Gomery Report II:
The Public Service and Transparency

Volume 2 of Gomery's Report, The Public Service and Transparency, has an interesting section. It is entitled Encouraging "Rightdoing" and Discouraging Wrongdoing: A Public Service Charter and Disclosure Legislation. I was intrigued by the title, and so of course I gave it a read. This particular chapter is by Kenneth Kernaghan. You can find it here.
Skip the introduction (I'll come back to that), and move to section 1, Values and Ethics. There you will read the following paragraph.
Values are enduring beliefs that influence our attitudes and actions. Values
influence the choices we make from among available means and ends.

I have what may seem like an obvious question. Why do values need to be defined for the government? What is wrong with us? Do we not even know what values are?
But back to the introduction.
The major argument in this paper is that the Government of Canada should adopt both a Charter of Public Service Values and a statute on disclosure protection—and that these two actions should be closely linked. A Charter of Public Service Values is a formal written statement outlining the constitutional position of the public service, including its relationship with the political sphere of government. A Charter would provide a foundation and a framework for good governance by setting the core values of public service within the broader context of the principles of Canada’s parliamentary democracy. A disclosure of wrongdoing statute (often described as a whistleblower statute) would provide protection for public servants who reveal information about such forms of misconduct in government as illegal activity and gross mismanagement.
So, how do we propose to fix the problem?
By making a law.
Now, please note all, that the problem in the first place was government officials and public servants were not following the law already. Maybe I am ignorant, but I fail to see how adding another layer of law is going to correct this. Don't get me wrong, I think that whislteblower legislation is important. I think government officials and public servants need to be made to follow the law just like everyone else. People who draw attention to illegal doings should not fear reprisals.
But, and I am sorry to say it, this is what you get for pushing God out of the political sphere for so many years. What did you think would happen? For years our government has had absolutely no moral compass whatsoever. Although it saddens me that people now need to have the idea of values and ethics defined for them, it does not surprise me at all.
There is a lot more in this report that is worth reading of course. What it doesn't say, and never can, is that what government needs most is a change of heart.


VW said...

The problem with bringing God back into the public sphere, though, is the notion of "God helping those who help themselves." Not the best of advice to give to a public servant with a government chequebook.

Making a Public Service Charter to replace Treasury Board guidelines has one unique, distinct advantage: public scrutiny. Legislation has to be made public to everyone, while TB guidelines have more limited distribution.

The nice thing about Harper is that, being a policy wonk, he's had time to think about public service ethics. We'll definitely get that change of heart.

Unknown said...

Although an oft-quoted maxim, "God helps those" is not a Biblical concept.
I agree with your comment on the Charter idea. Public scrutiny is one of those things that has been sadly lacking in our government of late. I'd also like to see the Access to Infomation Act adjusted... and if I am not mistaken, that is one of the recommendations.

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