The NSW ICAC has published new conflict of interest FAQs for managers and public officials and a new sample policy.
Members of society have an expectation that public officials, along with their close connections and associates, should never be in a position to obtain an undue personal benefit as a result of the public official doing their job. This reflects the view that public office is held for the public good, not the purposes or benefits of the officeholder.
The 2019 ICAC publication, Managing Conflicts of Interest in the NSW Public Sector, sets out the ICAC’s detailed guidance in relation to conflicts of interest.
A conflict of interest exists when a reasonable person might perceive that a public official’s personal interest(s) could be favoured over their public duties.
The guidance puts forward four elements to consider when determining whether a conflict of interest exists:
* Does the official have a personal interest?
* Does the official have a public duty?
* Is there a connection between the personal interest and the public duty?
* Could a reasonable person perceive that the personal interest might be favoured?
The guidance recommends that agencies manage conflicts of interest as follows:
* Establish a Conflicts of Interest Policy
* Identify and manage vulnerable units and branches
* Avoid unnecessary conflicts of interest
* Disclose personal interests and conflicts of interest
* Manage and monitor conflicts of interest
* Be proactive in looking for conflicts of interest
* Evaluate and audit your controls framework
* Deal with breaches
We would also add:
* Train staff at all levels with respect to the Conflicts of Interest Policy
* Use technology to help identify conflicts of interest
* Continually improve your controls framework and learn from the mistakes (and successes) of other organisations
Organisations will benefit from checking whether they have implemented each of the above elements within their environment.