City of Copenhagen employees and politicians cannot accept a Tivoli Pass

The group of political party chairpersons of the City Council of the City of Copenhagen have determined that politicians cannot accept annual cards from the amusement park Tivoli Gardens.

The City of Copenhagen says so in a reply to the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

Last month, the Ombudsman asked the City of Copenhagen a number of questions regarding city employees’ and City Council politicians’ possible acceptance of an annual card from Tivoli Gardens, a Tivoli Pass. The Ombudsman’s questions were due to media coverage that several City Council members had received a Tivoli Pass as a gift from Tivoli Gardens.

The Ombudsman has informed the City of Copenhagen that he agrees that it is not in accordance with the principles applying to public employees’ acceptance of gifts and other benefits for City Council members to accept gifts of that nature.

‘The rules that, as a clear basic principle, public employees are not allowed to accept gifts from citizens or enterprises contribute to ensure that it cannot be called into question that the public authorities act in an objective and impartial way’, says Parliamentary Ombudsman Niels Fenger. ‘I am satisfied with the City of Copenhagen’s reply, and on that background I take no further steps in the matter.’

Read the letter from the Ombudsman to the City of Copenhagen here (in Danish only).

Further details:

Director of International Relations, Klavs Kinnerup Hede, kkh@ombudsmanden.dk

FACTS

As a clear basic principle, public employees are not allowed to accept gifts or other benefits from citizens or enterprises that they are offered in connection with their work.

The concept ‘gifts and other benefits’ must be understood in a broad sense and covers both physical items, such as chocolate, wine and books, and non-physical items, such as offers of discounts, paid travel, courses or meals. There is no specific minimum value threshold for when it is a gift.

Apart from the provision on bribery in the Danish Criminal Code, the question of public employees’ acceptance of gifts and other benefits are regulated by the general principles of administrative law.

The rules must help ensure that there can be no doubt about the employees’ objectivity and impartiality in the performance of their duties. In addition, the rules must help ensure that mistrust does not arise about the considerations behind the public administration’s decisions and conclusions.

The guide Code of Conduct in the Public Sector, published by the then Agency of Modernisation in cooperation with Local Government Denmark and Danish Regions, conveys the rules in detail and provides, among other things, guidelines for when public employees as an exception are allowed to accept gifts etc., subject to an individual assessment.

The guide states the following on public cultural events:

‘As a general rule, public employees should not participate in public cultural events, etc. paid for by citizens or private enterprises if the invitation to the event is triggered by the public employee’s office or function. This covers, for examples, offers of free tickets to concerts, sports events or similar, and it applies regardless of whether the timing of the event lies adjacent to a work-related activity or event.

Example: After signing a contract, an IT provider sends admission tickets to a rock concert to the managers and employees involved in the contract negotiations.

Example: A number of managers in a public authority each accept a seasonal pass to an amusement park from an enterprise with whom they have cooperative relations.

In both cases, the gifts would need to be returned.’