The Corruption and Crime Commission is urging Government leaders to ensure their employees know they should not accept personal shopping vouchers offered by some event organisers as incentives for registering early for conferences and workshops.
CCC Deputy Director Corruption Prevention, Catherine Sambell, said it was entirely inappropriate for public officers attending work-related events at public expense to accept benefits such as $100 department store shopping vouchers.
Shopping vouchers not such a gift"These sorts of benefits are being offered by some private event organisers to encourage early bookings, and that is their right. But public officers should not accept them," Ms Sambell said.
"If a gift voucher is provided the officer must declare it and it is then up to their employer to respond. However, I can't think of any circumstance where an agency would deem it acceptable for staff to keep a $100 shopping voucher.
"Ideally, the employer should return the voucher to the supplier, advise that it breaches their gifts' policy and ask that the vouchers not be sent to the department again.
"It is very important that staff understand there may be serious ramifications for them if they accept these benefits, particularly if they don't declare them. Failure to declare is itself a breach of discipline that could result in dismissal or other disciplinary proceedings."
She said it was equally important that chief executives ensured the issue was clearly addressed in their agency's gifts and benefits policy so there was no confusion for staff. All agencies should have specific policies and procedures for dealing with gifts and benefits.
"Clearly, taxpayers do not expect public officers to attend conferences and training events on the public purse and then follow up with a free shopping trip. These vouchers are effectively cash and they present a real risk," she said.
"As well as the potential problems for staff who accept these benefits, there is also a real risk that the decisions by public officers to attend conferences and other events may not be based on genuine need and instead be improperly influenced by the offer of inducements."
Ms Sambell said concerns about the marketing vouchers had been raised with the Commission by a senior Government officer who had been repeatedly emailed direct marketing invitations to attend events with the offer of gift vouchers for registering early. One invitation offered gift vouchers worth up to $200 for early bookings.
"The public sector needs to be vigilant about this issue and ensure managers properly monitor any offers to attend training and other events," she said.
Ms Sambell stressed that "early bird" and group booking discounts that offer cost savings to government and benefit the employer and state revenue as a whole were a different scenario and there was no problem accepting those discounts when booking events.