Conflict of interest in policing and the public sector: Ethics, integrity and social accountability

Gordon Boyce*, Cindy Davids

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Conflicts of interest are a key factor in the contemporary decline of trust in government and public institutions, eroding public trust in government and democratic systems. Drawing on two unique empirical studies involving policing and the broader public sector, this paper explores the meaning and dimensions of conflict of interest by examining public complaints about conflict of interest and providing distinctive insights into the nature of conflict of interest as a problem for public sector ethics. The paper analyses and explores appropriate regulatory and management approaches for conflict of interest, focusing on three elements: (1) dealing with private interests that are identifiably problematic in the way they clash with the duties of public officials; (2) managing conflicts as they arise in the course of public sector work (manifested in preferential and adverse treatment, and other problematic areas); and (3) developing ethical and accountable organizational cultures. It is concluded that effective and meaningful public sector ethics in the pursuit of the public interest must be based on an ethos of social accountability and a commitment to prioritise the public interest in both fact and appearance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)601-640
Number of pages40
JournalPublic Management Review
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2009


  • Accountability
  • Conflict of interest
  • Ethics
  • Policing
  • Public sector


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