The enactment of the Prevention of Corruption Act (PoCA) 2002 is a major landmark in the fight against corruption in Mauritius. The Act consolidates and strengthens the law against corruption. It gives the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) extensive responsibilities and the powers to forge a change of attitude and a mindset that will render the practice of corruption more difficult.
One area in which a change of mindset is urgently required concerns the practice of offering gifts to public officials. Gifts, benefits or hospitality may be offered to public officials in different circumstances and for a variety of reasons. However, this has always raised the delicate issue of propriety in relation to what is permissible and what is not.
The major role of public officials is to serve the public. To do this efficiently and effectively, they must gain and maintain the trust of the public. Their conduct must clearly demonstrate that they are motivated by public interest at all times and not by private gain. The pitfall to be avoided at all costs by public officials is the loss of impartiality, real or perceived, which the acceptance of gifts may bring about.
There is a general prohibition on the acceptance or offer of gifts and hospitality. However, the complete and absolute ban on gifts altogether under any circumstances, even the most innocuous, may be contrary to common sense but there can be serious consequences for the organisation if the management of gifts, benefits and hospitality is not appropriate. Loss of public trust, financial loss and possible legal action may occur subsequently. Therefore, managing such situations is crucial to avoid unprofessional and unethical conduct, or the perception of any behaviour that undermines integrity.
The objective of these guidelines is to provide clear and detailed guidance to public officials regarding gifts and hospitality and highlight their obligations in situations where they are offered such gift or hospitality.
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