Values and civil service ethics

Public administration is ultimately about acting on an authorisation granted by the citizens, on citizens’ funds, and in the citizens’ interest. When we talk about civil service ethics and morale, we refer to the general values and principles that concern public officials. As they exercise public power, the authorities and officials have the responsibility to ensure that their actions meet the requirements of impartiality, independence and fairness, among other things. The public official has a particular relation with the citizen, and a public service employment relationship comes with values and principles associated with this fact.

Central government values

One objective of central government personnel policy is to reinforce and draw on the government’s shared underlying values and uniform operating culture. These values were defined in the Government decision in principle on state personnel policy line adopted in 2001, which states that central government activities are value based and of a high ethical standard. Reinforcing the underlying values and high ethical standards means that all personnel members adopt these values as part of their daily work. 

The shared underlying values of the central government are effectiveness, transparency, quality and strong expertise, trust, the service principle, impartiality and independence, equality and responsibility. 

A manual to support work on values

Values in daily life - Public officials’ code of ethics (2005) is a handbook intended to support central government units and officials in translating the values and ethical principles into practices. The handbook describes the content of the central government’s shared values as well as the key principles of a public official’s position and leadership from the perspective of maintaining high ethical standards. Giving this handbook to supervisors and personnel members and using it as induction and training material is recommended. 

Action plan on civil service ethics 2018–2022  

The Public Governance Department of the Ministry of Finance has prepared a plan of actions for promoting a high standard of ethics among public officials.

Action plan on civil service ethics 2018-2022 (in Finnish) 

Training on civil service ethics 

The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Justice published a training package on civil service ethics on 17 December 2019. This package intended for central government agencies, which takes half a day to complete, contains the basics of civil service ethics and anti-corruption actions, providing public officials with tools for ethically sustainable work. 

If your agency is planning a training day on ethics, please contact valtionhallinto(at)vm.fi for detailed instructions on running the day (slides and use of an electronic tool).

Sample slides for a training day on ethics (in Finnish)

You can also find training on civil service ethics in the central government’s digital learning environment, eOppiva, where two courses have been published: Introduction to civil service ethics and Civil service ethics in practice (both in Finnish). Public officials are encouraged to complete these courses on eOppiva. 


International work on ethics

The Ministry of Finance’s Public Governance Department participates in the work on reinforcing good governance and high ethical standards in the member states carried out by the Directorate of Public Governance in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This work has included developing tools for preventing conflicts of interest and evaluating how well the member states have attained their integrity and good governance targets. OECD has published the ‘OECD Recommendation for Public Integrity’, which offers decisionmakers a new type of starting point for formulating a strategy on integrity in public administration. The recommendation shifts the focus from ad hoc integrity policies to a context dependent, behavioural, riskbased approach with an emphasis on cultivating a culture of integrity across the whole of society.

Further information 

Post Government employment waiting, 10 August 2017  
Hospitality, benefits and gifts, 23 August 2017 
The state of civil servants ethics and morals - citizens' survey results  
State of Civil Service Ethics in Finland, August 2017
Comparative Study on the Publicservice Ethics of the EU Member States 20017
OECD Ethics and Corruption in the Public Sector 
Public Sector Integrity: A framework for assessment 
TI - Transparency International 
Prime witnesses? Case studies of staff assessments for monitoring integrity in the European Union
Flyer Integrity in international perspective 

Contact information 

Ministerial Adviser
Timo Moilanen
tel. +358 2955 30455
[email protected] 

Senior Officer for Legal Affairs
Kati Orkola
tel. +358 2955 30108
[email protected]