ICAC issues guide for writing conflicts of interest policy

By Shannon Jenkins

Monday January 13, 2020

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The New South Wales corruption watchdog has released a new conflicts of interest sample policy along with FAQs for public servants.

The sample document can be used by public sector agencies to help them develop or refine their own policies for preventing and managing conflicts of interest, according to the commission.

ICAC has also uploaded a range of FAQs onto its website, which will be updated periodically. For managers, issues range from their responsibilities when it comes to making staff aware of policies and procedures, to taking action when staff have failed to declare conflicts of interest. FAQs for public officials provide information on topics including unintentional bias, “information barriers”, working with contractors, and internal audits.

A control framework that agencies can use as a starting point for handling conflicts of interest has also been supplied. It calls on entities to:

  • 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,
  • Be proactive in looking for conflicts of interest,
  • Evaluate and audit the control framework,
  • Deal with breaches.

Read more in Mandarin Premium: Why conflicts of interest cannot be ignored: IBAC probes alleged corruption in the City of Casey

An accompanying ICAC publication, Managing conflicts of interest in the public sector, states that the areas of highest risk include procurement and disposal, contract management, inspections, regulation, issuing fines or penalties, awarding grants or subsidies, granting access to natural resources, recruitment, and conferring qualifications or licences.

It also outlines four elements to consider when determining whether a conflict of interest exists:

  1. Does the official have a personal interest?
  2. Does the official have a public duty?
  3. Is there a connection between the personal interest and the public duty?
  4. Could a reasonable person perceive that the personal interest might be favoured?

The paper notes that conflicts of interest do not necessarily equate to corruption, but corruption can eventuate if a conflict of interest is “concealed, understated, mismanaged or abused”.

Aside from producing guides, the commission has also recently joined Twitter — @nswicac — where it has been providing regular updates on its operations.

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