Code of Conduct case - Misconduct by a former APS employee: A conflict of interest in recruitment

A former APS employee was found to have breached the Code of Conduct, for behaviour he engaged in while still an APS employee. He arranged a job interview for a close family member without disclosing the relationship.

Although the former employee resigned before the Code of Conduct investigation commenced, the agency decided to investigate his conduct as the integrity of recruitment decision making is important to overall integrity of the APS.

The Public Service Act 1999 provides that an agency head can determine that a person has breached the Code of Conduct even if the person is no longer an APS employee. However, the agency head is unable to impose a sanction.

Upon review it was clear from the evidence, including the former employee’s admissions, that he arranged the interview with his relative and did not disclose the family relationship to the supervisor who conducted the interview. The former employee said his motivation was to assist the close family member who was struggling financially. The former employee also considered that “everyone else in the APS was doing it” and did not consider it to be a problem.

The former employee held conversations with others in the workplace that demonstrated the steps he took to assist his relative to gain employment were deliberate; and he knew his actions were problematic. This evidence indicated the former employee did not act in a way that was truthful and frank.

The Merit Protection Commissioner recommended that the decision that the former employee had breached the following elements of the Code of Conduct be confirmed

  • section 13(1) of the Code of Conduct – the requirement to act with honesty and integrity
  • section 13(7) of the Code of Conduct – the requirement to take appropriate steps to avoid a conflict of interest and to declare a personal interest that might result in a conflict of interests
  • section 13(10)(a) of the Code of Conduct by improperly using his status as a public servant, and the information he had access to, to gain a benefit for his relative.