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OAIC Corporate Partnership and Sponsorship policy

January 2013


This document outlines the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner's (OAIC) policy on corporate partnership and sponsorship. It gives staff and supervisors clear direction when dealing in partnership and sponsorship arrangements.

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The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) seeks to promote and protect privacy in Australia. To help achieve this, our Strategic Plan 2011–14 commits us to four overarching goals:

  • promote and secure open government by driving public access to government information and proactive agency publication of information
  • lead the development and implementation of the national information policy framework
  • promote and secure the protection of personal information
  • enhance the capability of the OAIC's people, systems and processes.

To meet these goals, the OAIC regularly considers a broad range of working arrangements and resourcing options. Part of this process is an assessment of partnership and sponsorship arrangements with a variety of public sector agencies, businesses, and not-for-profit organisations.

The scope of partnership and sponsorship arrangements is broad — they may include:

  • providing speakers to reach key audiences
  • supporting conferences and workshops
  • participating in networking events
  • facilitating supply of information and advice to organisations.

They may also include the acceptance of funding to support activities, such as research, training, promotion, and compliance and policy development processes.

This policy outlines legal, ethical, and practical issues to be addressed when considering the establishment of partnership and sponsorship arrangements where there is a substantial transfer or joining of resources.

Section 6 and the Appendix together offer a practical checklist of points to consider in developing a partnership/sponsorship agreement.

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What are sponsorships and partnerships?

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) has defined 'corporate sponsorship' as an arrangement between an Australian Government agency and a private sector company, corporation or other government entity in exchange for money, goods or services to support the activities of that agency.

A partnership may be considered to be an arrangement between an Australian Government agency and a private sector company, corporation or other government entity to jointly achieve a shared goal.

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The value of sponsorship and partnership arrangements to the OAIC

Appropriate partnerships and sponsorships will increase the range and level of financial and other resources available to the OAIC to assist it in promoting and protecting privacy in Australia.

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Selecting partners and sponsors

The OAIC welcomes offers of creative partnership and sponsorship arrangements that may include monetary, non-monetary, and other forms of support for its activities.

The office will consider partnership and sponsorship arrangements with public sector agencies, businesses, not-for-profit organisations and individuals where such an arrangement is consistent with the OAIC's purpose of protecting information rights and advancing information policy in Australia. The value and potential of all substantial proposed arrangements will be considered against criteria presented in this document.

The OAIC reserves the right not to accept any proposals, and in particular any that are, or may be perceived to be, either:

  • in conflict with goals set out in its Strategic Plan 2012 or subsequent plans
  • damaging to its public standing, or actual or perceived independence.

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Finance requirements

Any consideration of a sponsorship arrangement will need to comply with the general requirement under s 44 of the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 that a 'Chief Executive must manage the affairs of the Agency in a way that promotes proper use of the Commonwealth resources for which the Chief Executive is responsible'.

The Department of Finance and Deregulation Finance Circular No 2012/01 sets out a number of requirements in relation to an amount that is a sponsorship received explicitly to support an Agency's departmental activities. The circular notes the following example of such an amount: 'money (distinct from goods) received from sponsors, for an Agency to run a seminar or for an Agency to participate in a trade show'.

The circular also notes that sponsorships or similar contributions received without the express purpose of contributing to the Agency's departmental activities are amounts received for the Commonwealth as a whole and these amounts should be remitted to the Official Public Account as administered receipts.

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A special consideration — regulators undertaking partnerships and sponsorship arrangements

Partnerships and sponsorship arrangements hold both benefits and risks for public sector agencies. Benefits associated with entering into partnership and sponsorship arrangements with government agencies or private sector organisations must be balanced against the risk that they might create negative public perceptions of the arrangements or be counterproductive in some other way.

As a regulator of privacy and freedom of information in Australia, the OAIC is particularly conscious of its obligation to provide an independent, fair and impartial service to the community, business and government. To maintain public confidence in this role, the OAIC is particularly mindful of guidance from Australian Government agencies responsible for maintaining the integrity of public sector organisations and regulators.

As a regulator, the OAIC will, in particular, need to carefully consider sponsorship arrangements proposed by organisations that may be the subject of complaint or investigation under its jurisdiction. This document provides guidance as to factors to be included in this consideration.

Both the ANAO and the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) have produced guidelines for public sector agencies considering sponsorship and partnership arrangements with the private sector. The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) has recommended that agencies preparing guidelines on sponsorship should refer to the sponsorship-related advice issued by ANAO and ICAC.

In its publication, Sponsorship in the public sector, ICAC advocates ten sponsorship principles for public sector agencies:

  • A sponsorship agreement should not impose conditions that would limit, or appear to limit, an agency's ability to carry out its functions fully and impartially.
  • There should be no actual conflict between the objectives/mission of the agency and those of the sponsor.
  • An agency with regulatory responsibilities should not seek or accept sponsorship from organisations which may be subject to regulation or inspection during the life of the sponsorship. However, where adhering to this would unduly limit the agency's sponsorship prospects, the agency should manage the risks by employing specific techniques detailed in the ICAC publication.
  • Sponsorship should not involve explicit endorsement of the sponsor or its products.
  • Where sponsorship involves the supply of a product, the agency should measure that product against objective criteria.
  • Staff of the agency should not receive personal benefit from the sponsorship.
  • Sponsorship should be sought and granted by an open process.
  • Sponsorship proposals should be assessed against predetermined criteria.
  • A sponsorship agreement should be in writing.
  • Sponsorship arrangements should be approved by the CEO and described in the annual report.

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Establishing and managing partnerships and sponsorships

This policy seeks to establish a sound risk assessment and management process, and provide a mechanism to facilitate appropriate decisions over whether to enter into a partnership/sponsorship arrangement, and when the OAIC should withdraw from such relationships. The proposed process will support the establishment of partnership and sponsorship arrangements that will improve the OAIC's ability to meet its strategic goals, and manage any associated risks.

The process involves:

  • An initial consideration of purpose, benefits, costs and risks
  • Preliminary discussions with Executive and appropriate Directors
  • Assessment of potential partners
  • Submission of a proposal to the Executive
  • Formalising the agreement
  • Management of the partnered project
  • Review and reporting of the partnered project.

1. Initial considerations

Initial consideration of a potential partnership or sponsorship arrangement should address the purpose, anticipated benefits and costs, and potential risks. Primarily, the purpose must be consistent with the strategic objectives of the OAIC, the benefits should outweigh the costs, and all identified risks should be able to be managed. A guide as to factors to be considered in these assessments is included in the Decision Guide (Appendix).

If a potential partnership/sponsorship passes these initial considerations then it is appropriate to take the next step.

2. Preliminary discussions

No action on developing partnered or sponsored projects should take place without the knowledge and support of the Executive. Potential projects should be raised with Directors for discussion at Leadership meetings. If there is Executive support, then exploratory discussions with appropriate potential partners/sponsors can take place.

3. Assessment of potential partners and sponsors

When discussions with potential partners or sponsors have generated some strong prospects, those partners should be formally assessed against the benefits and risks categories in the Corporate Sponsorship and Partnerships Decision Guide (Appendix).

4. Project submission to Executive

If potential partners or sponsors are assessed as suitable, then a submission should be made to the Executive describing:

  • purpose, scope and duration of the proposal
  • benefits to the OAIC of participation in the project, including revenue targets
  • benefits to the partner of participation in the project
  • an analysis of risks (including a costing of OAIC resources required to run the project), and advice as to how these risks should be managed. Sponsorship and partnership arrangements should be quantified in order to properly value the relationship. Association with the OAIC has a considerable commercial and reputational value to private sector and public organisations that should be properly valued and not be undersold. Consideration should be given to expenditure, costs of establishment and administration of contracts, costs to the OAIC of delivering the outcomes promised to partners, and costs to the OAIC if the partnership agreement is breached and/or cancelled
  • the proposed management arrangements for the project, including the nominated project manager and project committee (see (6))
  • the arrangements with which the partnership or sponsorship will be formalised, which will ensure that conditions of the partnership are observed
  • whether the office has sufficient resources available to meet the administrative requirements of the partnership and sponsorship policy, and the specific requirements of the contract with the partner
  • a recommended course of action.

5. Formalising the Agreement

Depending on the scope of the arrangement, sponsorship and partnership agreements should be subject to a written agreement. This might take the form of an extensive memorandum of understanding (MOU), a contract or an exchange of letters.

The basic items that should be covered in an agreement are the:

  • purpose, scope and duration of the project
  • roles, responsibilities and deliverables of both parties
  • benefits to the OAIC and the proposed partner, including:
    • economic benefits
    • branding of any events, resource, or activities
    • the form/s of partnership acknowledgment to be available
    • ownership and use of any intellectual property generated.

For more complex arrangements, the following conditions of the partnership/sponsorship should also be included:

  • Consequences of a failure to comply with the Privacy Act 1988 or the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (including if necessary, immediate termination of the partnership by the OAIC), or a breach of the agreement, any conditions affecting the consequences of changes which may occur over time, such as a shift in the relationship, new policies, new corporate missions or objectives.
  • A conflict resolution clause.
  • Factors affecting renewal, and other factors identified at the Decision Guide (Appendix).
  • The need for sponsors and partners to be aware that any information relating to commercial arrangements entered into by the OAIC may be requested by the Senate Estimates Committee, and the OAIC would be obliged to table that information.
  • The need for sponsors and partners to understand and agree to uphold the APS Values if a product, service or event is to be co-badged with the sponsor/partner.
  • Any special conditions that may apply.
  • Management arrangements for the project that demonstrate the OAIC's independence (these arrangements should address the list under managing the project in the Decision Guide (Appendix)).

The agreement should also emphasise that the partnership will have no actual or perceived impact on the independence of the OAIC, nor its ability to carry out its functions with integrity.

6. Management of the project

Management of partnered/sponsored projects must be transparent to outside observers, and meet the highest standards of accountability. This will ensure that the OAIC continues to be in a position to demonstrate its independence as a regulator.

Each project must have a project manager agreed by the Executive. The project manager is responsible for developing a project management plan as soon as the project has been approved. Depending on the scope of the partnership/sponsorship, the plan could include:

  • if necessary, the identity of the project coordinating committee, a cross agency committee which will be either the Leadership team, or their delegates
  • the reporting cycle
  • acquittal arrangements
  • action plan and timeframe
  • evaluation of the project.

Consideration should be given to providing input for external stakeholder input. Mechanisms could include involving the Privacy Advisory Committee (PAC) or Information Advisory Committee (IAC), establishing a steering or advisory committee for the project, or for different stages of the project.

7. Review and reporting of the project

Australian Government accountability obligations require that the OAIC report on sponsorship and partnership arrangements. Income or other benefits generated from sponsorships and partnerships are reported in Australian Government budgetary processes, including the Annual Report. Equally, sponsoring or partnering organisations are likely to require an acquittal of expenditure and report on outcomes to measure performance of investments.

To achieve these requirements, the OAIC will present details of sponsorship and partnership arrangements in its Annual Report.

Public reports on arrangements will include:

  • name of sponsor or partner
  • purpose of relationship
  • value
  • duration
  • evaluation summary.

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References and further information

ANAO (1997), Management of corporate sponsorship,

ANAO (2012), Developing and Managing Contracts,

APSC (2007), APS Values and Code of Conduct in practice,

ICAC (2006), Sponsorship in the public sector: a guide to developing policies and procedures for both receiving and renting sponsorships,

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Appendix — Corporate Sponsorship and Partnerships Decision Guide


Purpose must be consistent with the OAIC Strategic Plan and/or objectives, and communications/ issues management approach.


Question: What are the anticipated benefits of the arrangement to the OAIC?

Answer: Consider:

  • Increased resources (financial or other).
  • Increased public profile.
  • Increased reach to target client groups.
  • Amplification of message.
  • Leveraging additional resources toward the promotion of privacy/freedom of information (FOI) generally.
  • Generation of additional privacy resources.
  • Improved knowledge of OAIC client groups.
  • Can any/all benefits be costed?

Question: What are the anticipated benefits of the arrangement to the potential partners?

Answer: Consider:

  • Branding.
  • Promotional opportunities.
  • Development of increased understanding of privacy/FOI issues.
  • Other — check to see whether appropriate.


Damage to reputation should sponsor breach, or appear to breach the Privacy Act 1988 or Freedom of Information Act 1982, or undertake actions contrary to the objectives of the OAIC.

What is its likelihood? Consider:
  • History and current practice of organisation.
  • Whether the sponsor's objectives and mission are consistent with the aims presented in the OAIC strategic plan.
What is the impact? Assess:
  • High
Can it be managed? Strategies:
  • Arrangement will be suspended if a breach occurs.
  • Openness in contractual arrangements.

Damage to independence and perception of independence.

What is the impact? Assess:
  • High
Can it be managed? Strategies:
  • Clear OAIC policies for partnerships/ sponsorships.
  • Openness in managing partnerships/ sponsorships.
  • Judicious choice of partners/ sponsors.

That the resource costs to the OAIC will be outweighed by the resource benefits.

Can it be managed? Strategies:
  • Full costing of anticipated resource costs and benefits
  • Clear statement of commitment of partners/ sponsors in contract

The OAIC may be perceived as endorsing Sponsor's products.

Can it be managed? Strategies:
  • Clear statement in contract as to endorsements
  • OAIC policy on not endorsing products understood internally, and promoted externally.

A perception of personal benefit to OAIC or Partner employees.

Can it be managed? Strategies:
  • Clear statement prohibiting personal benefit.

Damage to relationships with other stakeholders by being seen to "play favourites".

Can it be managed? Strategies:
  • Make the OAIC's interest in, and criteria for partnerships/ sponsorships widely known amongst stakeholders, where possible, provide broad opportunity for participation (possibly advertise).

Dispute over intellectual property generated.

Can it be managed? Strategies:
  • Contractual arrangements set out intellectual property ownership provisions.


The following conditions will apply to all partnership/sponsorship arrangements:

  • Each such arrangement that involves a transfer of resources to the OAIC of the value of $5,000 or more must be covered by a partnership/sponsorship agreement.
  • The agreement established must be consistent with OAIC and public sector codes of conduct.
  • Breach of the agreement without prior agreement between the parties will lead to a termination of the agreement.
  • Neither employees of the OAIC nor the partnering organisation will accrue personal benefit from the arrangements.
  • The arrangement will not impact on the OAIC's independence, or its impartiality in investigating and resolving privacy complaints, and representing the privacy interests of the individual.
  • Partners/sponsors should be aware that the contract may be made public, eg by a request from the Senate Estimates Committee.
  • The need for sponsors and partners to understand and agree to uphold the APS Values if a product, service or event is to be co-badged with the sponsor/partner.
  • The partner/sponsor must be able to demonstrate support for and understanding of the objectives of the OAIC.

Management of the project

  • Full cost-benefit analysis complete and shows overall benefit.
  • Full risk analysis complete, and shows all risks can be managed.
  • Project manager and project committee nominated.
  • Formal agreement between the partner or sponsor and the OAIC established.
  • Acquittal process developed.
  • Approval by the Australian Information Commissioner.

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