SECTION 1. UNPACKING THE RULE OF LAW, ACCOUNTABILITY AND THE PUBLIC TRUST
7. PUBLIC TRUST
With the implementation of Rule of Law and Accountability, Public Trust falls into place. Under thin or thick theories of the Rule of Law, the powers of officials do not belong to them but are entrusted to them. Those trustees must use only the powers they have been given. They must be exercised in prescribed ways, for permitted purposes and only to further the interests of the citizenry. The link between trust, integrity and corruption is emphasised by an analysis of the latter terms.
A widespread definition of corruption, used by Transparency International and many others is ‘the abuse of entrusted power for personal [including party political[i]] gain’. Integrity has been succinctly defined as the obverse side of the corruption coin: ‘the use of entrusted power for publicly justified and officially endorsed purposes.’
We note that the analogy to trustees and beneficiaries throws up some differences. In normal trust law, the beneficiaries do not have a say in the trustee and how the trust property is used. In a democracy, the beneficiaries have the ultimate say. To some extent, public trust reflects pre-democratic paternalism that has been transcended by constitutionalism, the separation of powers and integrity systems. However, it is a very effective way of reminding citizens and officials that the power belongs to the former to be used for their benefit.
[i] In many developing countries, political corruption takes the form of self-enrichment and TI’s founding chair, Dr Peter Eigen was motivated by his experiences with the World Bank in Africa. However, corruption in the US and Japan largely funds electioneering. Peter was initially wary of making the obvious extension for fear of offending Americans. He accepted the point.