Chapter 1: About this manual

This Chapter provides information about the Conduct and Ethics Manual, its contents, who the Manual applies to and how it is amended.

Staff should contact the Conduct and Ethics Unit (conduct@dfat.gov.au) if they require clarification on the contents of this Manual or if they are uncertain about the ethical implications of a proposed course of action.

1.1. What is in this Manual?

1.1.1 This Manual, as amended from time to time, is the principal source of departmental guidance and policies on conduct and ethics issues. It replaces all Administrative Circulars on conduct and ethics issues previously maintained by Management Strategy, Conduct and Diversity Section (MCS) and the Conduct and Ethics Unit (CEU).

1.1.2 There are also a number of Administrative Circulars and other departmental policy documents with relevance to conduct and ethics which are linked to this Manual. While these documents are maintained by units in the department other than MCS and CEU, they operate in conjunction with this Manual.

1.1.3 In the event of any inconsistency between this Manual and the Public Service Act 1999 or the Public Service Regulations 1999 or The Australian Public Service Commissioner’s Directions 2013, the Act, Regulations and Directions will apply.

Case Studies

1.1.4 To guide staff, this Manual also contains case studies about conduct and ethics issues. A sample follows. The advice contained in these case studies does not constitute legal advice, and the department does not guarantee the completeness of the advice they contain. Staff should note that different solutions and outcomes may apply in individual circumstances. For further guidance on how to interpret conduct and ethics policies as they relate to individual circumstances, staff should contact CEU.

Case Study — Sample Conduct and Ethics Issue

Each case study poses a problem or question relevant to a particular conduct and ethics policy.

The case study then sets out a possible response, including an explanation. Remember that for further guidance on how to interpret conduct and ethics policies as they relate to individual circumstances, staff should contact CEU.

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1.2 Does this Manual Apply to Me?

1.2.1 This Manual applies to all categories of staff in the department - APS (i.e. A-based) employees, LES employees and contractors. Where the Manual expressly directs staff to carry out an action or to refrain from specified forms of behaviour, they must comply.

1.2.2 This Manual allows employees and contractors to understand how the department’s conduct and ethics policies apply to them; what they can do to comply with those policies; and what action may be taken against an individual who fails to comply with those requirements.  

APS Employees

1.2.3 APS employees of the department – ongoing, non-ongoing, those on probation and those on secondment from other APS agencies – are bound by the APS Values and Employment Principles and the APS Code of Conduct (sections 10, 10A and 13 of the Public Service Act 1999) as part of their conditions of service. Under the APS Code of Conduct, they must comply with any lawful and reasonable direction given by the Secretary or someone in the department who has authority to give the direction (section 13(5) of the Public Service Act 1999). The directions contained in this Manual and any DFAT policy documents linked to this Manual constitute lawful and reasonable directions in this regard. Failure to comply with these directions may constitute a breach of the APS Code of Conduct, for which sanctions may apply, and may also be considered in the context of performance management.

LES Employees

1.2.4 Under the Prime Minister’s Directive on the Guidelines for the Management of the Australian Government Presence Overseas the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is the employer of all LES at DFAT-managed posts, except for Austrade LES.

1.2.5 LES are not APS employees. However, the department expects its LES to observe the same high standards of conduct, ethics, probity and integrity as that required of all other employees and contractors. LES employed by DFAT are obliged as part of their conditions of service to comply with the LES Code of Conduct in place at their post. Under the standard LES Code of Conduct, they must comply with any lawful and reasonable direction given by a person at post who has the authority to give the direction. HOMs/HOPs should ensure that LES are aware that the directions relating to LES contained in the Manual, and in any DFAT policy documents linked to this Manual, are lawful and reasonable directions for the purposes of their LES Code of Conduct. Failure to comply with these directions may constitute a breach of the applicable LES Code of Conduct for which sanctions may apply, and may also be considered in the context of performance management.

Contractors

1.2.6 For the purposes of this Manual, a contractor is defined as an individual engaged in Australia to perform specific services for the department in Australia or overseas under a contract, including:

1.2.7 Contractors are not APS employees. However, the standard terms and conditions of DFAT contracts include a specific obligation that contractors or labour hire companies who provide staff to the department ensure they / their personnel comply with its practices, policies, procedures and reasonable directions, including the APS Values and Employment Principles, the APS Code of Conduct and the DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service. The directions contained in the Manual and any departmental policy documents linked to the Manual constitute lawful and reasonable directions in this regard. Failure to comply with these directions may constitute a failure to meet contract obligations, for which sanctions may apply.

1.2.8 To help ensure contractors understand their obligations, a summary of directions contained in this Manual as they apply to contractors in the department is at Schedule B. This summary should be attached as a schedule to all head agreements, contracts or deeds of standing offer.

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1.3 How do I Know Which Policies Apply to Me?

1.3.1 To make it easier for users of this Manual to understand their obligations, lists summarising the obligations of different categories of staff are included at the start of many sections. A sample follows.

What do I need to do?

APS Employees

1.4 Amendments to this Manual

1.4.1 This Manual is maintained by MCS and CEU, with additional guidance and oversight from the Ethics Committee. All changes to this Manual must be authorised by FAS CMD. Significant changes to this Manual are announced through Administrative Circulars. All superseded versions of this Manual are archived in MCS and CEU.

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1.5 Summary of this Manual

1.5.1 Following is a summary of key guidance and policies in this Manual. Staff should of course refer to the relevant chapters for complete guidance and policies, including as they apply to different categories of staff in the department.

Policies, Values and Codes of Conduct (Chapter 1 & Chapter 3)

DFAT staff (APS employees, LES employees and contractors) must comply with all departmental policies and directions which apply to them, including directions in this Manual, as amended from time to time. APS employees and contractors must maintain conduct consistent with the APS Values and Employment Principles and APS Code of Conduct. When performing duties overseas for DFAT, they must maintain conduct consistent with the DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service. LES employees must maintain conduct consistent with the LES Code of Conduct in place at their post.

Conduct and Ethics Unit (Section 2.1) / Conduct and Ethics Training (Chapter 4)

CEU provides advice on conduct and ethics issues, investigates allegations of misconduct, and refers allegations of criminal behaviour to relevant law enforcement authorities. CEU's ethical advisory role is central to its work. Staff and work units are encouraged to contact CEU if they are uncertain about the ethical implications of a proposed course of action or about whether they have a real or apparent conflict of interest. This is good risk management practice, and consistent with DFAT's culture of appropriate reflection, disclosure and discussion on ethical issues.

CEU provides conduct and ethics training in Canberra, as well as training tools to posts and STOs. DFAT staff should take conduct and ethics training at induction, before long-term postings overseas and in any case at least once every three years.

Conflicts of Interest (Chapter 5)

DFAT staff must take reasonable steps to avoid real or apparent conflict of interests in connection with their duties, as well as situations where their private, financial or other interests (or those of immediate family members) could or could be perceived to conflict with their duties. They must not allow their interests to influence the decisions they make, the actions they take or the advice they provide in connection with their duties in DFAT. They must regularly assess whether their interests could or could be perceived to influence the decisions they make, the actions they take or the advice they provide in connection with their duties in DFAT. They must disclose any real or potential conflicts of interest to their supervisors as soon as they arise.

All SES and contractors and some non-SES APS and LES employees (see section 5.2 of this Manual) must complete a "Disclosure of Private, Financial and Other Interests Form" on initial engagement with DFAT, annually thereafter and additionally if their circumstances change resulting in a new conflict of interest.

Gifts, Benefits, Hospitality and Sponsored Travel (Chapter 6)

DFAT staff should, wherever possible, avoid accepting gifts or benefits offered in connection with their duties or because of their position with DFAT. They must report certain gifts and benefits (see section 6.1 of this Manual) accepted in connection with their duties or because of their position with DFAT. DFAT staff must never accept money as a gift in connection with their duties or because of their position with DFAT. They must never accept discounts on liquid assets (such as shares) as a benefit in connection with their duties or because of their position with DFAT.

DFAT staff may be offered hospitality in connection with their duties in DFAT or because of their position with DFAT. They should, wherever possible, avoid hospitality carrying an implication that a favour is expected in return, or falling outside normal patterns of hospitality appropriate to their position and responsibilities in DFAT. They must report offers of significant hospitality they wish to accept.

DFAT staff should generally not accept offers of sponsored travel. Sponsored travel refers to cases where the costs of transport, accommodation and/or travel/living expenses to enable work undertaken for DFAT are met from sources other than official funds or a staff member's own resources. DFAT staff must report offers of sponsored travel they wish to accept.

Appropriate Use of Official Information and Official Resources (Chapter 7)

DFAT staff must at all times use official information (including personal information held by DFAT) appropriately. They must protect against and not make unauthorised disclosures of official information. Official information should only be used, accessed or made available to staff who have a legitimate need to know in order to perform their duties. Unauthorised disclosure of official information is an offence under the Crimes Act 1914. Inappropriate access or use of personal information of individuals which is held by DFAT may constitute a breach of the Privacy Act 1988.

DFAT staff must at all times use official resources appropriately. They must comply with the Financial Management and Accountability Act (FMA) 1997 and DFAT's Financial Management Manual (FMM) which govern the appropriate use of Commonwealth resources. Misuse of official resources may constitute fraud which is an offence against the Commonwealth under the Crimes Act 1914.

Upholding the Reputation of the Department and Australia (Chapter 8)

DFAT staff have a responsibility to uphold the reputation of DFAT at all times and perform their functions in an impartial and professional manner. Staff performing duties overseas for DFAT must at all times behave in a way that upholds the good reputation of Australia. Any public comments they make in a private capacity, including on the internet, must not undermine DFAT's or Australia's reputation.

Misconduct (Chapter 9, Chapter 10 & Chapter 11)

DFAT takes misconduct very seriously and investigates alleged misconduct promptly and fairly (see procedures in Chapter 11). Misconduct can include failure to comply with departmental policies and directions (including Codes of Conduct); criminal and other unlawful behaviour; harassment, bullying and discrimination; fraud and offering bribes. Sanctions may apply to staff found to have committed misconduct.

Misconduct in DFAT should only be reported to authorised persons (as set out in section 10.1.4-8 of this Manual), including CEU at conduct@dfat.gov.au. DFAT recognises the legitimacy of whistleblowing, and assists and protects DFAT staff who are acting in good faith when reporting alleged misconduct to authorised persons.