Managing gifts and benefits

27 Mar 2013

Fraud can take many forms in the public service. It can be as simple as false entries on an employee’s timesheet or it can be as elaborate as a falsely valued property or lease deal. The major fraud control survey released in 2012 showed that fraud control measures are improving, but there is more work to be done.

Recent investigations by the ICAC have highlighted the risks associated with public sector employees receiving undisclosed gifts and benefits.

Sound policies and registers alone will not prevent people choosing to deliberately hide the receipt of gifts and benefits. They will, however, assist those seeking to do the right thing and make it harder for wrongdoers to claim they were confused or unaware.

As a general rule, public servants should never expect to get anything extra for doing what they are paid to do. They should never solicit personal gifts or accept any payment, gift or benefit intended or likely to influence them to stray from the proper exercise of their official duties.

Dealing with gifts and benefits is not straightforward. The situation can be complex given the vastly different operating contexts and risk environments faced by NSW public sector agencies. This audit highlights the effort agencies devote to formulating and reviewing gift and benefit policies tailored to their business and also identifies good practices and some areas for improvement.

The audit also highlights the lack of State-wide guidance to assist agencies. I think a set of minimum standards is needed to guide all public servants in managing the offers of gifts and benefits they receive from external parties. Such standards will also make it easier for suppliers, licensees, lessees and other organisations that deal with the public sector to better understand what the rules are and how to comply.

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