Public contracts should demand high ethical standards from suppliers

Gurjit Degun
17 June 2014

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17 June 2014 | Gurjit Degun

The Committee on Standards in Public Life has called on the UK government to adopt a “strategic programme to reinforce” the understanding that ethical standards are addressed in contracts for public services.

Research by the committee, which is made up of politicians and high profile members of the public sector, found that the public care about how services are delivered and want “common ethical standards to apply regardless of provider type”.

The committee established The Seven Principles of Public Life in its first report in 1995 – selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. Lord Paul Bew, chairman of the committee, said the government believes these principles should apply to anyone delivering public services.

Today’s report Ethical standards for providers of public services said the government “should go further and positively reinforce this expectation and make explicit the frameworks required to support such standards”.

It added: “It is evident from our research that currently there are no consistent structures or arrangements in place to actively promote the right ethical culture and behaviours. We are concerned to see high ethical standards proportionately addressed within existing contractual and monitoring arrangements, as part of the process for securing the regularity and propriety of public services.”

The committee also called on the Cabinet Office to make sure those directly involved in commissioning and contracting should always receive “formal assurance by providers of their acceptance of the necessity of ethical standards in the delivery of public service”.

Another recommendation said government departments should consider ethical awareness “a professional commercial capability requirement” for those commissioning, procuring or managing government contracts. 

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