The Watchdog

Keeping citizens in the loop

‘Key rejects Green’s complaints about corporate hospitality’ – no surprises there – given his track record over his previous undisclosed pecuniary interest in Tranz Rail?

‘Key rejects Green’s complaints about corporate hospitality’ – no surprises there – given his track record over his previous undisclosed pecuniary interest in Tranz Rail?

1 June 2011

www.odt.co.nz/news/politics/163034/key-rejects-greens-complaints-about-corporate-hospitality

Key rejects Green’s complaints about corporate hospitality

Home » News » Political
Wed, 1 Jun 2011

Click photo to enlarge

John Key

John Key

There is nothing wrong with ministers accepting hospitality from the Government’s banker Westpac, and it won’t have any bearing on the decision that will follow a competitive tender process for the contract, Prime Minister John Key says.

The Green Party today released the results of a series of written questions to Government ministers over their relationships with Westpac.

Nine ministers said they had accepted corporate hospitality from Westpac in the past year, including box seats at the rugby sevens, dinner at the White House restaurant in Wellington, and tickets to rock concerts.

Thirteen ministers said their staff had accepted similar hospitality from the bank.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said the ministers accepting personal gifts from Westpac created a potential conflict of interest while the Government was reviewing its banking.

The fact that so many ministers had staff who also accepted Westpac’s largesse is disquieting, given the central role of ministerial staff in influencing the decisions of their busy ministers,” he said.

Dr Norman called for a competitive tender for the master banking contract, and for the Cabinet manual to be more explicit about accepting gifts.

Mr Key told reporters the Greens didn’t have any legitimate concerns.

“The Government has opened the contract to a competitive tender for the first time in 20 years,” he said.

“That process will go through normal procedures…Treasury will make the final decisions.”

Mr Key said ministers and MPs who accepted gifts or hospitality from any organisation, above a certain level, had to disclose it in their register of pecuniary interests.

A spokesman for Finance Minister Bill English said the implication that ministers had been influenced by the bank’s hospitality was wrong.

The Government had negotiated ongoing contractual price reductions for its banking service since 2005, and last year stated its clear intention to run a competitive procurement process for government banking designed to achieve value for money.

“Officials have already begun scoping work on that process, and this will be the first time in over 20 years the Government’s master banking contract has been opened to a competitive process,” the spokesman said.

_____________________________________________________________________

www.odt.co.nz/news/politics/163034/key-rejects-greens-complaints-about-corporate-hospitality

“There is nothing wrong with ministers accepting hospitality from the Government’s banker Westpac, and it won’t have any bearing on the decision that will follow a competitive tender process for the contract, Prime Minister John Key says.”

Well – no surprises there coming from John Key MP from Helensville, who not only failed to disclose his former pecuniary interest in Tranz Rail at a time it was an ‘item of business’ before the House, but then attempted to flush out commercially sensitive information from former Treasurer Michael Cullen the form of an OIA request, then made a complaint to the Ombudsman when this request was declined, on the advice of Treasury?

New Zealand MPs do not have an enforceable ‘Code of Conduct’.

New Zealand does not have a ‘Code of Conduct’  for the lobbying industry to deal with the relationship between current and former members of parliament and the lobbying industry.

New Zealand does not have a ‘Register of Lobbyists’  so that ‘who is meeting the Minister’ is ‘transparent and can be subject to public scrutiny.

New Zealand does not have  any legislative provisions covering post-separation employment of ministers. (The ‘revolving door’ from public office to the private sector).
Following, from ‘across the ditch’ are the Australian Public Sector ‘Values and Code of Conduct’ provisions covering ‘ Personal behaviour – Gifts and benefits’ , and the ‘Codes of Conduct’ covering Ministers and Members of Parliament.

So – how come New Zealand is ‘perceived’ to be the ‘least corrupt country in the world’ (along with Denmark and Singapore), according to Transparency international’s 2010 ‘Corruption Perception Index’?

 

www.apsc.gov.au/values/conductguidelines1.htm

Last updated: 6 May 2009

APS Values and Code of Conduct in practice

Foreword

Public servants exercise authority on behalf of the Australian Government and manage significant financial resources on its behalf. Their actions directly affect the lives of the public and the confidence that the public has in Government. The Australian public, quite rightly, demands high standards of behaviour and ethical conduct from the people entrusted with this responsibility.

Behaving ethically is critical in the public sector. This guide assists APS employees to understand the practical application of the APS ethics framework—the Values and Code of Conduct—in both common and unusual circumstances. It also provides advice for agency heads in establishing policies and procedures that promote the APS Values and ensure compliance with the Code.

The guide does not and cannot answer every question about official conduct and ethics. The principles identified will point to an answer in many cases, as will the more detailed discussion of many issues.

The Ethics Advisory Service is available to help APS employees in making sound ethical choices. More information about the Service can be found at www.apsc.gov.au/ethics.

Lynelle Briggs
Australian Public Service Commissioner

May 2009

____________________________________________________________

www.apsc.gov.au/values/conductguidelines2.htm

APS Values and Code of Conduct in practice

Overview

Australian Public Service Values1

  • The APS is apolitical, performing its functions in an impartial and professional manner.
  • The APS is a public service in which employment decisions are based on merit.
  • The APS provides a workplace that is free from discrimination and recognises and utilises the diversity of the Australian community it serves.
  • The APS has the highest ethical standards.
  • The APS is openly accountable for its actions, within the framework of ministerial responsibilities to the government, the Parliament and the Australian public.
  • The APS is responsive to the government in providing frank, honest, comprehensive, accurate and timely advice and in implementing the Government’s policies and programs.
  • The APS delivers services fairly, effectively, impartially and courteously to the Australian public and is sensitive to the diversity of the Australian public.
  • The APS has leadership of the highest quality.
  • The APS establishes workplace relations that value communication, consultation, cooperation and input from employees on matters that affect their workplace.
  • The APS provides a fair, flexible, safe and rewarding workplace.
  • The APS focuses on achieving results and managing performance.
  • The APS promotes equity in employment.
  • The APS provides a reasonable opportunity to all eligible members of the community to apply for APS employment.
  • The APS is a career-based service to enhance the effectiveness and cohesion of Australia’s democratic system of government.
  • The APS provides a fair system of review of decisions taken in respect to APS employees.

Australian Public Service Code of Conduct2

  • An APS employee must behave honestly and with integrity in the course of APS employment.
  • An APS employee must act with care and diligence in the course of APS employment.
  • An APS employee, when acting in the course of APS employment, must treat everyone with respect and courtesy, and without harassment.
  • An APS employee, when acting in the course of APS employment, must comply with all applicable Australian laws.3
  • An APS employee must comply with any lawful and reasonable direction given by someone in the employee’s Agency who has authority to give the direction.
  • An APS employee must maintain appropriate confidentiality about dealings that the employee has with any minister or minister’s member of staff.
  • An APS employee must disclose, and take reasonable steps to avoid, any conflict of interest (real or apparent) in connection with APS employment.
  • An APS employee must use Commonwealth resources in a proper manner.
  • An APS employee must not provide false or misleading information in response to a request for information that is made for official purposes in connection with the employee’s APS employment.
  • An APS employee must not make improper use of:
    • inside information or
    • the employee’s duties, status, power or authority
  • in order to gain, or seek to gain, a benefit or advantage for the employee or for any other person.
  • An APS employee must at all times behave in a way that upholds the APS Values and the integrity and good reputation of the APS.
  • An APS employee on duty overseas must at all times behave in a way that upholds the good reputation of Australia.
  • An APS employee must comply with any other conduct requirement that is prescribed by the regulations4.

1 From Section 10(1) of the Public Service Act 1999

2 From Section 13 of the Public Service Act 1999

3 For this purpose, Australian law means:
a) any Act (including this Act), or any instrument made under an Act
b) any law of a state or territory, including any instrument made under such a law.

4 Regulation 2.1 imposes a duty on an APS employee not to disclose certain information without authority (ie information communicated in confidence or where disclosure could be prejudicial to the effective working of government). APS employees should familiarise themselves with the full text of PS Regulation 2.1.

www.apsc.gov.au/values/conductguidelines14.htm

Last updated: September 2010

_______________________________________________________________________

APS Values and Code of Conduct in practice

Section 4: Personal behaviour

Chapter 12: Gifts and benefits

Relevant Values and elements of the Code of Conduct


APS Values

  • The APS has the highest ethical standards.

APS Code of Conduct

  • An APS employee must behave honestly and with integrity in the course of APS employment.
  • An APS employee must disclose, and take reasonable steps to avoid, any conflict of interest (real or apparent) in connection with APS employment.
  • An APS employee must not make improper use of: (a) inside information or (b) the employee’s duties, status, power or authority; in order to gain, or seek to gain, a benefit or advantage for the employee or for any other person.
  • An APS employee on duty overseas must at all times behave in a way that upholds the good reputation of Australia.

Gifts and benefits

The issue of whether or not an APS employee accepts a gift or benefit is not always straightforward.

The nature of work in the APS and the relationship of the APS with external clients and stakeholders in business, other jurisdictions, non-government organisations and international governments have changed considerably in recent years. APS employees, particularly at senior levels, are now much more likely to deal regularly with heads of corporations and senior business representatives, heads of non-government organisations and international officials. In many of these sectors, offers of gifts and hospitality are commonplace. Agencies need to provide clear guidance to their employees which recognises the context within which they work, while ensuring that the integrity of the APS is upheld.

At times, particularly for senior employees, acceptance of offers of entertainment or hospitality can provide valuable opportunities for networking with stakeholders. For the APS to carry out its functions fairly, impartially and professionally, however, and for the public to be confident that it will do so, APS employees must be able to demonstrate that they cannot be improperly influenced in the performance of their duties by offers of gifts or other inducements.

When a public servant receives an offer of a gift or benefit, it is important that they consider the ethical issues involved and that there is an open and transparent process in the agency for discussing such issues. It is important to consider every offer on its merits, taking into account the relationship of the organisation making the offer with the agency.

The main risk of accepting a gift or benefit is that it may result in an actual or perceived conflict of interest. At the extreme, it could be perceived as a bribe, which is an offence under the Criminal Code and a breach of the APS Code.

When deciding whether to accept a gift or benefit, the reputation of the APS is paramount. A useful test is for employees to consider how they might answer questions from a parliamentary committee. If it would be embarrassing, then perhaps the gift or benefit should not be accepted.

There may be times when it is appropriate for an employee to accept a gift on behalf of their agency, rather than on their own behalf, for example from an international delegation. In diplomatic circles, it may cause embarrassment to reject offers of minor gifts.

If an employee is uncertain about whether they should accept a gift or benefit, they should discuss the matter with their manager or supervisor.

It is not possible to establish set rules about accepting gifts or benefits as it is contingent on the circumstances. In some instances accepting even minor benefits may be construed as undermining public confidence—for example, when a tender process, either for the procurement of goods and services or sale of assets, involving the provider of the gift or benefit is under way, or when public servants are administering regulation directly affecting the individuals or organisations concerned. Agencies’ guidelines and CEIs should be used to clarify particularly sensitive areas. Employees should make themselves aware of relevant agency-specific guidelines and CEIs.

When developing policies about accepting gifts and benefits, agencies should clarify in what circumstances accepting a gift or benefit may be appropriate, taking into account the agency’s functions and objectives, the roles of employees within the agency and the types of relationships employees may have with organisations and people who may offer gifts or benefits.

A gift or benefit may include:

  • offers of cash or shares
  • gifts, such as bottles of wine, manufacturer’s samples or personal items
  • promotional materials, including clothing, books, compact discs or DVDs
  • sponsored travel
  • benefits under loyalty schemes, such as frequent flyer schemes
  • airline competition prizes
  • meals or other hospitality
  • accommodation and hire car discounts
  • entertainment, such as meals, seats at sporting or theatre events or golf days
  • discounts on commercial items
  • free or discounted places on training and development courses (other than contra-deals associated with the presentation of papers).

Acceptance of gifts or benefits will not usually be appropriate from a person or company if they are:

  • involved in a tender process with the agency, either for the procurement of goods and services or sale of assets; or
  • the subject of a decision within the discretionary power or substantial influence of the APS employee concerned.

Particular care should also be taken if:

  • the person or organisation is in a contractual or regulatory relationship with the Commonwealth
  • the organisation’s primary purpose is to lobby Ministers, Members of Parliament or agencies.

If a gift or benefit is accepted, it is prudent to disclose or register its approximate value. All valuable gifts or benefits should be registered. (Ministers and all Senators and Members are required to register benefits from official sources valued at $750 or more and $300 or more from private sources).

It should not be assumed, however, that gifts of minor value are acceptable. Even token gifts that carry a company’s logo can create, in some circumstances, a perceived conflict of interest. For example, an employee from a purchasing area wearing clothing bearing the logo of a particular supplier could send a very inappropriate message to competing organisations.

Employees should be aware of agency-specific policies about accepting gifts and benefits; such policies should apply to members of an employee’s family, where acceptance may impact on the employee’s official duties.

Accepting fees

Generally, it is expected that APS employees will not accept outside payment for activities considered part of their normal duties. If an employee is offered a fee to speak at a work-related conference, it may be accepted providing the agency receives the benefit, not the individual.

It is good practice for agencies to inform suppliers and contractors about their policy. For example, the Departments of Defence, Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Immigration and Citizenship have produced brochures to advise their suppliers and other stakeholders about their policies, stating that inducements of any kind are unacceptable. Publishing the policy also makes it easier for employees to decline inappropriate offers by referring to the policy.

Hospitality

Agencies may provide official hospitality if it furthers the conduct of public business. Expenditure on official hospitality must be publicly defensible on the basis that the primary purpose of the event is work-related.

Offers of hospitality from sources outside the APS have the potential to cause perceived or actual conflicts of interest. However, offers of hospitality may be accepted if they genuinely assist the agency to develop and maintain constructive relationships with stakeholders.

When developing policies, agencies should consider issues that will help employees judge when it is appropriate to accept hospitality. For example, the person may wish to consider the scale of the hospitality offered, and whether it is proportional to that which the agency would provide under similar circumstances. It is helpful if the agency informs its stakeholders about what type of hospitality is acceptable. A number of agencies have produced guidelines aimed at promoting awareness.

Sponsored travel

As a general rule, the Commonwealth pays for APS employees to travel as part of their official duties. Situations may arise, however, where a body external to the APS offers to pay for travel for an APS employee. In such cases of sponsored travel, an APS employee is being offered a benefit and it should be treated in the same way as gifts and other benefits described earlier in this chapter.

APS employees should be aware of the following principles regarding sponsored travel:

  • the Commonwealth should meet the expenses associated with work undertaken on its behalf by its employees
  • APS employees and their agencies should avoid conflicts of interest or the appearance of such conflicts.

As a general rule, APS employees should not accept offers of travel sponsored by private organisations or groups. Sponsored travel includes cases where transport, accommodation or living expenses are paid for or provided other than from the agency’s funds or the APS employee’s own resources. Acceptance of such travel may lead to the perception that the agency or the APS employee is favouring the organisation concerned or using their position to gain a benefit. Offers of sponsored travel or entertainment should be referred to the agency head for consideration.

Where an agency considers acceptance to be in the Government’s interest and where practical alternative means of travel or attendance at official expense are not available, the agency may offer to contribute to the costs involved. An offer of sponsored participation in such a case should be referred to the agency head, who may select an appropriate member of staff to attend if attendance is considered to be justified. Participation by APS employees in travel relating to the inauguration of travel services or opening ceremonies at new commercial or industrial undertakings may fall into this category. The important criterion to be borne in mind is that the agency, or the APS as a whole, should gain and be seen to gain the benefit of the opportunity, rather than the individual undertaking the travel. This is essential to avoid giving rise to perceptions of conflicts of interest.

Sponsored travel that would not be acceptable under this guidance material is not made acceptable by being undertaken during a period of leave.

Offers of sponsorship by bodies such as an inter-governmental or international agency, another government, an educational institution, a non-profit organisation, a recognised humanitarian organisation or broad-based industry group may be acceptable.

There are some recognised instances where travel opportunities are offered on a general rather than a particular basis, such as industry familiarisation tours, or where a body such as the World Health Organisation sponsors participants in a seminar. In such cases, the source of the funding should be reputable and apolitical, and no conflict of interest or perceived conflict of interest should be created as a result of accepting the offer.

Advice on the use of frequent flyer points accrued while travelling on official business may be found in Chapter 10.

Entertainment

Offers of entertainment are often used in private business to make relevant business contacts and improve business relationships. In some instances, accepting an offer of entertainment may improve stakeholder relationships. Attendance at significant events can provide senior public servants with opportunities to make important business connections that will be of considerable benefit to their agencies. There may also be an important representational role for senior employees at such events. However, the agency should ensure that accepting the offer would not create an actual or perceived conflict of interest.

Accompanying a Minister is a relevant factor. Nonetheless, it is important for senior staff to appreciate the example they set for other APS employees in upholding the Values. The more prominent the entertainment event, the more important it is to be mindful of perceptions. Another option is for the individual to pay for the entertainment.

While it may be in the interests of the agency or the government for senior public servants to accept invitations to some events, it is not appropriate for them to accept offers of paid travel or accommodation in relation to their attendance. Offers that are accepted should be recorded and declared in SES employees’ statements of interest.

Bribery and related offences

Accepting or offering a benefit that may be defined as a bribe may breach the APS Code and the Criminal Code.

Subsection 141.1(3) (receiving a bribe) of the Criminal Code makes it an offence for a Commonwealth public official to:

dishonestly ask for, receive or obtain a benefit or agree to receive or obtain, a benefit for himself, herself or another person with the intention of influencing the duties of the public official or engendering a belief that the duties will be influenced.

Such an offence has a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.

In addition, subsection 142.1(3) (receiving a corrupting benefit) of the Criminal Code makes it an offence for a Commonwealth public official to dishonestly ask for, receive or obtain, or agree to receive or obtain, a benefit for himself, herself or another person where the receipt or expectation of the receipt of that benefit would tend to influence the official or another official in the exercise of the official’s duties. Such an offence has a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.

Employees should also note that, consistent with Australia’s obligations under the OECD Convention on the Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, under section 70.2 of the Criminal Code it is an offence to bribe a foreign public official, whether in Australia or in another country. An Australian in another country who bribes or attempts to bribe an official of that country can be prosecuted for bribery in an Australian court.

Such an offence has a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.

Where an employee becomes aware of information which they suspect relates to the bribery of a foreign public official by another employee, consistent with their obligations under the APS Values and Code of Conduct to behave ethically, honestly and with integrity, they should report the information in accordance with their agency’s instructions on reporting breaches of the Code of Conduct (see Chapter 17: Whistleblowing). If the information relates to a person who is not an APS employee, the employee should discuss the matter with an appropriate senior person in their agency to determine the most appropriate course of action, including reporting the matter to the Australian Federal Police.

More information is available on the Attorney-General’s Department website at Foreign Bribery Offences.
previous page

 

http://www.apo.org.au/research/survey-codes-conduct-australian-and-selected-overseas-parliaments

A survey of codes of conduct in Australian and selected overseas parliaments

Read the full text

PDF A survey of codes of conduct in Australian and selected overseas parliaments
Image: iStock Photo

19 July 2006This background note details the approach taken in various Australian and overseas parliaments to codes of conduct for ministers and MPs.

In 2009, for various reasons, the conduct of ministers and members of parliament has been the subject of much media attention. The Australian and United Kingdom governments have conducted major reviews of entitlements paid to members of parliament. A number of Australian governments introduced codes of conduct for the lobbying industry to deal with the relationship between current and former members of parliament and the lobbying industry.

This background note details the approach taken in Australian and some overseas parliaments to codes of conduct for ministers and members of parliament, registers of interests, the post-separation employment of ministers and the use of ethics commissioners in providing advice on and/or conducting investigations into breaches of codes. It also includes sections on codes covering lobbyists. Where possible it provides links to relevant documents. It does not
compare codes of conduct or include codes covering the public service or ministerial staff.

The publication includes historical information to show the development of accountability and ethics regimens in each parliament.

Publication type Report
Publisher Type APO Member, Government or Gov agency
Coverage Australia, Worldwide
Permanent URL http://www.apo.org.au/node/8263
Views 1109

http://www.aph.gov.au/Library/pubs/BN/pol/CodesOfConduct.pdf

 

 

June 1, 2011 - Posted by | Fighting corruption in NZ, Fighting corruption internationally

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: