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ETHICS FRAMEWORK

IMF Updates Standards for Staff Conduct

August 05, 2013


The IMF has revised its standards of conduct for staff, bringing to fruition more than two years of work on strengthening the institution's ethical framework.

The enhanced standards of conduct introduce new reporting requirements on close personal relationships in the workplace and update the institution's policies on harassment and discrimination. They also reinforce protection against retaliation for staff who report suspected misconduct, while clarifying procedures for conducting and overseeing investigations of such misconduct.

The process of updating the standards of staff contact and related disciplinary procedures has been under way since 2009. Led by the IMF's Ethics Advisor, this work involved broad collaboration and consultation across the institution, including a working group on staff conduct with diverse staff membership, and the Staff Association Committee. The Fund also benchmarked its policies against those of comparator institutions and reviewed best practices in a cross-section of other organizations.

“Clear and well-defined policies and procedures are essential for establishing a strong ethical foundation, and are in keeping with the Fund's commitment to promoting transparency and accountability,” said Virginia Canter, a former Associate Counsel to the President of the United States who has served as Ethics Advisor since early 2010. “These standards help create a positive, respectful, and productive workplace.”

The updated standards were approved by IMF Deputy Managing Director Nemat Shafik on May 6.

More accessible format

The new standards, published as a General Administrative Order of the IMF, display the information in a more concise, clear way, making it easier for staff to find and interpret the institution's rules. This latest periodic review of the IMF's policies and rules on employee conduct provided an opportunity to revamp the presentation of the standards on the institution's website.

The main enhancements to the standards of conduct include:

• a new policy on close personal relationships in the workplace, which requires that a supervisor who has an intimate personal relationship with a subordinate report such relationship to the Ethics Advisor, his/her supervisor, or the Human Resources Department to seek resolution to potential conflict of interests and workplace fairness concerns. Failure to report and then resolve the potential conflict of interest constitutes misconduct and is grounds for disciplinary action.

• a new policy concerning protection against retaliation: retaliation against a staff member for reporting suspected misconduct or participating in the Fund's dispute resolution system has been added explicitly as a form of misconduct;

• greater emphasis on prevention and early resolution in policies on harassment and discrimination. The IMF's policy on harassment, including sexual harassment, already made clear that harassment in any form is not tolerated, constitutes misconduct, and triggers disciplinary actions up to and including termination of employment, but the new standards of conduct emphasize early action; and

• an update of investigative and disciplinary procedures, including clarifying the respective authority of the Ethics Advisor, Human Resources Department Director, and other IMF officials.

Ethics framework

“The IMF's ethics framework is consistent with best practice and compares well with that of other organizations,” says Canter. “The staff has a variety of channels to report misconduct, and each incident of misconduct is investigated and dealt with independently, rigorously, and fairly.”

The ethics framework includes a comprehensive set of rules and procedures for disciplinary action, supported by a robust infrastructure that includes the independent Ethics Advisor, an independent Ombudsperson, and the recently established Integrity Hotline, which enables staff and the general public to report misuse of IMF resources or misconduct by staff or vendors securely and anonymously.