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London Conference

The Construction of Public Office and the Pursuit of Integrity:
4th July 2018, 9.30 – 18.30 in London
To be held in the British Institute in Eastern Africa (BIEA)
10 Carlton Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AH


Paper on the concept of Public Office by Mark Philp

Paper on Public Service in Kenya by Dr E. Achoch

Expectations of Integrity in Public Office in Kenya by William Otieno Agunda

Public Service Integrity by Evelyn Maureen Adhiambo

Was Samuel Pepys Corrupt? by Mark Knights

A paper by David Pérez-Esparza on violence in the elections of public officials in Mexico is available at:

Mudida and Rubaii paper on the use of Case Studies in Teaching Public Policy in Developing Countries (Kenya and Colombia)

Briefing Note for Kenyan participants

Directions from the Airport

Africanists may also wish to consider the 2018 report from the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Public Service in Africa


This day-long workshop/conference will explore the understandings of public office that have grown up and shaped the behaviour of those in politics and public administration in modern Britain, Kenya and Mexico. It starts from the recognition that such understandings are deeply affected by national experience and that different experiences issue in distinctive ways of conceiving of the relationships between politics and administration and the public and the private, and of understanding the responsibilities of those who hold office. We see these constructions as historically rooted, so that, even though there is pressure for a common understanding of good governance across all states, each state has to negotiate its own embedded sets of relationships and expectations in reflecting on how to meet the aspirations for a public service with integrity. The workshop will also examine a range of different ways of approaching the promotion of public integrity.

I.9.45: Introductions and Introductory Address: The current UK Experience – Lord Paul Bew, Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life – the ongoing search for integrity in British political life

II. 10.45 -11.45: The UK and the Concept of Public Office
Mark Knights, University of Warwick – changing expectations of office holders in the UK from the 17th to the 19th century.
Emma Crewe, Westminster MPs and their expenses
Mark Philp, University of Warwick – identifying the multiple dimensions of public office.

11.45-1.00: Case studies from Kenya and Mexico Pt 1
(We have several invitees from both Mexico and Kenya and hope that they will think about the contribution they can make to the following topics. Over the weeks before the conference I will solicit offers, and make requests for people to speak briefly – 5 minutes or so - on their understanding of one or two of these dimensions.)

The legacy of colonial eras in Mexico and Kenya in the Construction of Public Office
Here we are looking for a brief summary of the evolution of ideas of public office in Kenya and Mexico, the colonial legacy, but also understandings of patrimonial relations, responsibilities of local politicians and leaders etc.

Expectations of integrity – and the means to achieve it in Kenya and Mexico: coercion, incentives, virtues, practices
How do ordinary people (and how do those in the public service, and those in politics) understand the responsibilities of office and the nature of integrity? And how is this cultivated or enforced – through what mechanisms; what incentives, what are the sanctions for misconduct (and how consistently are they enforced)? If you work in the public sector, thinking about how you get people to perform well in their job, what resources are there to encourage this and promote high standards of conduct?

The place of law in Kenyan and Mexican politics
The interest here is how far politics dominates the interpretation of law; and how far law has resources to challenge decisions made in the political arena

Are there distinctive responsibilities/entitlements of political office in Kenya and Mexico?
How do people see political office – its responsibilities to those who elect them, to the public at large, to the political system and the constitution? And how do those in political office relate to those in administrative public office? How far is the public service relatively independent? Which parts of the political system are seen as powerful and which not?

What are the major challenges to public sector reform?
In your country what sectors of the public service work best (and why, and on what criteria?). Which work least well (and why, and on what criteria?). What reform attempts have had success; and what least? How have reforms been attempted – by whom, using what mechanisms and powers, to what ends?

III. 2.00- 3.00: Case studies from Kenya and Mexico Pt 2 contd.

IV. 3.15-5.30 Dimensions of Integrity
(In this session we want to discuss different ways of approaching the promotion of probity in public office, looking at a variety of theoretical approaches and considering their application in different national and institutional contexts).

Relying on interests vs relying on values (Incentives vs integrity)
Do people do what they do in public office because it is in their interests – because positively rewarded or negatively sanctioned – or because they have integrity, the right commitments and beliefs, and where do these come from?

The problem of culture (social, institutional, political) - virtue ethics
Should we think of countries, or parts of the public service as having a particular culture, which shapes and determines people’s behaviour, and that can support certain virtues, but may equally re-inforce certain vices and negative practices?

Working from practices
How much do we know about what people actually do – and how they navigate their responsibilities – and what do we know about the way in which people make choices under demanding conditions?

Nudge involves creating relatively minor and often subliminal prompts in people’s environments to get them to behave differently. If you want to promote healthy eating, you put fruit, not candy bars need the till. Has your institution ever thought about using nudge techniques to prompt change? What are the pro’s and cons of a nudge approach?

The place of judgement – proverbs, narratives, parables – hard cases
Is there much recognition of the importance of judgment in decision making – or do people expect to have to follow rules. Are there resources for thinking about public office in local proverbs, and common stories – and are there forums in which these more traditional resources might be drawn on to shape behaviour. How are difficult decisions handled within your organisation?

(We are still finalising the list of UK attendees for Day 1 – but they will include the Warwick team (David Anderson, Daniel Branch, Ben Smith and myself), plus Dominic Burbidge (Oxford), Abigail Adams (Oxford), Gerhard Anders (Edinburgh), Lord Bew (CSPL), Lesley Bainsfair (CSPL), Emma Crewe, (SOAS), Paul Heywood (Nottingham), Elizabeth David-Barrett (Sussex), Nicola Smith (FCO), Andrew Paxman (Cide, Mexico City), Barbara Zepeda (Lehigh, PA), Robert Mudida (Strathmore, Nairobi), John Osogo Ambani (Strathmore, Nairobi), Peter Wekesa (Kenyatta University, Nairobi), William Agunda (Kenya), David Sperling (Strathmore, Nairobi), Evelyn Adhiambo (Kenya), Elijah Achoch (Kenya), Sheila Mukunya (Kenya), Carlos Perez Ricart (Oxford), Nathaniel Morris (UCL), Nikolas Kirby (Blavatnik,Oxford).

We will also be writing to people to invite and request contributions to particular sessions. The aim of the workshop is to encourage discussion and debate, rather than have extensive prepared papers. But we will make available in advance a range of material on these issues, adding to those at the top of this page.

There will be a conference dinner on the evening of the 4th July in Central London to which all participants are invited.
5th July 2018
To be held at the Committee on Standards in Public Life, The Treasury, 1 Horse Guards Road, Westminster

This will be a workshop principally with the participants from Kenya and the organisers to develop a set of scenarios that might be used in training members of the Kenyan public service, and those in the devolved administrations.

Material will be circulated in advance. Participants are encouraged to think about different scenarios of the choices people face in public office in their area of activity, and to bring examples of these. Some might be cases in which there is wide consensus on what sort of conduct is expected. But we are also interested in looking at harder cases where judgement is called for and which can be controversial.
Mark Philp
University of Warwick