Nolan Committee on Ethics in Public administration


The Committee on Standards in Public Life was sometimes referred to as Nolan Committee after its first Chairman, Lord Nolan. Its terms of reference were to “examine concerns about standards of conduct of all holders of public office, including arrangements relating to financial and commercial activities, and make recommendations for changes in present arrangements which might be required to ensure the highest standards of respectability in public life.”

In 1997, the Committee’s terms of reference were extended by the Prime Minister Tony Blair “to review issues in relation to the funding of political parties, and to make recommendations as to any changes in present arrangements”.

The Committee’s terms of reference were further clarified in a House of Lords to explain that the Committee’s remit means it “can examine issues relating to the ethical standards of the delivery of public services by private and voluntary sector organisations, paid for by public funds, even where those delivering the services have not been appointed or elected to public office.”

The Nolan Committee’s Seven Principles of ethical conduct The Committee has published Fourteen Reports so far. The First Report of the Committee, drew up the Seven Principles of Public Life as a restatement of the general principles of conduct underpinning public life, and stated that,

  • All public bodies should draw up Codes of Conduct incorporating the Seven Principles which are as follows;
  • Selflessness – Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other benefits for themselves, their family or their friends.
  • Integrity – Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organizations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties.
  • Objectivity – In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on objective criteria.
  • Accountability – Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.
  • Openness – Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.
  • Honesty – Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.
  • Leadership – Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.
  • Internal systems for maintaining standards should be supported by independent scrutiny
  • More needed to be done to promote and reinforce standards of conduct in public bodies, in particular through guidance and training, including induction training.

In present times, Governments and international agencies is drawing their attention to developing and maintaining high standards and values, ethics and conduct in public administration, is as an important measure for combating corruption.

Similarly, OECD called for an ethical infrastructure referring to a range of tools and processes for regulating or checking undesirable behaviour and providing incentives to encourage good conduct of public officials. OCED 8-point charter is as follows;

  • Political commitment for ethical governance
  • Creation of Effective legal framework,
  • Evolving an Efficient accountability mechanism,
  • Need for evolving workable codes of conduct,
  • Professional socialization mechanisms (including training),
  • Creation of supportive public service conditions,
  • Need for a central ethics coordinating body,
  • Need for an energetic civil society able to act as a watchdog.