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Conflicts of Interest
Managing potential conflict of interest
Conflict of interest can be defined as “a conflict between the public duties and private interest of a public official, in which the public official has private-capacity interests which could improperly influence the performance of their official duties and responsibilities”.
There does not need to be an actual conflict of interest before a staff member needs to take action. A situation that appears to give rise to a conflict of interest may be enough to undermine public confidence, even if, in fact, there is no conflict, or the conflict has already been resolved.
Managing conflicts of interest is the shared responsibility of DVA managers, leaders and individual employees. All employees have a responsibility to ask themselves whether their actions or decisions could give rise to a real or apparent conflict of interest and, if so, to take action to avoid, or to manage the conflict.
This CLIK policy is intended to help staff to perform their duties in these special circumstances. It is important that any issues around perceived or actual conflicts of interest are raised immediately with a team leader or Assistant Director.
Conflicts of interest are governed by the Public Service Act 1999. All staff are reminded that they are obliged to uphold the APS values and code of conduct. Failure to disclose conflicts of interest may constitute misconduct and disciplinary action could be taken under the Public Service Act 1999.
Potential conflict of interest types
Conflict of interest circumstances include, but are not limited to, claims and other actions relating to:
- DVA staff who are also clients or potential clients of DVA;
- family members of DVA staff;
- clients known to DVA staff.
Sources of potential conflict of interest
It is important to note that conflict of interest situations, real or perceived, are not restricted to the processing and determination of client claims, rather circumstances giving rise to potential conflict of interest for staff may occur in any area of Rehabilitation & Support work, including:
- claims under all Acts;
- income Support pensioner initiated reviews;
- overpayment investigations;
- aged care Income and/or asset assessments;
- assisting with and processing grant applications;
- quality assurance activities;
- bereavement processing actions;
- responding to Ministerial and Departmental correspondence;
- contract management and procurement of goods and services.
Examples of potential conflicts of interest may include financial interests such as shareholdings, directorships of companies, trusts or real estate holdings. Interests may also include relationships surrounding sporting, social or cultural activities, in addition to work, family, sexual or other relationships.
If staff are in doubt about actual or perceived conflicts of interest, they should consult their Assistant Director.
Rehabilitation & Support staff should also complete the 'Declaration of interests' document, which is then to be placed on the claim file. The Assistant Director may then determine if a potential conflict of interest exists and, if so, make arrangements for the claim to be assessed and determined interstate.
DVA staff who are also clients or potential clients of DVA
DVA staff may also be DVA clients if, for example, they are a former ADF member, or current or former member of the Reserves.
Employees must inform their Assistant Director if they are already DVA clients or they are intending to lodge a claim for compensation or income support with DVA. In order to avoid real or perceived conflicts of interest, the manager of the office must make arrangements for the claim, and any subsequent actions, to be handled in an office other than the one in which the staff member works.
The manager's responsibilities, on being notified that an actual or potential conflict of interest could occur, is to investigate any potential conflict and to decide:
- whether there is an actual or potential conflict of interest;
- whether to authorise the person to continue with their duties;
- whether to request the person to divest themselves of their interests; or
- whether to rearrange the person's duties to avoid the conflict of interest.
DVA staff who are also clients or potential clients of DVA must at no time be involved in any actions relating to other DVA staff who are also clients or potential clients of DVA, even if they are located in another state.
Family members of DVA Staff
All staff must inform their Assistant Director if they are aware that a member of their family is a DVA client or intends to lodge a claim for compensation or income support.
If a family member lodges a claim or other action in a different office to the one in which the staff member works, there is only a conflict of interest if the delegate assigned to the action is also known to that family member. In that event, the delegate should advise their Assistant Director so that the action can be re-assigned.
Should the claim or action be lodged in the same State/Territory office where the staff member works, the staff member must advise his or her Assistant Director, then the manager must make arrangements for it to be handled in another office.
Clients known to a staff member
There are several circumstances where a client may be known to a staff member. These could include but not be limited to the following examples:
- ex-service organisation (ESO) advocates
- clients known personally to a DVA staff member (ie outside of work)
- representatives who work closely with staff
If such circumstances arise, the DVA staff member must declare their knowledge of the client and the local Director should assess the circumstances to determine whether or not the claim or action should be sent interstate for processing.