In developing scenarios the aim is to take cases in which people in public office have to make a decision and which might range from
1. Simple bureaucratic decisions
2. Decisions where one option is the right one, but where it comes with costs (in the broadest terms) for the office holder
3. Decisions where there is a genuine clash of possibly judgments and these must be in some way resolved.
Scenario A: An official who grants licenses for small businesses is asked by a friend to fast-track his (the friend’s) application.
Scenario B: A planning official is asked to make a decision on the development of a site where the paperwork from the applicant is not completed, but where the applicant is a senior but distant family member whom the official does not wish to offend
Scenario C: A Minister responsible for a public hospital at X has decided that it is uneconomical to keep the hospital running and has decided to merge it with a bigger hospital in the next town. The decision will cause local controversy. At a routine press conference he is asked what plans there are for the hospital at X. He could say, ‘nothing is yet decided’, or he could say ‘it will have to be closed’ – but saying the latter would mean that the press conference would become heated and difficult.
The following are some scenarios that have been used in the past in the UK context:
A colleague or friend had a very poor experience when they went to a unit in a hospital for a minor operation. The doctor in charge of the unit provided a poor level of information on the day, did not seem interested in their problems. They were also concerned that the doctor was not telling them the truth about their condition and didn’t seem to provide proper guidance to other staff, such as the nurses, who were responsible for their care. When they complained to the administrator they felt that their complaint wasn’t taken seriously. However, some members of staff were very empathetic and attentive.
What principles or standards are not being implemented or observed?
What would be your response if you were a manager in that hospital?
A local councillor who chairs a major County Committee managing local services has been accused of awarding contracts for delivering services to a relative.
Again, what principles or standards are not being implemented or observed?
Sophie is a minister in the government department responsible for planning. She has been invited to spend two weeks at James’s house in the South of France. James is a wealthy property dealer.
Nick, an MP, has been asked speak in a public debate about the fate of a major company and a campaign for the Government to give financial support to save the company. Nick holds a large number of shares in the company. Nick knows that such an investment cannot save the company in the long term and would be a waste of public money.
Annette a government scientist is asked by a journalist about the risks from a new flu strain. Annette wants the public to be warned about the risks but is worried about causing panic and a rush for flu jabs before plans for inoculating all vulnerable people are put in place.
Arthur is a civil servant in a benefits office. His friend has recently been made redundant and has applied for benefits to help support himself, his family and prevent them losing the family home. Arthur has a large number of cases to process before he gets to his friend’s application for benefits but he wants to help his friend by processing his case before the others.
Sam has just been appointed to shake-up the county’s rubbish collection service. From a previous job she knows a contractor who she thinks would do a much better job. To save time and money she wants to appoint this contractor straight away.
Ed is a local councillor responsible for an unpopular decision to close a local library. The decision has been made – for good reasons – and there is no turning back. A meeting of local residents has been called and Ed has been invited to come and hear their concerns and explain the decision. He knows what the residents will say and that there is nothing he can do to address their concerns. As a result he does not see any point in turning up to the meeting.
We are interested in using such examples from the UK as a basis for exploring how such cases might look in other country contexts with a view to adapting them so that they can be useful in training for public office. In doing so, we are conscious of problems and tensions involved in the exercise of both administrative and political office, and of trying to represent varying degrees of complexity. Moreover, certainly in Kenya, although the 'Nolan principles' are essentially enshrined in chapter 6 of the constitution, we are interested in seeing how these principles are interpreted in concrete terms on the ground in specific cases and whether auxiliary or other principles might in fact guide people's responses. We are also interested in whether all types of wrong-doing or poor conduct are thought to be captured by those principles.