Conflict of Interest Policy for Commonwealth Government employees and contractors

Commonwealth Government Employee means a person employed by a Commonwealth department or agency under the Public Service Act 1999, whether full-time or part-time, in an ongoing or non-ongoing capacity.

Contractor means a person employed by an external company who is providing services under the supervision of a government department or agency, where the agency specifies how the work is to be undertaken and has control over the final form of any resulting output.

Information on this page:

Purpose

This document outlines the responsibilities of Commonwealth Government employees and contractors to address real or perceived conflicts of interests that may arise in relation to the administration of Commonwealth Government programs.

It also provides advice to organisations that have received grants and believe that a Commonwealth Government employee that they have dealings with may not be acting impartially due to a real or perceived conflict of interest.

Conflict of interest disclosure process

What is a conflict of interest?

A conflict of interest may occur when there is a real or perceived conflict between a Commonwealth Government employee or contractor’s personal interest, pecuniary (financial) or non-pecuniary (personal), and their official duties. Where there is a real or perceived conflict of interest it is inappropriate for the Commonwealth Government employee or contractor to be involved in or to make decisions that may be affected by their personal interest.

Pecuniary interest is an interest that a Commonwealth Government employee or contractor may have in a matter because of the reasonable likelihood or expectation of appreciable financial gain or loss to the employee or contractor.

Non-pecuniary interest is an interest that a Commonwealth Government employee or contractor may have in a matter because it may involve family or other relationships and/or friendships or other interests that do not involve financial gain or loss.

Basic information

  • Financial interests may cover such things as real estate, shareholdings, trusts or nominee companies, company directorships or partnerships, other investments, assets or substantial sources of income, gifts, sponsored travel and hospitality.
  • Personal interests may include personal relationships such as sporting, social or cultural activities as well as family, sexual or other relationships.
  • Commonwealth Government employees must notify their manager where there is a real or potential conflict of interest.
  • Commonwealth Government employees should take reasonable steps to avoid or remove themselves from the real or potential conflict of interest.
  • Commonwealth Government employees wishing to engage in outside employment, including in a voluntary capacity, who suspect there may be a real or perceived conflict of interest with their departmental responsibilities, should seek approval to undertake these activities prior to commencing the outside employment
  • Commonwealth Government Senior Executive Service employees are required to provide a statement of their private interests to be examined for potential conflicts of interest.
  • Contractors are required to advise of potential conflicts of interest as part of their contracts.

Examples of a conflict of interest

  • Departmental employee is the director of a family company that may be affected by policy changes being considered in their work area.
  • Departmental employee may be assessing tenders from companies in which they or a relative have an interest. This involvement could lead to the perception that they were subject to bias.
  • Departmental employee is in a position to assess grants to a community group to which they belong.
  • Departmental employee on a selection panel has a personal relationship with an applicant for the position. This could be seen as providing an unfair advantage and may be a violation of the APS Code of Conduct.

What should a Commonwealth Government employee or contactor do if a conflict of interest arises?

A Commonwealth Government employee or contractor must:

  • advise their manager immediately if they believe that a conflict of interest will arise with their official duties and their financial or personal interests by completing the Conflict of Interest Disclosure Form
  • take immediate action to ensure that they remove themselves from the potential conflict of interest situation, including removing themselves from involvement in any related recommending, approval or decision-making process. They may need to be assigned to different duties on a short or long term basis to ensure the conflict is avoided, and
  • advise their manager of any future change in their personal circumstances that may affect the action already taken.

What are Commonwealth Government managers required to do in relation to conflicts of interest?

Managers have the responsibility to decide whether:

  • there is, or could be, a conflict of interest
  • it is reasonable and necessary to ask the employee or contractor to divest the interest
  • to change the employee’s or contractor’s duties or to transfer the employee to other duties where there is no conflict
  • it is appropriate to allow the employee or contractor to continue their current duties, with or without some modifications, and/or
  • to terminate a contract..

Managers must discuss the issue with and advise the employee or contractor of the action to be taken and the reasons for the decision.

What should you do if you believe a Commonwealth Government employee with whom you have dealings has a real or perceived conflict of interest?

You should contact the agency’s complaints team. Agencies’ complaint processes are detailed on their websites.