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1 Integrity and impartiality – Code of Conduct

Principle and values

The Public Sector Ethics Act 1994 states: In recognition that public office involves a public trust, public service agencies, public sector entities and public officials seek to promote public confidence in the integrity of the public sector and -

  • are committed to the highest ethical standards;
  • accept and value their duty to provide advice which is objective, independent, apolitical and impartial;
  • show respect towards all persons, including employees, clients and the general public;
  • acknowledge the primacy of the public interest and undertake that any conflict of interest issue will be resolved or appropriately managed in favour of the public interest; and
  • are committed to honest, fair and respectful engagement with the community.

Standards of conduct

1.1 Commit to the highest ethical standards

As public service employees we are required to ensure that our conduct meets the highest ethical standards when we are fulfilling our responsibilities.

We will:

  • ensure any advice that we provide is objective, independent, apolitical and impartial
  • ensure our decision making is ethical
  • engage with the community in a manner that is consultative, respectful and fair, and
  • meet our obligations to report suspected wrongdoing, including conduct not consistent with this Code.

1.2 Manage conflicts of interest

A conflict of interest involves a conflict between our duty, as public service employees, to serve the public interest and our personal interests. The conflict may arise from a range of factors including our personal relationships, our employment outside the public service, our membership of special interest groups, or our ownership of shares, companies, or property.

As public service employees we may also experience conflicts of interest between our public service ethics and our professional codes of ethics (for example as health care professionals or as lawyers), or with our personal beliefs or opinions.

Having a conflict of interest is not unusual and it is not wrongdoing in itself. However failing to disclose and manage the conflict appropriately is likely to be wrongdoing.

As public service employees we are committed to demonstrating our impartiality and integrity in fulfilling our responsibilities and as such we will:

  • always disclose a personal interest that could, now or in the future, be seen as influencing the performance of our duties. This will be done in accordance with our agency policies and procedures
  • actively participate with our agency in developing and implementing resolution strategies for any conflict of interest
  • ensure that any conflict of interest is resolved in the public interest.

1.3 Contribute to public discussion in an appropriate manner

Commenting on government policy is a matter for Ministers, not employees. Unless prior authorisation has been given, we will not comment to the media on government policy.

Where providing factual information to the public on government policy is a part of our official duties and responsibilities, we will ensure that information is appropriately authorised, and that we properly represent government policy and administration in its intended manner and spirit.

Like any other citizen, we have the right to contribute to public discussions on community and social issues in our private capacity.

In doing so, we will:

  • take reasonable steps to ensure that any comment we make will be understood as representing our personal views, not those of government
  • maintain the confidentiality of information we have access to due to our roles, that is not publicly available
  • be aware that personal comments about a public issue may compromise our capacity to perform the duties of our role in an independent, unbiased manner.

1.4 Manage participation in external organisations

Our work as a public service employee does not remove our right to be active privately in a political party, professional organisation or trade union.

As a member of a political party, however, we are aware that participating in activities in the public arena, where we may be identified as a public service employee, can give rise to a perception of conflict of interest (see section 1.2). Where this situation arises, we will declare and manage our activities in accordance with our agency’s policies.

If we are elected as workplace representatives or officials of a trade union or professional association, we are not required to seek permission from our workplace before speaking publicly in that capacity, and we will make it clear that our comments are made only on behalf of that organisation.

In all instances, we will comply with the appropriate laws of privacy, confidentiality and information management.

1.5 Demonstrate a high standard of workplace behaviour and personal conduct

We have a responsibility to always conduct and present ourselves in a professional manner, and demonstrate respect for all persons, whether fellow employees, clients or members of the public.

We will:

  • treat co-workers, clients and members of the public with courtesy and respect, be appropriate in our relationships with them, and recognise that others have the right to hold views which may differ from our own
  • ensure our conduct reflects our commitment to a workplace that is inclusive and free from harassment
  • ensure our fitness for duty, and the safety, health and welfare of ourselves and others in the workplace, whether co-workers or clients
  • ensure our private conduct maintains the integrity of the public service and our ability to perform our duties
  • comply with legislative and/or policy obligations to report employee criminal charges and convictions.