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Developing a strategy

Although specific legislative restrictions apply to some public officials in regards to post-separation employment, there is no overarching legislative framework in NSW to manage the risks of corruption arising from post-separation employment. Nevertheless, an agency may be able to impose some restrictions around post-separation employment through employees’ contracts of employment. Agencies can also introduce policies and protocols that control the extent and type of contact that staff have with former employees in occupations that may present a risk to the agency.

Some areas of the public sector have special rules and statutory cooling-off periods around post-separation employment. Statutory cooling-off periods generally only apply where there is significant risk and it is important to reassure the public that the question of improper influence is taken seriously. Restrictions should be commensurate with the degree of risk.

As a minimum, agencies should consider the measures below.

  • Introduce a policy on post-separation employment and procedures for managing any associated risks. If post-separation employment is unlikely to create significant risks for an agency, it could just be dealt with in the agency’s code of conduct.

  • The policy should be reviewed every two or three years.

  • Relevant employees should be trained in the policy and procedures to ensure they are aware of their accountabilities and responsibilities.

  • The management of pre-separation conduct and post-separation employment should be included as a risk to be assessed in an agency's internal audit and corruption risk management processes.

Two main problems arising from pre-separation conduct and post-separation employment relate to: (1) confidential information, and (2) external relationships with a potential private-sector employer of a public official thinking of leaving the public sector.

An agency's information can be protected by:

  • assigning all agency documents a security rating that is recorded on all printed and electronic copies and denotes their accessibility

  • maintaining a record of who has access to information with an audit trail to monitor this access

  • when an employee announces his or her intention to resign, taking stock of their information holdings and access, and placing further controls on this access where appropriate.

Relationships with the private sector can be proactively managed by:

  • including information about pre-separation conduct and post-separation employment in the agency's statement of business ethics and provide the information to suppliers

  • including a specific statement in the agency's code of conduct about the ethical issues and corruption risks raised by pre-separation conduct and post-separation employment and noting any restrictions on employees

  • considering implementing a cooling-off period for positions where it is likely that public officials may take up employment in businesses that have a close or special relationship to their former roles as public officials; that is, contractually limiting their ability to take up such a position until a certain period has passed

  • requiring staff to engage with former colleagues at arm's length, such as former employees now working in the private sector whose new job is to tender for public sector contracts

  • requiring staff to report attempts by ex-colleagues to influence or lobby them.