Honesty in Administration
Address to heads of departments involved in public administration
Santiago, 15 December 1970
The problem is quite a serious one, for we are working out our way as we go. We are not yet a socialist country, nor are we working our way towards a state of workers' control. We are a government which has told the country that it is going to make changes within legal terms, and to create three distinct areas in the economy. And we have to be sure that we are able to carry out these plans. There is no one who can show us the way, for it is a way we have chosen by ourselves and, perhaps fortunately, we have no models to imitate.
It is up to us to find our own way. But at each step we take we shall meet difficulties which will become greater as we go on. That is why we shall need the co-operation of Civil Servants, in order to share ideas, make suggestions and make criticisms from an internal point of view. Nothing would give me personally greater satisfaction, for example, than that such criticism should be made via the ministers in charge, via the heads of department, the under-secretaries, or, if all other channels prove to be undeniably unfair, inconvenient or misguided, then directly to the President. It is better to admit a mistake than to persist in it.
I am and shall remain quite intransigent. No thing or person shall prevent me from taking action against a dishonest official. No party leader, nor persuasion of any kind, will incline me to change my standards. Once misconduct has been proved, if the head of department does not take action, then both the dishonest official and the head of department will be dismissed, for the latter is responsible for his department. This is my first and last warning to you on this matter, for this is how things must be. There must be no old-boy network, no nepotism of a political or family nature, no favouritism of any kind. We shall soon be submitting a bill concerning probity in administration, not merely to add to all the other bills, but so as to establish a legal requirement with which we shall all have to comply.
We have reached an agreement amongst the parties to establish a proportional responsibility that will not give to any one party control of the area of public administration, but will ensure that such responsibility is equitably distributed. But the officials too must display sufficient sense of duty not to put their party political allegiances before their professional competence and duties.
Administrators in senior positions are nominated by me and not by the political parties. Not one of you owes his position to a party. I have stated categorically that you are officials of the public administration and that I am the Head of State. I am not yielding this prerogative and I shall allow no one to abuse it. In order to assess a man's suitability, I shall require, not lists of names in triplicate, but a record of his achievements.