Publication - Research and analysis

Ethical standards in public life - model code of conduct for board members: consultation analysis

Published: 10 Jun 2021
Directorate:
Local Government and Communities Directorate
Part of:
Public sector
ISBN:
9781802010237

An analysis of responses to the consultation on current proposals for a revised Model Code of Conduct for members of devolved public bodies.

Ethical standards in public life - model code of conduct for board members: consultation analysis
Section 4: Registration of interests

Section 4: Registration of interests

Question 7: Section 4 has been amended to reflect the changes made throughout the Model Code and to make clearer what kind of information needs to be registered. Do you have any comments on the changes proposed for Section 4: Registration of Interests?

Twenty-eight respondents (62%) commented on the changes made to Section 4 of the revised Model Code. Seventeen respondents (38%) did not comment. Among those who provided feedback, several respondents were of the view that the revised Section 4 provides greater clarity about what kind of information needs to be registered, with one respondent commenting that this added clarity resulted from the greater level of detail now provided. Other respondents said that the changes made to Section 4 were helpful, that they supported the changes, and that the changes were “all good”.

As with other sections of the Model Code, several respondents provided views on things that should be amended in Section 4. A few respondents commented on Paragraph 4.20, which states that there is no longer the need to register any gifts or hospitality received. They felt that there should be a register for gifts and hospitality of some kind and that this should even cover offers of gifts and hospitality that were declined. Comments from respondents included:

“We feel that it is still appropriate in terms of transparency and accountability to publish a register of any offer of gifts or hospitality that have been refused or accepted.”

“Should offers above low values not be registered? There needs to be a transparency around this, even if an offer has been declined. Should organisations be encouraged to keep a list of hospitality accepted on behalf of the organisation?”

Another respondent felt that Paragraph 4.20 appeared to contradict the wording in Paragraph 3.18 (which states that board members will accept gifts and ask for these to be registered, if not accepting a gift could potentially cause offence) and potentially also Paragraph 3.20 (which states that board members should advise their standards officer if they are offered any gifts or hospitality of any significant value, or if they are offered gifts or hospitality from the same source multiple times). We also heard that Paragraph 4.20 should refer back to Paragraph 3.20 for added emphasis.

We also heard from a respondent who felt that there should be a single national code with one register of acceptance and of interests. This respondent said that they sit on multiple boards and so they have to register the same interests several times. They felt that this is an inefficient process which could lead to errors. They also mentioned occasionally having to print, sign and return declarations and suggested a move to electronic copies with electronic signatures or confirmations.

Some respondents felt that Section 4 would benefit from additional clarification in particular areas, for example:

  • Paragraph 4.3 should be amended to make it clear that it is not necessary to register the interests of anyone else (such as family members), not just spouses and cohabitees;
  • what is meant by ‘remuneration received by a board member’ (in Paragraph 4.5) and whether this covers remuneration received as a member of any board, or of the board in question;
  • what is meant by ‘regularity’ (in Paragraph 4.10);
  • what is meant by ‘other roles’ (in Paragraph 4.13) – we suggest that this is clarified in the Standards Commission’s guidance;
  • whether the address of a property needs to be made publicly available, as is the case in the Councillors’ Code (Paragraphs 4.17 to 4.18).

Contact

Email: socialresearch@gov.scot