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Conflicts of interest

Citizens rightly expect that public officials, or their close connections and associates, should never be in a position to obtain an undue personal benefit as a result of the public official doing their job. This reflects the view that public office is held for the public good, not the purposes or benefits of the officeholder.

The publication, Managing conflicts of interest in the public sector, sets out the ICAC’s detailed guidance in relation to conflicts of interest.

A conflict of interest exists when a reasonable person might perceive that a public official’s personal interest(s) could be favoured over their public duties.

There are four elements to consider when determining whether a conflict of interest exists.

  1. Does the official have a personal interest?
  2. Does the official have a public duty?
  3. Is there a connection between the personal interest and the public duty?
  4. Could a reasonable person perceive that the personal interest might be favoured?

Conflicts of interest do not, in themselves, usually constitute corrupt conduct. Corrupt conduct can, however, arise when a conflict of interest is concealed, understated, mismanaged or abused.

Experience also shows that many, if not most, forms of corrupt conduct involve a conflict of interest. Examples of conduct that could be corrupt include:

  • concealing or failing to disclose a conflict of interest
  • making false or understated declarations about a conflict of interest
  • favouring a personal interest over public duty
  • improperly influencing others to favour a personal interest
  • misusing resources in order to favour a personal interest.

The ICAC recommends that agencies manage conflicts of interest in accordance with the figure shown below. Additional guidance can be found in Managing conflicts of interest in the public sector.

Control framework: Establish a conflicts of interest policy, Identify and manage vulnerable units and branches, Avoid unnecessary conflicts of interest, Disclose personal interests and conflicts of interest, Manage and monitor conflicts of interest, Be proactive in looking for conflicts of interst, Evaluate adn audit the control framework, Deal with breaches

Updated May 2019