Conflicts of interest

Chief executives, senior executives (and equivalents), and public service employees have an obligation to disclose any interest that conflicts or may conflict with the performance of official duties (Sections 102 and 186 of the Public Service Act 2008).

What is a conflict of interest?

All employees must perform their duties in a fair and unbiased way, ensuring that decisions made are not impacted by self-interest, private affiliations, or the likelihood of gain or loss for them or others that they may wish to benefit or disadvantage.

A conflict of interest occurs when private interests interfere, or appear to interfere with the performance of official duties.

Private interests include personal, professional or business interests, as well as the interests of individuals that you associate with, such as family, dependants and friends.

Conflicts of interest fall into three categories.

  • Actual – there is a direct conflict between your current duties and your existing private interests
  • Potential – your duties and private interests could conflict in the future
  • Perceived – it could appear that your private interests could improperly influence the performance of your duties

Conflicts of interest can arise inside or outside of the workplace. They may be:

  • Pecuniary – where there is a reasonable likelihood of financial loss or gain. May result from an employee (or a relative or close associate) owning property, holding shares or a position in a company bidding for government work or accepting gifts or benefits.
  • Non-pecuniary – where there is no financial component, but may involve self-interest, personal or family relationships or other affiliations. Includes any tendency toward favour or prejudice resulting from friendship, animosity or other personal involvement that could bias your judgement or decisions.

Secondary employment may be a conflict of interest if it impacts on your work performance, or health and wellbeing. Alternatively, secondary employment could provide the opportunity for personal loss or gain, such as using confidential information obtained from the public sector workplace or conducting personal business during work time.

For more information about what may be a conflict of interest, read what you have to declare.

What do I need to do about a conflict of interest?

All conflicts of interest (actual, potential and perceived) must first be identified and declared. Steps can then be taken to appropriately manage and resolve the matter in the public interest.

While it is best to avoid conflicts of interest, this is not always possible. Having a conflict of interest alone is not considered misconduct or a breach of the Code of Conduct. What is important is:

  • that you are open about the conflict of interest
  • how the conflict of interest is managed
  • ensuring a conflict of interest is resolved in the public interest.

Employees must identify and declare any conflicts of interest using your agency's declaration of interest process. The agency chief executive or their delegate will then make an assessment about what action, if any, is required to manage the conflict of interest. You must wait for instruction from the agency chief executive or their delegate before taking any action.

Employees must actively participate in the process to manage or resolve conflicts of interest in the public interest and adhere to all agreed resolution strategies.

If your circumstances change, you should consider whether this brings about any new conflicts of interest, or changes to an existing conflict of interest.

Read more about how and when employees must declare conflicts of interest.

Conflicts of interest in recruitment and selection

Conflicts of interest commonly arise in recruitment and selection processes. A panel member or delegate to approve the appointment may identify that they have a relationship with an applicant or someone else involved in the recruitment process eg friend or family member. This may impact their ability to make selection decisions that are free from bias.

All panel members and delegates must complete the Declaration form–conflicts of interest in recruitment and selection to declare any conflicts of interest or confirm that no conflict exists.

Read more about conflicts of interest in recruitment and selection.