The integrity training of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade continued on further two occasions in November 2018, in the framework of the preparation of foreign affairs officers assigned for permanent foreign service. A number of state bodies have supported the training on special integrity and integrated risk management methods, such as the Constitution Protection Office, the Information Office, the National University of Public Service, the National Protective Agency as well as the State Audit Office of Hungary. SAO emphasized in the training: the ability to recognize risks and the knowledge of risk management methods is essential for a successful foreign service. It is also an important task for foreign affairs officers to report at their duty stations on the national efforts and achievements to disseminate an integrity-based administrative culture that can contribute to the strengthening of the country's recognition.
Focus on the preparation of foreign service professionals
In accordance with the National Anti-Corruption Program’s Action Plan for 2017-2018 and its adoption decree 1239/2017. (IV.28.), The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade organized a special integrity training course for its colleagues assigned for permanent external service. Preparation of foreign affairs professionals continued in November during two more trainings aimed at developing their risk management capabilities.
The training focused on integrity management and integrated risk management was organized in four sessions entitled "Roundtable discussion on the National Anti-Corruption Program". The purpose of the training realised in the form of expert discussions is to direct the attention of foreign service staff to the related phenomena that arise in practice and the professional ways of handling thereof.
At the roundtable discussion it has been stated that the training of foreign service professionals is of strategic importance because of their position, influence and powers, their special functions, the operation and management of their representation, their network of contacts, and last but not least the information available to them, can make them a priority target in the international arena. It is of utmost importance therefore, that professionals stationed in foreign countries have the skills to protect personal and organizational integrity and know that they are not alone. Officers can rely on a wide range of professionals and institutions well prepared to support them. Employees can place their trust in the ministry's leadership and its own integrity adviser, whether it is to prevent, detect and treat a simple or complex integrity event.
The integrity risks and mitigation thereof show cultural differences
Concerning the diversity of integrity risks, speakers have drawn attention to cultural differences between countries. The forms in which corruption is manifested and the typical areas in which they emerge often show a similar pattern, however, what may is considered as corruption risk in the given country may significantly differ. An even greater difference may appear in the perception of different patterns of behaviour and in what risk management methods and communication techniques are advisable to be used in a situation that corrupts integrity.
In such situations, foreign service officers must observe regulations applicable in their position and the goals and principles set out therein. Using their intercultural knowledge, they should strive to prevent the emergence of corruption risks and, if possible, react on integrity issues by taking into account the given cultural contexts in order to avoid their recurrence.
SAO takes part in strengthening the integrity of the public sector
Since 2011, the State Audit Office assesses the integrity level of the public sector every year. Accordingly, the SAO has extensive experience and a number of analytical data in this area, so the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has requested the President of the State Audit Office, László Domokos, to support the successful implementation of the training.
On behalf of SAO’s president Dr. Erzsébet Németh auditor director, leader of SAO’s Integrity Survey, participated in the training as the lecturer of the SAO. During the round table discussions, the director of the SAO pointed out that corruption, among other things, could be also a means for people of accusing entire countries thus targeting their integrity, status quo, international position and economic stability. It is an important task for our representatives abroad to know the integrity approach, integrity controls and the efforts that our country is doing to promote the dissemination of integrity-based administrative culture as well as to report on it at their duty stations.
The potential integrity risks as well as their possible occurrence greatly increase the vulnerability of foreign service staff. It is important that an incident before the occurrence or incidents already threatening integrity be tackled immediately and properly, as the exponential impact of future incidents in the most vulnerable areas is likely to occur, said the Director of the SAO.
The National Anti-Corruption Programme
On May 27, 2015 by the decree 1336/2015 the government adopted the National Anti-Corruption Programme and the related measures for 2015-2018. The program has set itself the primary goal of reducing the social phenomenon of corruption, but also includes objectives such as strengthening public confidence in the functioning of public organizations or improving the international opinion on the country.
In accordance with the objectives, the government decree stipulates that the public administration bodies should be able to cope with the corruption risks on which, based on the experience of the State Audit Office of Hungary, the integrity controls should be emphasized and strengthened. The decision also foresees the possibility of joining the public sector institutions in the SAO Integrity Survey and the extension of the survey to the companies of state-majority ownership.
In the context of the government’s decision, the State Audit Office of Hungary will continue to pay particular attention to supporting the implementation of the National Anti-Corruption Programme, disseminating the culture of integrity and actively contributing to any initiatives in this field.
Erzsébet Németh PhD supervisory manager
Szabolcs Gergely auditor