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ICAC warns public service over conflicts of interest

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The Independent Commissioner against Corruption has released a report reminding public officers of their obligations to disclose and manage conflicts of interest, with the corruption watchdog noting that two “significant” investigations into a single agency created the impetus for the report.

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The report, titled Identify, Disclose and Manage: Conflicts of Interest in Public Administration, was made public by the ICAC on Tuesday and contains a list of obligations for public servants regarding the proper management of potential conflicts

The 15-page report highlights procurement, contract management, recruitment, grant acquittal, planning and development, resource and asset management and intellectual property as key areas where conflicts of interest can compromise the work of the public sector.

The ICAC Ann Vanstone QC said the report was prompted by “two significant investigations within a single agency”.

“Conflicts of interest have also been a persistent feature in numerous other ICAC investigations as well as matters referred to agencies for investigation,” she said.

“My review of all these investigations has convinced me there is good reason to remind all public officers of the need to identify, disclose and manage conflicts of interest.”

“Unmanaged conflicts of interest can compromise the performance of public officers and erode community confidence in integrity in public administration.

“Failure to appropriately deal with them creates the risk of misuse of the powers, resources and funds entrusted by the community to public institutions.”

She added there should be “open and regular discussion” with public officers about dealing with conflicts of interest, and said she expects this report to be “the first of several” on the topic.

The warning comes after Vanstone last week met with senior SA Health bureaucrats regarding a report written by her predecessor, Bruce Lander, 18 months ago which found the agency to be “riddled with maladministration”.

The ICAC said SA Health had promised to provide her with a more “comprehensive” written response to Lander’s concerns in the near future.

It also comes after an ICAC investigation led to Adelaide vascular surgeon Professor James Spark being charged with 25 counts of deceiving another to benefit himself after he allegedly falsified time sheets to claim payment from the public health system.

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