Gifts and Benefits Policy

Version 1.4, December 2021

Purpose

This document sets out the OAIC’s policy on gifts and benefits and the requirement for the agency head to maintain and publish a register of gifts and benefits accepted, valued at more than $100 (excluding gst). It gives guidance on what to do when gifts or benefits are offered to an OAIC staff member or are to be provided to others. Implementation of the policy will ensure that the integrity and reputation of the OAIC are not compromised.

Introduction

This policy applies to the agency head and all OAIC staff who receive gifts or benefits in the course of their official duties.

As an independent regulatory agency, the integrity and reputation of the OAIC are critical. From time to time OAIC staff may be offered gifts or benefits. These situations may be sensitive, and they must be handled in a way that demonstrates that OAIC staff members cannot be improperly influenced.

At all times, staff members must act in accordance with the Australian Public Service values and code of conduct.

Principles

In general:

  • staff must not accept gifts and benefits that may be perceived as representing a conflict of interest or which might reasonably be seen to compromise their integrity
  • all accepted gifts or benefits must be reported to the Deputy Commissioner
  • accepted gifts or benefits valued over $100 (excluding gst) must be recorded in the Gift Register and will be published on the OAIC website
  • accepted gifts or benefits valued at $100 (excluding gst) or less may be recorded in the Gift Register but will not be published on the website
  • the person offering a gift or benefit valued at over $100 (excluding gst) must be advised that their information will be published on the OAIC’s website
  • if a gift or benefit is provided on behalf of the OAIC, it must be recorded in the Gift Register.

Definition

A gift or benefit is any item or service accepted by an employee from clients, customers (including potential clients and customers) or other associates, in the course of their official duties.  This includes any service or item received by the family of an employee, where there is a clear link with the employee’s official duties.  Gifts and benefits may include but are not limited to:

  • offers of cash or shares
  • gift cards
  • gift baskets
  • bottles of wine, manufacturer’s samples or personal items
  • promotional materials, including clothes, books, USBs or DVDs
  • sponsored travel
  • free or discounted travel or accommodation
  • airline competition prizes
  • airline upgrades
  • meals or other hospitality
  • accommodation and hire car discounts
  • entertainment, such as meals, seats at sporting or theatre events or golf days
  • discounts or other preferential treatment
  • free or discounted places at training courses, conferences or seminars
  • plants or flowers
  • lottery tickets
  • lucky door prizes or other prizes offered by, for example, conference sponsors.

Low value promotional materials such as items included in conference packages or small boxes of chocolates are excluded from this policy.

Gifts and benefits:

  • not accepted
  • made in a will
  • to or from a relative, friend or acquaintance outside of the course of official duties (ie in a purely personal capacity) and which do not give rise to or create the appearance of a conflict of interest
  • that form part of an approved assistance program such as a disaster relief arrangement

are also not the subject of this policy.

This policy applies in all circumstances including where gifts or benefits may be offered outside normal working hours or while on leave.

Threshold

The threshold for publishing the acceptance of a gift or benefit is a value of more than $100 (excluding gst).  The value of an official gift is assessed on the basis of the wholesale (tax free) value in the country of origin of the donor of the gift and converted to Australian dollars at the current exchange rate, or the current market value of the gift in Australia (excluding gst).

Gift Register

A Gift Register must be maintained to keep a register of gifts or benefits accepted. The Gift Register must be updated within 31 days of receiving a gift or benefit that exceeds $100 (excluding gst).

The Gift Register must be published on the OAIC’s website quarterly by 30 April, 31 July, 30 October, and 31 January each year.

The following information will be captured on the Gift Register:

  • Date received
  • Date recorded
  • Gift item / benefit
  • Received by
  • Presented by (giver’s name, organisation/country)
  • Occasion
  • Estimated value

The Gift Register will be maintained by the Office Manager and held by the Deputy Commissioner.

When publishing the Gift Register, where a gift or benefit has not been recorded during the reporting period a ‘nil’ declaration is to be included, adding text to that affect that ‘No gifts or benefits were accepted valued at over $AUD100.00 (excluding GST) in the reporting period’.

A link to the OAIC’s published Gift Register is also maintained on the Australian Public Service Commission’s website.

Managing Offers of Gifts or Benefits

Should I accept?

Always exercise caution. The following should be taken into consideration:

  • the type and significance of the gift or benefit
  • whether it is part of an exchange of gifts between official representatives of governments
  • is the person or organisation in a contractual or regulatory relationship, or involved in a purchasing/tendering process, with the OAIC?
  • is the person or organisation’s primary purpose to lobby Ministers, members of Parliament or agencies?
  • would accepting be likely to create an actual or perceived conflict of interest?
  • would accepting be likely to create a feeling of obligation?
  • would accepting the gift or benefit reflect poorly on the OAIC if reported in the media or raised before a parliamentary committee?

There may be circumstances where accepting hospitality may give rise to a real or apparent conflict of interest, but attendance is required as part of an employee’s official duties.

Where possible staff members should discuss offers of gifts in advance with their Assistant or Deputy Commissioner.

Accepting a gift

Any gift accepted by an OAIC staff member is accepted on behalf of the OAIC and becomes the property of the OAIC.

All gifts or benefits must be reported promptly to the Deputy Commissioner through the Office Manager, using the Record of Gift Offered to the OAIC Form. The Deputy Commissioner may decide that the gift will be retained for official purposes, disposed of, donated, used as a raffle prize, shared among staff or retained by the staff member who received it.

The information on the ‘Record of Gift Offered to the OAIC’ form will be recorded in the Gift Register.

The person offering a gift or benefit valued at over $100 (excluding gst) must be advised that their information will be published on the OAIC’s website.

Staff members should report gifts or benefits valued at $100 (excluding gst) or less.  These gifts will be recorded on the Gift Register however they will not be published on the OAIC’s website.

Where the recipient determines that to refuse a gift or benefit would cause embarrassment or offence the OAIC may dispose of the gift in the following manner:

  • the gift remaining on the property of the Commonwealth or agency (for example, on public display)
  • donate the gift to the social club for a raffle or social function
  • donate the gift to a public or private organisation
  • dispose of the gift in an alternative way that would not offend the giver.

Scanning of gifts

If a gift is to remain the property of the OAIC the employee should contact the Office Manager and arrange for the gift to be scanned. If there are any concerns the OAIC will take appropriate action and the recipient will be advised of the outcome.

Fringe Benefits Tax

Gifts may be subject to Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT).  Gifts over $50 should be included in the OAIC quarterly FBT return.  Generally, however, if the gift is under $300 it would be exempt through the ‘minor and infrequent’ exemption.

Privacy

In compliance with the Privacy Act 1988, the gift or benefit giver must be advised that their information will be included on the register and will be published on the OAIC website if the value is more than $100.

Providing Gifts

In some cases, the OAIC may offer a gift for official purposes, for example to acknowledge a guest speaker or to exchange gifts with a visiting delegation from overseas. Any gifts purchased from OAIC funds must be approved in advance by the Deputy Commissioner and reported on the Record of Gift Provided by the OAIC.

Gifts offered should preferably be of an Australian or relevant Office theme, made in Australia and should not be of excessive value.  It should be made clear that the official gift is given on behalf of the Information Commissioner.

The ‘Record of Gift Provided by the OAIC’ form will be recorded in the Gift Register.

References

APS Values and Code of Conduct in practice

Official Hospitality Guidelines

APSC Gifts and Benefits Guidance December 2021