Enhancing Civil Service’s Transparency in Thailand: Tools, System, and Strategy

08:34 24/09/2012 | Lượt xem : 8163

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In the civil service, ethics issues have long been one of the most challenging issues that we all have to tackle and the people themselves perceive them as something exceedingly difficult to fight and overcome.  Promoting ethics among civil service officers is usually believed to be something intangible, thus strenuous to be successfully executed and effectuated.  Nevertheless, without any serious and firm actions taken, such problem is going to be aggravated and obstruct economic growth and development of the country as a whole.  Thailand, hence, is likely to still be caught in the “Middle Income Trap”. 

When looking at international perspective on Thailand’s credibility from the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) scores administered by they Transparency International, public sector in Thailand has received considerably low trust and transparency.  In the year 2011, Thailand scored only 3.4 out of 10 and was ranked 80th out of 182 countries.  When compared to the result of the year 2005 and 2010 as Thailand was ranked 59th and 78th respectively, the situation seems deteriorated.

 

Legal Framework

There have been continuous efforts in leveraging ethical standards (including enhancing transparency in the Civil Service), alleviating ethics issues, as well as preventing corruption in the civil service particularly by promoting ethical mindset and behavior.  Such efforts are in accordance with the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand, B.E. 2550, under section 279, stipulating that there must be the Code of Ethics ensuring ethical standard of each kind of person holding political position, government official or State official.  In addition, the Civil Service Act of 2008 has provisions on disciplines and rules on ethics, along with the Royal Decree on Good Governance (2003) consisting of six key elements of good governance: 1) Rule of Law 2) Rule of Integrity 3) Rule of Transparency 4) Rule of Participation 5) Rule of Accountability and 6) Rule of Value for Money.

Under the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint, the Office of Civil Service Commission, in particular, is responsible for the A. Human Development element specifically for the A.7 Building Civil Service Capability with the emphasis on promoting an effective, efficient, accountable, credible and transparent civil service system.

The Royal Thai Government itself has taken a bold step by declaring the anti-corruption strategy, which aims at enhancing the government’s efficiency in fighting corruption and raising public awareness called the “Clean Initiative in Fighting Against Corruption” on May 18, 2012.  OCSC, whose primary role is to positively and proactively promote ethical behavior and mindset, as well as to ensure the civil service officers are adhered to ethical standards specified in the Code of Ethics, is one of the key government agencies in driving the said initiative and strategy. 

Mechanism and Tools

We, the Office of Civil Service Commission (OCSC), established the Ethics Promotion and Information Center in 1999 to serve as a center for coordinating activities, formulating policies, and tailoring training and development programs related to the promotion of ethical standards and to prevent corruption such as “Developing/Enhancing Ethical Behaviors” curricula designed specifically for those in management positions, specialized or professional positions and general positions.  Moreover there are also courses in “Conflict of Interest”, “Ethics and Compliance Risk Management”, “Decision Making Skills”, “Public Interest Management”, “religion-based ethics courses” and etc.  The courses are both instructor-based and online. 

Besides training courses, in 2010, OCSC, in collaboration with the National Institute of Development Administration developed and launched a tool to measure transparency and accountability of public service, called “Transparency Measuring Tool”, composed of two major elements 4 dimensions with 13 indices and the scoring criteria for assessing the aforementioned indices. Such efforts are in accordance with the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand, Royal Decree on Good Governance (2003), and the Code of Ethics of the Civil Service.

Government agencies are not required to undertake such tool.  It is by voluntary basis. Currently 55 government agencies, an increase from 48 agencies of last year, have adopted the tool to measure how transparent their services, operation and decision-making process are. 

To drive the adoption of the transparency measuring tool systematically, OCSC has been actively engaged in educating government agencies continuously through trainings and counseling sessions either via telephone or walk-in on what the objective of each of the four dimensions is and what exactly each of the indices assesses, and how to use the scoring criteria.  In terms of our strategic approach to promote more participation from government agencies and engage them, every year around August we organize “Transparency’s Day” to confer a plaque of recognition to the government agencies that voluntarily adopt the said tool to assess their organization transparency.  This kind of recognition award was fashioned as an intrinsic motivation mechanism as there is no external or monetary reward.  Moreover it is likely to ensure continuous participation and engagement.  Not only can they check their transparency, but they also can use the result to advocate the public to gain trust and confidence or even restore their tarnished reputation. Such tool has leveraged public trust in government agencies as it can be seen from the Department of Rural Roads (DRR) that used the tool to measure its transparency and thus have been nationally and internationally recognized.  The DRR was nominated and passed the second round of the United Nations Public Service Awards 2011 for their excellence in public service.

The Department of Rural Roads (DRR) faced with resistance and complaints from their clients (the locals) due to the lack of two-way communication and transparent work procedure, which lead to misunderstanding, mistrust and conflicts between the locals and DRR.  Moreover the constructed roads did not meet the local’s needs.  With that being said, they were likely to be exposed to risks of corruption in their organization and their reputation was tarnished.  To lessen the negative impacts of road construction and to gain support, confidence and trust from the public, the DRR, thus, established a clear transparency policy, which has been communicated to everyone in the Department and was endorsed by them.  Furthermore, DRR has encouraged the public participation in overseeing the progress of every project run by DRR and providing feedback to DRR throughout lifetime of the constructed roads. Lastly there are eight channels of communication available for stakeholders.

The “Transparency Measuring Tool” consists of 4 dimensions with 13 indices, aiming at controlling, monitoring and managing the risk of corruption.  The details are as follows:

o   1st Dimension: Policy and the Executive related to efforts and initiative in creating transparency in the agency

o   2nd Dimension: Openness concerning the availability of a check-and-balance system and opportunity for public participation (watchdog and whistle-blowing mechanism)

o   3rd Dimension: Discretion/Decision-Making Process (whether or not the public services officers at all levels are impartial and objective when it comes to making decision and human resource management facet)

o   4th Dimension: Availability of Whistle-blowing and Complaint System and Mechanism

According to the Corruption Perception Index of the year 2010 conducted by the Transparency International (2010), Thailand was ranked 78th with the score of 3.5 of the total 10 and rated 14th in Asia Pacific Region tied in with China.  Among the ASEAN country members, Singapore and New Zealand were ranked 1st for being the “cleanest” countries in terms of corruption. In the next few years, our goal is that we are striving to increase the CPI score from 3.5 to 5. 

We strongly believe that a well-designed organizational system and the information technology play pivotal roles in ensuring and fostering transparency in an organization. The ultimate goal would be cultivating and embedding a culture of transparency and integrity in an organization. A transparency measuring tool alone cannot function effectively and cannot bring about a sustainable transparent organization. The transparency element should be integrated in every function and system of the organization such as in a procurement process, human resource management, such as in promotion criteria and procedure, and etc.  Furthermore systematically and continuously developing our human resource is vital particularly in shaping and developing behaviors and mindset/attitude towards ethics and integrity through trainings (on-job training, tailor-made training sessions and etc.) and fostering the right fit organizational culture, which reinforces ethical behaviors.  Ultimately it is all about attitude and behavior of the people who are the primary driving force of the organization.   

For our next step, we aim at expanding our client base by attracting more government agencies to adopt the “Transparency Measuring Tool”.  Moreover in order to ensure accuracy and effectiveness of the measuring tool, we have been vigorously and continuously revising the tool in terms of its indices.  We have planned to develop more qualitative indices to make this tool more effective, up-to-date, and internationally standardized. The Royal Thai Government is committed to the principles of democracy and the practice of good governance.

Country Report at Seminar on Ethics Promotion in the Civil Service,

September 3 - 7, 2012, Thailand