Countries need to do more to identify and reduce conflicts of interest and other breaches of integrity to help win back trust in national governments, which surveys suggest remains below pre-crisis levels, according to a new OECD report.
Government at a Glance 2015 finds that too many advanced economies still have a low level of disclosure and public availability of private assets by public officials, according to data collected in a 2014 OECD survey of 36 advanced and emerging economies.
In particular, judges, prosecutors, political advisors and less senior staff working in “at risk” areas such as tax, customs, public procurement and financial authorities, are often subjected to a low level of disclosure requirement.
On the other hand, gifts are now prohibited or required to be disclosed for 73% of the top-level government figures in OECD countries, up from 68% in 2009.
“Any sense of a tolerance of conflicts of interest among public officials undermines trust,” said OECD Deputy Secretary-General Mari Kiviniemi, launching the report in Paris. “Ensuring transparency and accountability is key to restoring faith in governments.”
Level of disclosure and public availability of private interests across government branches in OECD countries, 2014
The report also finds that only 41% of OECD countries surveyed have whistleblower protection laws for employees who disclose wrongdoing in the context of their workplace.
Average confidence in national governments across OECD countries began recovering in 2013 from post-crisis lows but remains at 41.8% in 2014 compared with 45.2% in 2007, according to Gallup World Poll data.
The 4th edition of Government at a Glance presents some 50 indicators comparing government performances in areas like public finances, per-capita spending, cuts to central government staffing and pay and access to healthcare, education and justice systems.
Other key findings include:
Government spending per capita in OECD countries showed the sharpest annual drop over 2009-13 in Ireland (3.6%), Greece (3.3%), Spain (1.9%), Iceland (1.6%) and the United Kingdom (1.5%).
In 2014, government spending as a share of GDP in OECD countries was highest in Finland (58.7%), France (57.3%) and Denmark (57.2%).
Despite efforts in most countries to trim government headcount and pay since the crisis, public sector employment was little changed in 2013, remaining at around 19% of the labour force on average. Norway (33.4%) and Denmark (32.2%) employ the biggest share of workers in the public sector.
There is a wide divergence on the availability, accessibility and government support to promote the reuse of public data with Korea in the lead and Poland lagging.