Managing the risks of gifts, benefits and hospitality

Good practice guidance for WA public authorities

The community expects public officers (officers) to carry out their roles with integrity. One way they do this is by making sure their personal interests do not conflict with their public duty.

Sometimes officers are offered gifts, benefits and/or hospitality in the course of their work. Usually these are offered as a token of appreciation and carry no expectation. In other cases, they may be an attempt to influence an officer’s decisions. This is why there may be good reasons for officers to decline gifts, benefits and hospitality. Acceptance may give the impression that an officer favours a particular person or organisation when making decisions. While this may not be the intention, perceptions matter.

Effectively managing the risks of gifts, benefits and hospitality is essential to maintain public trust and give confidence that decisions are being made fairly and impartially.

Given the range of authorities in the WA government sector, it is not realistic for there to be a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Your authority’s approach should be based on a thorough assessment of its risk environment.

This guide provides information on a good practice approach to managing the risks of gifts, benefits and hospitality. It covers:

When adopted and implemented, these practices can reduce the likelihood of:

  • officers inappropriately accepting or providing gifts, benefits and hospitality
  • clients, suppliers and stakeholders inappropriately offering them.

Note that this information is provided as guidance; it does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such.

Definitions

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Benefit

Any preferential treatment, privileged access, favours or other advantages offered to an officer above their normal salary or engagement entitlements. A benefit is usually intangible – something that can be experienced such as personal services, job offers or discounts on goods and services.

Conflict of interest

A situation arising from a conflict between the officer’s personal interests and their public duty. A conflict of interest should always be managed in the public interest.

A conflict of interest can be categorised as follows:

  • Actual conflict of interest where an officer’s personal interests and their public duty conflict. This is happening now and requires management.
  • Potential conflict of interest where an officer’s personal interests and their public duty are likely to conflict sometime in the future.
  • Perceived conflict of interest where a third party could form the view that personal interests could improperly influence an officer’s decisions or actions, now or in the future.

Gift

Anything of value offered either directly or indirectly to an officer above their normal salary or engagement entitlements. A gift is usually tangible – something that can be seen or held such as a box of chocolates, bottle of wine or ticket to a concert.

Gift, benefit and hospitality register

A record of declared offers and acceptances of gifts, benefits and hospitality. Declaration requirements and expectations are determined by the authority.

High risk positions, functions and activities

Includes but is not limited to those:

  • who have the most interaction with clients, suppliers and stakeholders
  • who have discretionary decision-making powers
  • who work with limited or no supervision
  • who work away from the main site
  • who are responsible for:
    • purchasing goods and services
    • managing contracts
    • allocating grants
    • undertaking inspection and regulatory roles
    • managing facilities
    • exercising powers over planning and land development
  • who work in internal audit or integrity roles
  • whose impartiality needs to be beyond doubt.

Hospitality

The friendly reception and treatment of stakeholders such as offering refreshments at a business meeting, providing meals to conference delegates and sponsored travel or accommodation.

Non-token offer

An offer that would be perceived by the recipient and community as being of high value and/or high risk such as jewellery.

Public authority

A public sector agency (department, SES organisation and non-SES organisation), local government, public university, government trading enterprise, other entity and some boards and committees.

Public officer

For the purposes of this guide has the meaning given by section 1 of The Criminal Code and includes those appointed to, employed in and contracted to public authorities. 

Token offer

An offer that would be perceived by the recipient and community to be of low value and/or low risk such as like a box of chocolates to say ‘thanks’.

Western Australian government sector

A collective reference to WA public authorities.

Legislation and other instruments

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The references to legislation and other instruments below may be relevant to an authority’s management of gifts, benefits and hospitality. It is not exhaustive and the authority should determine what applies to it.

Page reviewed 3 November 2021