Conflicts of Interest and the Importance of the Organizational Variable: A Comparison Among Canada, the United States and Mexico

Author:David Arellano-Gault - Laura Zamudio-Gonzalez - Walter Lepore
Position:Public Administration, University of Colorado, USA. CIDE, Mexico, City, USA - Social Sciences, Iberoamericana University, Mexico City, USA - CIDE, Mexico, City, USA
The Open Law Journal, 2011, 4, 1-14 1
1874-950X/11 2011 Bentham Open
Open Access
Conflicts of Interest and the Importance of the Organizational Variable: A
Comparison Among Canada, the United States and Mexico
David Arellano-Gault*,1,3, Laura Zamudio-Gonzalez2 and Walter Lepore3
1Public Administration, University of Colorado, USA, 2Social Sciences, Iberoamericana University, Mexico City, USA;
3CIDE, Mexico, City, USA
Abstract: The aim of this document is to advance our understanding of the costs and perils faced by any country when
looking for tackling real and possible conflict of interests among public officials. In effect, there are regulatory, organiza-
tional, and institutional difficulties and costs related with the implementation of reforms aimed to combat or prevent real
and potential conflicts of interest. This discussion is vitally important above all to developing countries such as Mexico
given that the effectiveness, cost and impact of this tool up until now applied to different countries has achieved rather
heterogeneous results. The main objective of this paper is to enhance the importance of the organizational dimension
whenever a regulatory framework to control conflict of interests is placed or implemented. Public organizations are not
merely instruments adaptable to the orders and instructions stemming from regulations and rules. In this sense, the regula-
tory (both formal and “soft”) framework should take in consideration the concrete organizational effects of the rules and
institutions designed to change the behavior of actors. Developing a comparison of regulatory, institutional and organiza-
tional strategies applied in Canada, Mexico and USA we seek to show that the organizational dimension is critical in order
to understand the “real” net effect achieved when dealing with complex behaviors like the ones which drive social and po-
litical acto rs to face conflic t of interests situatio ns.
Keywords: Conflict of interest, corruption, public orgnizations, Mexico.
Over the last thirty years or so the literature specialized
on management and public policy has been seemingly domi-
nated by the debate on New Public Management. Often
enough, the focus of this debate has centered primarily on
the analysis of questions such as the efficien cy, effectiveness
and productivity of government action. However, despite the
effort made to consider this debate as one that is largely
“technical” in nature, the moral and ethical aspects of this
argument that go hand in hand with public action have not
escaped discussion either. The (re)incorporation of certain
fundamental yet widely disputed values –such as justice,
equality and the equal treatment of citizens– to the discus-
sion on paper of public management in a liberal democracy
has been the main preoccupation of a number of specialists
on the matter (Wade, 1992; Anderson, 1992; Frederickson,
1997; Gregory,1999; Ventriss, 2000; Kliksberg, 2006;
amongst others). The ethical standards of public manage-
ment in this field continue to be disputed. Nevertheless, it
has become more and more apparent that the intention to
make them instrumental collides systematically with the di-
versity and uncertainty inherent in the relations and con-
structs generated within government organizations.
All government intervention potentially implies that mul-
tiple interests will be affected. As a result, the discussion of
*Address correspondence to this author at the Public Administration Divi-
sion. Carretera Mexico Toluca 3655. DF Mexico 01210, USA; Tel: (5255)
57279805, USA; Fax: (5255) 57279805; E-mail:;
E-mail: gaultin@gm
values and ethical standards is a fundamental requirement to
facing these challenges effectively. It could be said that the
ultimate goal is to create and maintain confidence that the
government makes its decisions objectively, or at least im-
partially (Thompson, 1992).
A particular focal point in the discussion with respect to
the construction of good government from the viewpoint of
the debate on ethics is that related to combating and prevent-
ing conflicts of interest of public officials. In other words,
prevent the “intromission” of private interests in the per-
formance of government activities and control the interrela-
tion between public officials and actors outside the govern-
ment apparatus who may undermine their “good judgment”
or lessen their desire to perform correctly and in the public
interest. The last few decades have seen this problem take
greater relevance as a result of the increased participation
and hiring of the private sector to carry out government ac-
tivities, wider diversity of government functions and greater
discretion granted to public officials to better allow them to
improve their performance (Graham, 1974). For these rea-
sons and in view of the likelihood that these types of reforms
in the style of New Public Management have increased the
impact of external influences on the behavior of public offi-
cials, creating and maintaining public confidence in the in-
tegrity of the government apparatus is a primary concern
once more.
The aim of this document is to enhance the critical im-
portance of the organizational variable when building regula-
tions and designing institutions to deal with conflict of inter-
est in the public sector. This discussion is vitally important
above all to developing countries such as Mexico given that

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