No. 5




The Constitutional and Political Limits to Preventing Work-related Conflicts of Interest

14 June 2002


RiTo No. 5, 2002

The term conflict of interest is central to anti-corruption regulation, since many different codes of economic law are directed at preventing them.

The legal definition of conflict of interest is provided by the anti-corruption law’s Article 25, paragraph 1, which states it as the case when an official in the framework of his job description and duties must make or participate in the making of a decision that significantly affects his own economic interests or of those of his close relatives.

A conflict of interest is an ethical dilemma, one where the civil servant’s personal interest may compromise the neutral and objective fulfilment of his public duty. An example is when an official receives a job offer from a company that wishes to participate in a state tender, or if an official must decide on the location of a new highway when one of the options would significantly decrease the price of a property he owns.

The writer believes that the restrictions in place for local government employees are unconstitutional, especially considering the fact that restrictions to free enterprise in place for local government employees are often in everyday life in breach of Article 11 of the Constitution on the principle of proportionality. Many municipalities are small and the nature of the work such that it would be hard to adhere to these restrictions. At the same time, it should be noted that local government employees are subject to the same rules of neutrality as national government officials, and the same goes for the obligation to declare their economic interests (this is justified and conforms to the principle of proportionality).

The writer supports a system where a strict prohibition would only apply where it was objectively necessary. Considering the stiff competition between public and private sector in Estonia, easing the restrictions is something to consider.

Full article in Estonian