Trust, Service

& Accountability

Behaving Ethically

Other things to consider


How to deal with offers of hospitality requires special attention in a department/agency gifts and benefits policy.

This is particularly the case where employees - because of the nature of their jobs – are expected to develop effective working relationships with contacts in the commercial sector, but, at the same time, must ensure that such relationships do not result in preferential treatment (or the appearance of preferential treatment) for those commercial contacts.

Guidelines can assist employees to make the right decisions, but there will always be grey areas demanding careful judgment. Ultimately, the question to be decided is this:

“Would a reasonable person think that the hospitality was intended to influence the recipient to act in the interests of the giver, either now or in the future?”

Examples of low risk hospitality include:

  • Functions where the recipient attends in an official capacity as their organisation’s representative
  • Hospitality provided as part of a conference package, where the department/agency has paid a fee for the employee to attend
  • Catered briefings, roundtables, launches etc, where invitees from a range of external organisations are present
  • Occasional working lunches, where the hospitality is incidental and of low value – say, sandwiches and coffee.

Examples of higher risk hospitality include:

  • Restaurant meals (except as described in the first and third dot points above)
  • Invitations to corporate boxes or marquees
  • Invitations to lunches, dinners or other events to ‘seal the deal’, or to ‘celebrate’ finalisation of a procurement process or the signing of a contract invitations to functions held in private homes
  • Invitations which extend to family members, relations, friends and associates.

As a general rule, where there is doubt about whether to accept hospitality, employees and their managers should err on the side of caution. Each agency needs to decide what is acceptable hospitality, having regard to the operating environment, agency responsibilities and identified risks. Acceptance of hospitality that is higher risk should always be accompanied by a commensurately greater level of transparency. Employees should record receipt of hospitality in accordance with the agency’s policy, including any value thresholds, as soon as is practicable.

lf hospitality is accepted in good faith, but a third party attempts to use the occasion to raise a materially significant matter relating to their business or private affairs, the employee should politely decline to discuss the matter and, if appropriate, propose that a formal meeting be organised for a later date.

Sporting, entertainment and cultural events

How to deal with invitations and free tickets to sporting, entertainment and cultural events may require special attention in a department/agency gifts and benefits policy, depending on the organisation’s functions and operating environment.

In many cases, the value of such invitations and tickets will be significant, possibly beyond the acceptance threshold established in the department/agency policy.

However, it is important to distinguish between situations where an employee’s attendance at an event is unrelated to their work responsibilities, and where their attendance is for the purpose of advising the Government on policy, or administering a program. The former would constitute a gift or benefit, the latter would not. Nonetheless, for transparency, it is preferable for the acceptance and allocation of invitations and tickets to be managed and recorded centrally. If this is not practicable on a whole-ofagency basis, it should be done at division or branch level.

Invitations and tickets from unrelated third parties – that is, from parties not directly involved in the event – should always be treated as gifts and benefits.

Travel and accommodation

From time to time, government sector employees may be offered travel or accommodation upgrades during official travel within Australia or overseas.

Employees should never seek or solicit an upgrade from a travel or accommodation provider in relation to official travel.

Where a travel or accommodation provider seeks to upgrade an employee for operational reasons, at no charge to the employee or their agency (for example, where an airline upgrades a traveller to business class because it has its overbooked economy class for that flight) the employee may accept the upgrade, but should record receipt of the upgrade in their agency’s gifts and benefits register.

Competitive scholarships and awards

Government sector employees may be eligible to apply for competitive scholarships or awards in recognition of their achievements or potential in their field of expertise. Examples include, but are not limited to: NSW Premier’s Teacher Scholarships; the NSW Premier’s Awards; the Institute of Public Administration Australia Awards; and the Commonwealth Bank Foundation Teaching Awards.

Agency policies may permit employees to accept, with the approval of a manager, professional scholarships and awards won as a result of an open and competitive application process, even where the value of the award exceeds any applicable value threshold for gifts and benefits established by the agency.

Recipients of such awards should record all relevant details of the award, including details of their manager’s approval, in their agency’s gifts and benefits register.

Higher risk jobs

While all government employees need to be cautious when offered a gift or benefit, departments and agencies should make sure employees, involved in the following activities, are especially alert to the potential risks:

  • Making, or advising on, purchasing decisions
  • Evaluating tenders, quotes, proposals or applications
  • Administering, or advising on, grants or approvals
  • Managing contracts
  • Regulating individuals, organisations or industries
  • Delivering valuable services to individuals, companies or organisations, including the hiring of staff.