with a tradition of self-regulation (doctors, medical personnel, lawyers).