Integrity Chamber Advises Government on Travel and Accommodation Expenses
At the request of the Council of Ministers [hereafter: CoM] the Integrity Chamber provided advice on whether it is acceptable for travel and accommodation expenses for ministers and civil servants to be paid by third parties.
The Integrity Chamber identified the following integrity-related issues that can occur as a consequence of ministers and civil servants accepting free offers (i.e. gifts) of travel and accommodation:
- The independent position of the minister/civil servant can be compromised, particularly officials with decision-making authority.
- The public’s trust in government can be damaged when officials appear to be influenced by third parties.
- A connection between the third party and the minister or civil servant can be perceived as a conflict of interest.
To prevent these risks, the Integrity Chamber advised that all travel and accommodation expenses for ministers and civil servants should be paid by Government. Exceptions can be made for meetings, conferences, workshops, or similar events, after careful consideration and only insofar the paid expenses are in line with Government rules and regulations.
Exceptions must not be made (1) for ministers and civil servants traveling to perform Government mandated tasks, or (2) to attend an event sponsored by a third-party that is interested in establishing a business relationship with Government.
The Integrity Chamber further advises Government to:
- Establish and implement written guidelines to ensure consistency. The guidelines should include measures to be taken when the rules and regulations have not been complied with.
- Register all offers for travel and accommodation in a public registry. This will allow for more transparency and will avoid the perception of conflicts of interest.
This advice follows the Integrity Chamber’s Advice on the Ministerial Gift Policy, which was submitted to CoM in July 2020. The Advice on the Ministerial Gift Policy provides guidelines for accepting gifts from third parties, but has not been fully implemented.
The Integrity Chamber recommends the swift implementation of these advices to reduce the risks of integrity issues within Government. The full advices can be found on the website of the Integrity Chamber at www.integritychamber.sx/publications.