An official is required to report material personal interests in relation to the affairs of the entity they work for (section 29 of the PGPA Act). Material personal interests could directly relate to an official's personal role or, more broadly, to the overall purpose of the entity. The PGPA Rule details how and when officials need to disclose material personal interests, and the circumstances when the duty to disclose does not apply (sections 12–16D of the PGPA Rule).
The overriding principle for a declaration of a material personal interest should be: if in doubt, declare the interest in accordance with the appropriate process. Taking this step should protect both the official and the Commonwealth entity.
A material personal interest is one that can give rise to a real or apparent conflict of interest that could affect the ability of an official to discharge their duties.
Material personal interests could arise, for example, when:
- a member of an accountable authority is also a director of an organisation that is seeking to provide services to the Commonwealth entity
- an official is on an employment selection panel that is interviewing a friend or family member for a position with the Commonwealth entity
- an official approving or recommending the approval of a grant is directly or indirectly involved with an organisation seeking the grant.
Juhan is on a panel that is assessing the procurement tenders for his entity's new cleaning contract. One of the tender applicants, John, is a parent of one of Juhan's son's classmates. Juhan does not socialise with John other than brief conversations at school events. Juhan is only one of several people on the panel and has limited ability to influence the panel's decision. Members of the panel do not know that an applicant is known to Juhan and there is little chance of them finding out.
Appropriate action: Consistent with the procedures issued by the entity's accountable authority, Juhan discloses the relationship in writing to the accountable authority of his entity. Juhan offers to exclude himself from the discussion on the merits of John's tender application. This disclosure also mitigates the risk of perceived conflict of interest if Juhan develops a friendship with John in the future.
- For APS employees, the APS Code of Conduct requires an employee to 'take reasonable steps to avoid, any conflict of interest (real or apparent) in connection with APS employment' and 'disclose details of any material personal interest of the employee in connection with the employee's APS employment' (section 13(7) of the Public Service Act 1999).
- This requirement is consistent with the duty in section 29 of the PGPA Act and does not impose any further obligations on APS employees. Meeting the requirements of section 13(7) will ordinarily meet the requirements of section 29 of the PGPA Act.