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Scenario questions about ethics and integrity

Scenario 1

Mary Baker, a public service officer and department employee, is asked to speak at a local university. Mary has not been asked to speak specifically about her duties with the department.

However, it is the knowledge gained from her duties that makes Mary an expert in her area in the first place.

Q(a) Is the presentation by Mary considered as being made as a private citizen or not?

Q(b) Can Mary accept payment for the session without declaration?

The answers to these questions can be found in the Code of Conduct for the Queensland Public Service (or the Standard of Practice promulgated by the relevant department).

However, the answer to both questions is “no”.

Scenario 2

Peter Smith is the manager of a unit. He wishes to encourage staff to participate in a national review. A local business offers to donate resources to accomplish this. What are the ethical implications for the John as the manager and potential recipient of:

(a) gifts; and

(b) donations.

The answers to these questions can be found in the Code of Conduct for the Queensland Public Service (or the Standard of Practice promulgated by the relevant department).

However, the answer is that he should not accept gifts or donations.

Scenario 3

Jim Brown has 24 hour access to the building car park. The building is located close to the RNA showgrounds.

Jim suggests to friends that, if they want free parking to attend the RNA show, they can drive to the building on Saturday. Jim will then "swipe them in" with his 24 hour access card and they will have free parking for the day. Jim contends that since the parking is largely unused on Saturday that they won’t be taking any allocated spots.

The answers to these questions can be found in the Code of Conduct for the Queensland Public Service (or the Standard of Practice promulgated by the relevant department).

Jim should definitely not arrange for his friends to use the car park.

Scenario 4

Susan Jones', a department employee, is in charge of coordinating responses to a white paper. Susan wishes to make representations in relation to the white paper herself:

Q(a) Can Susan make submissions with respect to the paper as a private citizen?

Q(b) Susan has encouraged her friends to make submissions about the white paper that support her view. She has asked these friends to make submissions under their own names.

Q(c) Susan decides to email staff in other work units and encourage them to make submissions about the white paper as private submissions from concerned citizens.

Does this breach ethical behaviour principles?

The answers to these questions can be found in the Code of Conduct for the Queensland Public Service (or the Standard of Practice promulgated by the relevant department).

But (a) yes, (b) yes and (c) yes, provided that she does not make use of public service time and resources to push her own personal point of view.

Has she breached ethical behaviour principles?

Probably not, but she should certainly make clear to her manager the extent to which she has influenced the receipt of the line of submissions supporting her own views.

Scenario 5

Mr Don White is employed within a policy unit that has responsibility for producing advice for the Minister on policy matters. The Minister must formally make a decision on that advice (a 'non decision' is not an option).

The policy development process includes a call for public submissions, though this process is coordinated by an independent standards setting agency. The department contributes to this process.

The department allows individuals to make public submissions and the Code of Conduct states:

If you are to make public comments on matters that you are involved in as an employee, it is important that you make it clear that those comments represent your views as a private citizen, and that those comments do not raise reasonable doubt about your willingness to objectively implement government policy.

Dr Tan (who is Mr White’s director) has indicated that, while the Code of Conduct is not explicit on the matter of public comment in an area which has a policy role, in Dr Tan's view it is not appropriate for Mr White to make individual submissions in that policy arena.

Is Dr Tan's instruction to Mr White reasonable, or does it inappropriately curtail an individual's right to contribute to public consultation processes?

The Code of Conduct is explicit. It covers all employees of the department. Dr Tan is wrong in that respect.

However, if White does make a public comment he will probably have to:

White would have to consider whether that is what he wants.

A further issue, however, concerns White’s seniority. If he is a leading member of the advisory team he would not only have to exclude himself from the process but should also consider whether he should look for another job that did not require him to resolve such conflict issues.

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Last update: 23 November, 2011