Conflict of interest guidelines updated

The Governance Institute of Australia has updated its public sector guidelines for managing conflict of interest, taking into account new recommendations by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption.

CEO Megan Motto says the new guidelines recognise the fact that public sector leaders are held to high standards of governance and are expected to manage any potential conflicts in a way that protects the public interest.

Failure to do so can compromise public confidence in the integrity of an entire agency, she says.

That view was raised in ICAC’s Managing Conflicts of interest in the NSW Public Sector report, which stressed the need for public sector employees to declare and manage all conflicts of interest to protect the public interest.

Conflict of interest exists, the ICAC report says, “when a reasonable person might perceive that a public official’s personal interest(s) could be favoured over their public duties”.

This could include concealing or failing to disclose a conflict of interest, favouring a personal interest over public duty and improperly influencing others to favour a personal interest.

Updated advice

“In light of some of the findings by the ICAC, we felt it was timely to provide some updated advice around conflicts of interest,” Ms Motto told Government News.

“Put simply, our guidelines are designed to help those in positions of responsibility manage the risks of being influenced or appearing to be influenced by personal interests whilst making decisions.”

The guidelines are designed to help people in positions of authority manage the risk of being influenced by personal interests. They include measures ranging from conflict of interest policy for general staff through to risk management frameworks tailored for high-risk roles.

They also provide a checklist of potential sources of conflict of interest and circumstances where a conflict of interest can arise, both personal and financial, and provide a comprehensive list of resources.

The report says the relationship between the community and government is more complex than in the business world, where customers can “shop around”, and public sector entities have a responsibility to operate with proper stewardship of public resources.

“Our recommendations are that these steps are not taken in isolation from one another – you’ve got to encourage a culture in your workplace that is proactive in looking for actual and potential conflicts and freely discloses them,” Ms Motto says.

The Guide is available at the Governance Institute of Australia’s online resource centre.

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