A majority of Tasmania’s state service employees who accepted gifts worth more than $100 and labelled them as ‘networking and goodwill’ should have turned them down ‘more than half’ of the time, a new report has found.
Chief Integrity Commissioner Greg Melick said a recent ‘Project Vulcan’ report highlighted the “ongoing misconduct risks” related to government employees funded by taxpayers receiving gifts and benefits.
Melick said one example from the report was a membership to the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge where ‘networking and goodwill’ was recorded as the reason for acceptance.
“The report observed that although ‘networking and goodwill’ was the most common reason State Service employees and officers provided for accepting gifts worth more than $100, acceptance was not justified in more than half of these cases,” Melick said.
“The audit also considered instances where tickets to sporting matches were accepted. In those cases ‘maintaining stakeholder relationships’ was given as the reason for acceptance. The report notes accepting such gifts can be problematic where there is a risk of developing inappropriate relationships.”
Melick said that except for token items, gifts should not be accepted by State Service employees and officers and in most situations, simply saying ‘thanks’ is enough.
“Officers and employees should not expect to receive gifts, benefits or hospitality for doing a job they are paid by the public to do.”
The Commission also audited the records of State Service agencies to ensure that the 2016 government policy on gifts and benefits was functioning as intended.
They now aim to clarify rules for gifts over $100, address policy inconsistencies, require explanations for public benefits from networking events, and introduce a template for consistent record-keeping.