Policy on Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment

PREAMBLE
DEFINITIONS
EFFECTIVE DATE
APPLICATION
CONTEXT
POLICY STATEMENT
Objectives
Expected results
COMMISSIONER’S RESPONSIBILITIES
Education and oversight
Managing conflict of interest and post-employment situations
Monitoring and reporting requirements
REQUIREMENTS FOR PREVENTING AND DEALING WITH CONFLICT OF INTEREST AND POST-EMPLOYMENT SITUATIONS
Office employees general responsibilities and duties
Requirements for preventing and dealing with situations of conflict of interest during employment
Requirements for preventing and dealing with post-employment conflict of interest situations before and after leaving office
RESOLUTION
CONSEQUENCES
ENQUIRIES
ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION
REFERENCES
Legislation
Related policies and publications
 

 

 

PREAMBLE

Federal public servants have a fundamental role to play in serving Canadians, their communities and the public interest under the direction of the elected government and in accordance with the law. As professionals whose work is essential to Canada's well-being and the enduring strength of the Canadian democracy, public servants uphold the public trust.

The Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada (PSIC or the “Office”) is an independent agent of Parliament, reporting directly to the House of Commons and the Senate.  It was created under the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act (the Act). The Office provides a safe and secure place, where public servants and members of the public can make protected disclosures of wrongdoing in the federal public sector and where federal public servants and former federal public servants can bring complaints of reprisal.  The Office plays an important role, as an independent body, in fostering trust in public institutions and responding to wrongdoing and reprisal in the federal public sector.

The Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada Policy on Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment was developed in consultation with managers of the Office and reflects the unique nature of our work as an independent agent of Parliament. This policy encompasses the principles and requirements of the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada Values and Ethics Code, and complements the Code.

 

DEFINITIONS

Commissioner

The Commissioner is an Agent of Parliament appointed by resolution of the Senate and House of Commons. He reports directly to Parliament. He is the chief executive of the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner and has the rank and powers of a Deputy Head of a department.

For the purposes of this policy the term "the Commissioner" means the Commissioner or his/her delegated alternates. 

Employee

An employee is a person employed in the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada.   This includes indeterminate and term employees, employees on leave without pay, students participating in Student Employment Programs, casual, seasonal and part-time workers as well as persons on secondment or on interchange with the Office.  All persons employed in the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada are subject to this policy whether they are deemed to be public servants or not.

Supervisor

A supervisor is the individual to whom an employee reports to directly, and who supervises his/her work. 

Ethics Officer

The Ethics Officer is the individual designated at PSIC to deal with ethics related questions. 

Conflict of Interest

A conflict of interest is a situation in which an employee has private interests that could improperly influence the performance of his or her official duties and responsibilities or in which the Office employee uses his or her office for personal gain. A real conflict of interest is one that exists at the present time, an apparent conflict of interest could be perceived by a reasonable observer to exist, whether or not it is the case, and a potential conflict of interest could reasonably be foreseen to exist in the future.

Conflict of Duties

Conflict of duties is a conflict that arises, not because of an employee's private interests, but as a result of one or more concurrent or competing official responsibilities. For example, these roles could include his or her primary Office employment and his or her responsibilities in an outside role that forms part of his or her official duties, such as an appointment to a board of directors, or other outside function.  

 

EFFECTIVE DATE

This policy takes effect on March 31st, 2014. 

 

APPLICATION

All PSIC employees are required to comply with this policy as well as observe the duties and responsibilities outlined in Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada Values and Ethics Code.

As an independent agent of Parliament, the Commissioner is solely responsible for monitoring and ensuring compliance with this policy within the Office, as well as for responding to cases of non-compliance.

When faced with a possible ethical dilemma, employees are expected to discuss the matter with their supervisor(s) and/or with the Ethics Officer and to use any opportunities and mechanisms provided in the Office to raise, discuss and resolve issues of concern related to this policy and to the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada Values and Ethics Code.

In the case of any conflict between this policy and any Act of Parliament, the Act takes precedence. 

 

CONTEXT

Public servants contribute in a fundamental way to good government, democracy and Canadian society through the loyal, impartial, and non-partisan support they provide to the elected government and through the service they provide to Canadians. As dedicated professionals, they serve the public interest and uphold the public trust.

This policy is aligned with the spirit and intent of the Treasury Board Policy on Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment.  This policy elaborates on the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada Values and Ethics Code, and is aligned with its content. It provides direction and measures to assist employees in effectively dealing with real, potential and apparent conflict of interest situations which may arise during and after employment in the public service. Preventing, managing or resolving conflict of interest situations is one of the principal means of maintaining public and stakeholder’s trust and confidence in the impartiality and integrity of the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada.

This policy is to be read in conjunction with the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada Values and Ethics Code. The Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada Values and Ethics Code and the requirements to prevent and deal with conflict of interest and post-employment situations found in this policy form part of the conditions of employment for every Office employee. 

 

POLICY STATEMENT

Objectives

The objectives of this policy are to:

  • Ensure that, in situations of real, apparent or potential conflict of interest and situations where there is a conflict of duties, decisions are made in a manner which upholds the public interest;
  • Facilitate ethical decision-making within the Office and by its employees to resolve conflicts between private and public interests; and
  • Establish measures to help employees prevent, manage and resolve conflict of interest and post-employment situations that could impair either the integrity of the Office or the public's perception of its integrity.

Expected results

The expected results of this policy are that:

  • The Office has the appropriate mechanisms in place to assist employees to report and effectively manage real, apparent or potential conflict of interest situations when performing their duties and after employment; and
  • employees take appropriate action to avoid, reduce or manage situations of real, potential or apparent conflict of interest in the performance of their duties and after employment in the public service. 

 

COMMISSIONER'S RESPONSIBILITIES

The Commissioner will promote this policy and provide guidance to support its implementation. 

The Commissioner is responsible for:

  • Education and oversight;
  • Managing conflict of interest and post-employment situations; and
  • Monitoring and reporting. 

The Commissioner’s responsibilities in each of these areas are outlined below. 

Education and oversight

  1. Ensuring that employees and anyone considering joining the Office, are informed that the requirements listed in this policy, are a condition of employment. This obligation is fulfilled by having individuals acknowledge these requirements in their initial acceptance of an offer of employment to the Office and on any subsequent appointment or deployment within the Office;
  2. Ensuring that supervisors inform their employees on a regular basis of the requirements of this policy, and that employees who have indicated an intention to leave their employment are reminded of the requirements of this policy;
  3. Ensuring that the operational risks of conflicts of interest related to the Office’s mandate are identified and managed; and
  4. Ensuring that the delegation of the responsibilities and authorities for the implementation of this policy are communicated to all employees. 
  5. Ensuring that employees have access to advice and assistance when they are unsure of whether they are in a conflict of interest, and when they are considering undertaking any political activity;
  6. Ensuring that procedures are in place at PSIC for employees to file a report of all situations, assets or interests that might give rise to a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest with respect to their official duties. These reports are to be administered in accordance with the Privacy Act;
  7. Ensuring that any conflict arising between the private interests and the official duties of an employee is resolved in favour of the public interest, by considering the nature and risk of the conflict of interest in relation to the feasibility and practicality of the measures required to resolve the conflict, and communicating the decision and the reasons for the decision to the employee. While a declaration of a possible conflict of interest to the Commissioner may often be sufficient, additional requirements may be necessary.
  8. Ensuring that benefits provided or offered to the Office by outside entities or individuals with whom PSIC has past, present or potential official dealings are managed appropriately and that any resulting organizational conflict of interest is resolved in the public interest;
  9. Ensuring that concurrent outside appointments that are part of an  employee's official duties, such as to a board of directors, are managed appropriately and that any resulting conflicts of duties are resolved in the public interest;
  10. Without unduly restricting employees' ability to seek other employment, reviewing the Office’s operations and organizational structure for post-employment situations:
    1. Determining which positions in the Office may be at risk for post-employment concerns and designating them as subject to the requirements outlined in this policy; and
    2. When appropriate, reducing or waiving the one-year limitation period, in consideration of the criteria set out in this policy.

Managing conflict of interest and post-employment situations

Note: Refer to items 2 and 3 of the section on Requirements for preventing post-employment conflict of interest situations before and after leaving office, in relation to 6.a and 6.b above.

  1. Ensuring that decisions taken to resolve conflicts of interest and post-employment situations are, where practicable, made in mutual agreement with the employee in question, using fair and effective means to resolve disagreements regarding the decisions.

Monitoring and reporting requirements

The Commissioner is responsible for monitoring the performance of the Office with respect to the application and administration of this policy by assessing the Office's service delivery structure, resource allocation, human resources competencies, performance indicators, as well as the systems, processes and procedures to prevent and effectively manage real, apparent or potential conflicts of interest in favour of the public interest.

The Commissioner may inform the Treasury Board Secretariat (Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer) on any matter relating to this policy.  

 

REQUIREMENTS FOR PREVENTING AND DEALING WITH CONFLICT OF INTEREST AND POST-EMPLOYMENT SITUATIONS

Following are the conflict of interest and post-employment requirements that are a condition of employment for employees. These requirements are grounded in and serve to uphold the values contained in the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada Values and Ethics Code. By upholding these ethical standards, employees conserve and enhance public and Office stakeholder’s confidence in the honesty, fairness and integrity of PSIC.

Office employees maintain public and other stakeholder’s confidence in the objectivity of PSIC by preventing and avoiding situations that could give the appearance of a conflict of interest, result in a potential for a conflict of interest or result in an actual conflict of interest. Conflict of interest does not relate exclusively to matters concerning financial transactions and the transfer of economic benefit. While financial activity is important, conflicts of interest in any area of activity can have a negative impact on the perceived objectivity of the public service. In particular, given the nature of the Office’s work, a prior or current connection of an employee with a discloser, complainant, witness, alleged wrongdoer or alleged reprisor as it relates to a specific investigation being performed under the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, may give rise to conflict of interest.

It is impossible to foresee every situation that could give rise to a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest. When in doubt, Office employees should refer to the requirements found in this policy and in the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada Values and Ethics Code in order to guide appropriate action. Office employees are also encouraged to seek guidance from their supervisor, the Ethics Officer, and/or from the Commissioner.

In addition to the requirements outlined in this policy, employees are also required to observe any specific conduct requirements contained in the statutes governing their profession, where applicable.

The Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner must verify on an ongoing basis all active files to ensure that any conflict involving one of them is highlighted at the earliest possible time and that the Director of Operations is informed forthwith.

 

Office employees general responsibilities and duties

Office employee's general responsibilities and duties include:

  1. Taking all possible steps to recognize, prevent, report, and resolve any real, apparent or potential conflicts of interest between their official responsibilities and any of their private affairs;
  2. Unless otherwise permitted in this policy, refraining from having private interests, which would be unduly affected by government actions in which they participate, or of which they have knowledge or information;
  3. Not knowingly taking advantage of, or benefiting from, information that is obtained in the course of their duties that is not available to the public;
  4. Refraining from the direct or indirect use of, or allowing the direct or indirect use of government property of any kind, including property leased to the government, for anything other than officially approved activities;
  5. Not assisting private entities or persons in their dealings with the government where this would result in preferential treatment of the entities or persons;
  6. Not interfering in the dealings of private entities or persons with the government in order to inappropriately influence the outcome;
  7. Maintaining the impartiality of the public service and not engaging in any outside or political activities that impair or could be seen to impair their ability to perform their duties in an objective or impartial manner; and
  8. Ensuring that any real, apparent or potential conflict that arises between their private activities and their official responsibilities as an Office employee is resolved in the public interest.

Requirements for preventing and dealing with situations of conflict of interest during employment

Office employees are required to report in writing to the Ethics Officer, in accordance with the Office's procedures, all outside activities, assets and interests that might give rise to a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest in relation to their official duties. Such a report is to be made within 60 days of their initial appointment or any subsequent appointment, transfer or deployment. A copy of the form to be completed – CPSA/AFPC 610-30 E – Confidential Report – can be found in Appendix A of this document. 

On a regular basis thereafter, and every time a major change occurs in their personal affairs or official duties, every Office employee is required to review his or her obligations under this policy, and the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada Values and Ethics Code. If a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest exists, he or she is to file a report in a timely manner. At PSIC, this review is accomplished on a yearly basis through the annual performance assessment process.

When negotiating financial arrangements with outside parties, employees are to comply with the requirements listed in this policy as well as other related directives or policies issued by the Treasury Board. When in doubt, employees are expected to immediately report the situation to their supervisor, and/or the Ethics Officer in order to seek advice or direction on how to proceed.

1. Assets

Office employees are required to evaluate their assets, taking into consideration the nature of their official duties and the characteristics of their assets. If there is any real, apparent or potential conflict of interest between the carrying out of their official duties and their assets, they are to report this matter to the Commissioner in a timely manner.

Where the Commissioner determines that any of these assets results in a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest in relation to their official duties, employees may be required to divest those assets, or to take other measures to resolve the conflict. Office employees may not sell or transfer assets to family members or anyone else for the purpose of circumventing the compliance requirements.

The types of assets that should be reported and the procedures for reporting and managing such assets are set out in the Directive on Reporting and Managing Financial Conflicts of Interest. (yet to be published)

2. Outside employment or activities

Office employees may engage in employment outside the public service and take part in outside activities unless the employment or activities are likely to give rise to a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest or would undermine the impartiality of the Office or the objectivity of the Office employee.

Office employees are required to provide a report to the Commissioner when their outside employment or activities might subject them to demands incompatible with their official duties, or cast doubt on their ability to perform their duties or responsibilities in a completely objective manner. The Commissioner may require that the outside employment or activities be modified or terminated if it is determined that a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest exists.

Office employees who receive a benefit or income either directly or indirectly from a contract with the Government of Canada are required to report to their supervisor and/or the Ethics Officer on such contractual or other arrangements. The supervisor and/or the Ethics Officer will determine whether the arrangement presents a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest, and if applicable, the Commissioner may require that the contract be modified or terminated.

2.1 Political activities

Any employee considering involvement in political activity that could impair, or be perceived by others as impairing their ability to perform their duties in a politically impartial manner must inform and seek the advice of their supervisor, a designated departmental official, the Public Service Commission (PSC) or a human resources advisor before acting.

Office employees are required to seek and obtain permission from the PSC to seek nomination for or be a candidate in a federal, provincial, territorial, or municipal election, in accordance with Part 7 of the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA).

"Political activities" are defined in Part 7 of the PSEA as "any activity in support of, within or in opposition to a political party; carrying on any activity in support of or in opposition to a candidate before or during an election period; or, seeking nomination as or being a candidate in an election before or during the election period."

Any employee who wishes to engage in a political activity not covered by Part 7 of the PSEA that could constitute a conflict of interest is required to report the proposed activity to the Commissioner.

Similarly, any employee who is subject to this policy but who is not subject to Part 7 of the PSEA, including casual and part-time workers, who wishes to engage in any political activity that could constitute a conflict of interest, is to report the proposed activity to the Commissioner. 

3. Gifts, hospitality and other benefits

Office employees are expected to use their best judgment to avoid situations of real, apparent or potential conflict of interest by considering the following criteria on gifts, hospitality and other benefits and in keeping with the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada Values and Ethics Code and this policy.

Office employees are not to accept any gifts, hospitality or other benefits that may have a real, apparent or potential influence on their objectivity in carrying out their official duties and responsibilities or that may place them under obligation to the donor. This includes activities such as free or discounted admission to sporting and cultural events, travel or conferences.

The acceptance of gifts, hospitality and other benefits is permissible if they are infrequent and of minimal value, within the normal standards of courtesy or protocol, arise out of activities or events related to the official duties of the employee concerned, and do not compromise or appear to compromise the integrity of the Office employee concerned or of the Office.

Office employees are to seek written direction from the Commissioner where it is impossible to decline gifts, hospitality or other benefits that do not meet the principles set out above, or where it is believed that there is sufficient benefit to the Office to warrant acceptance of certain types of hospitality.

4. Solicitation

With the exception of fundraising for such officially supported activities as the Government of Canada Workplace Charitable Campaign (GCWCC), Office employees may not solicit gifts, hospitality, other benefits or transfers of economic value from a person, group or organization in the private sector who has dealings with the government. When fundraising for such official activities, employees should ensure that they have prior written authorization from the Commissioner in order to solicit donations, prizes or contributions in kind from external organizations or individuals.

Similarly, if an outside individual or entity, with whom the Office has past, present or potential official dealings, offers a benefit to the Office such as funding for an event or a donation of equipment, Office employees are to consider whether any real, apparent or potential conflict of interest exists, and obtain the consent in writing of the Commissioner prior to accepting any such benefit.

The Commissioner may require that the activities be modified or terminated where it is determined that there is a real, potential or apparent conflict of interest or an obligation to the donor. These provisions are designed to ensure that this policy is consistent with paragraph 121(1) (c) of the Criminal Code.

5. Avoidance of preferential treatment

Office employees are responsible for demonstrating objectivity and impartiality in the exercise of their duties and in their decision-making, whether related to staffing, financial awards or penalties to external parties, transfer payments, program operations or any other exercise of responsibility. 

This means that they are prohibited from granting preferential treatment or advantages to family, friends or any other person or entity. They are not to offer extraordinary assistance to any entity or persons already dealing with the Office without the knowledge and support of their supervisor. They also are not to disadvantage any entity or persons dealing with the Office because of personal antagonism or bias.

Providing information that is publicly accessible is not considered preferential treatment.

6. PSIC Operations

Given the nature of the work being conducted by PSIC, current or prior association with a discloser, complainant, witness or any person against whom allegations of wrongdoing or reprisal have been made could give rise to a real, potential or apparent conflict of interest situation. When an employee encounters such a situation, he/she is required to discuss it with his/her supervisor and/or the Ethics Officer who will advise on the best course of action. When required, legal advice may also be sought.

In instances where the objectivity of the employee to perform his/her duties could be affected or could be perceived as being affected, the file would be reassigned.  In such instances, the decision should be documented (e.g. in the Case Management System).

Requirements for preventing and dealing with post-employment conflict of interest situations before and after leaving office

All employees have a responsibility to minimize the possibility of real, apparent or potential conflict of interest between their most recent responsibilities within the Office and their subsequent employment outside the Office.

1. Before leaving employment

Before leaving their employment with the Office, all employees are to disclose their intentions regarding any future outside employment or activities that may pose a risk of real, apparent or potential conflict of interest with their current responsibilities and discuss potential conflicts with their supervisor or the Commissioner. 

2. Post-employment limitation period for public servants in designated positions

The Commissioner is responsible for designating positions of risk for post-employment conflict of interest situations as per item 10 of the Policy Requirements section of this policy outlining the responsibilities of the Commissioner in managing conflict of interest and post-employment situations. 

Office employees in these designated positions are subject to a one-year limitation period after leaving office. Before leaving office and during this one-year limitation period, these employees are to report to the Commissioner all firm offers of employment or proposed activity outside the public service that could place them in a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest with their public service employment. They are also to disclose immediately the acceptance of any such offer. In addition, these employees may not, during this one-year period, without the Commissioner's authorization:

  • Accept appointment to a board of directors of, or employment with, private entities with which they had significant official dealings during the period of one year immediately prior to the termination of their service. The official dealings in question may either be directly on the part of the Office employee or through their subordinates;
  • Make representations to any government organization on behalf of persons or entities outside of the Public Service or outside the Office with which they had significant official dealings, during the period of one year immediately prior to the termination of their service.  The official dealings in question may either be directly on the part of the employee or through their subordinates; or
  • Give advice to their clients or employer using information that is not publicly available of the departments or organizations of the Office or those of departments or organizations with which they had a direct and substantial relationship. 

3. Waiver or reduction of limitation period

An employee or former employee may apply to the Commissioner for a written waiver or reduction of the limitation period. The employee is to provide sufficient information to assist the Commissioner in making a determination as to whether to grant the waiver taking into consideration the following criteria:

  • The circumstances under which the termination of their service occurred;
  • The general employment prospects of the Office employee or former  employee;
  • The significance to the government of information possessed by the  employee or former employee by virtue of that individual's position in the Office;
  • The desirability of a rapid transfer of the employee 's or former  employee 's knowledge and skills from the government to private, other governmental or non-governmental sectors;
  • The degree to which the new employer might gain unfair commercial or private advantage by hiring the employee or former employee;
  • The authority and influence possessed by that individual while in the Office; and/or
  • Any other consideration at the discretion of the Commissioner. 

 

RESOLUTION

Neither the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada Values and Ethics Code, nor this policy will be able to anticipate every possible situation or ethical dilemma that might arise in the course of the work of PSIC.  When the situation arises, Office employees are encouraged to discuss and resolve these matters with their immediate supervisor, the Ethics Officer or the Commissioner. They can also seek advice and support from other appropriate sources within the Office. 

Office employees at all levels are expected to resolve issues in a fair and respectful manner and consider informal processes such as dialogue or mediation.

When an Office employee and the Commissioner disagree on appropriate arrangements to resolve a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest, the disagreement will be resolved through established dispute resolution procedures.

 

CONSEQUENCES

An Office employee who does not comply with the requirements set out in this policy may be subject to disciplinary measures, up to and including termination of employment. 

 

ENQUIRIES

Office employees who have any questions about this policy are encouraged to speak with their supervisor and/or the Ethics Officer.

 

ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION

The Public Service Commission is responsible for ensuring that appointments in the Public Service are made on the basis of merit and are free from political influence. The Public Service Commission is also responsible for administering the provisions of Part 7, Political Activities, of the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA), including:

  • Granting permission to an employee seeking nomination for or being a candidate in a federal, provincial, municipal or territorial election;
  • Authorizing leave without pay to an employee who is a candidate in a federal, provincial, or territorial election; and
  • Receiving and investigating allegations of inappropriate political activity as defined in the PSEA, and taking corrective action when the allegations are founded.

REFERENCES

Legislation

 

Related policies and publications

 

2015-09-29