Legislative Ethics and Codes of Conduct
Riccardo Pelizzo and Rick Stapenhurst
In the course of the past two decades, both the international community and the scholarly community paid increasing attention to the causes and the consequences of corruption.1 As chapter 2 has shown, corruption is often a symptom of a deeper institutional weakness, and to reduce corruption, it is necessary to eliminate the conditions that favor the existence of corrupt practices and other forms of misconduct.
The establishment of ethics regimes, by adopting either ethics codes or codes of conduct, represents a valuable anti-corruption tool. In fact, by creating ethics regimes, parliaments (a) establish a standard for parliamentarians’ behavior, (b) clarify what forms of behavior are acceptable and what forms are improper, (c) create an environment that is less likely to tolerate misconduct and other forms of unethical behavior, and, by doing so, (d) create an environment in which parliamentarians are less likely to engage in corrupt practices.
The purpose of this chapter is to discuss how some parliaments have attempted to create ethics regimes and to show how such regimes may be used to promote good governance and, by doing so, to create a system of disincentives for corrupt practices.
This chapter is organized in the following way. The first section provides a fairly detailed discussion of the ethics regimes and of how ethics regimes can contribute to fighting corruption and other forms of misconduct. Particular attention is paid to the fact that ethics regimes can be established by adopting codes of conduct, codes of ethics, or ethics rules. It discusses what are the most important differences between these institutional tools. Building on this discussion, the second section shows that while codes of conduct are generally more specific than ethics codes, they vary with regard to how specific are their provisions. The third section argues that the effectiveness of codes of conduct is affected by a variety of factors, such as the existence and severity of sanctions; the institutionalization of the code (which refers to which institution is in charge of administering those sanctions); cultural factors (attitudes, values, and norms); and the training of parliamentarians. The
1 This chapter is an adaptation, in part, of Pelizzo and Stapenhurst (2004).