Section 7: Using Commonwealth resources

Last updated: 17 Feb 2016

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7.1 Summary

7.1.1 To uphold the Accountable Value and the Code of Conduct (the Code), Australian Public Service (APS) employees are required to use Commonwealth resources in a proper manner and for a proper purpose.

7.1.2 'Commonwealth resources' is a broad term and includes money, goods, services, vehicles, office equipment, official records, office premises, telephones or other telecommunication devices and computers. It also includes the salary costs of APS employees.

7.1.3 The Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act) is the primary piece of legislation governing financial resource management in the Commonwealth. The PGPA Act supports the efficient, effective, economical and ethical use of Commonwealth resources and is administered within the Finance portfolio. More information about the PGPA Act can be found on the Department of Finance website.

7.2 Proper use of Commonwealth resources

7.2.1 APS employees and agency heads are officials for the purposes of the PGPA Act. Officials have general duties under the PGPA Act, which replicate similar provisions in the Code.

7.2.2 The PGPA Act duty to act honestly, in good faith and for a proper purpose requires officials to manage or use public resources in a proper manner. [19] This is analogous to the obligations set out in the Code for employees to act with honesty and integrity and to use Commonwealth resources in a proper manner and for a proper purpose. Generally, if employees uphold the Code they will also be complying with the general duties of officials. [20]

7.2.3 Many agencies have well-developed policies and instructions on the proper use of Commonwealth resources. Employees may need to have regard to a range of relevant legislative instruments and policies, including the Commonwealth Grants Rules and Guidelines, the Commonwealth Procurement Rules and the Protective Security Policy Framework.

7.2.4 Where there is no legislation, instruction or policy on a matter, employees should exercise good judgement to decide if a proposed use of Commonwealth resources is proper. They should ask themselves whether the action is of a kind that a reasonable person would agree was a proper use of Commonwealth resources.

Private use of Commonwealth resources

7.2.5 Commonwealth resources should not be used for private gain.

7.2.6 APS employees have access to computers and other technology at work. Although this equipment is provided for official use, agency-specific policies may allow for limited personal use in some circumstances, for example reasonable and necessary telephone or email communication with family.

7.2.7 Employees may generally have limited use of Commonwealth premises for incidental purposes such as social club activities or meetings between employees and their representatives.

7.2.8 Some agencies provide employees access to computers and other technology that enable them to work from home. Employees should follow their agency's policies on equipment provided for use at home.

7.2.9 Many agencies have Commonwealth vehicles available for general work use. Employees should follow agency policies on the use of vehicles.

Time

7.2.10 The time that APS employees spend at work is a valuable Commonwealth resource. Employees must use this time for a proper purpose, and should not use their skills or working time, or those of other APS employees, for personal benefit or gain.

7.2.11 In most cases, failure of an employee to use their work time properly should be addressed through the agency's performance management system. In some circumstances, particularly more serious cases, it may be appropriate to view private use of work time as a suspected breach of the Code.

7.3 Fraud

7.3.1 Fraud against the Commonwealth is a serious matter for all APS agencies and the community. It prevents Commonwealth funds from reaching intended targets, affects the Government's ability to deliver key services, and damages the Government's integrity.

7.3.2 Fraud is a criminal offence under Chapter 7 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995, and a breach of the Code of Conduct.

7.3.3 The obligations of accountable authorities to prevent, detect and deal with fraud are set out in the PGPA Act; section 10 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014 (fraud rule); and the Commonwealth Fraud Control Policy (fraud policy), coordinated by the Attorney-General's Department. Resource Management Guide No. 210 provides guidance on best practice fraud control arrangements.

7.3.4 The fraud policy defines fraud as 'dishonestly obtaining a benefit, or causing a loss, by deception or other means', and sets out binding procedural requirements for APS agencies relating to fraud awareness, prevention and investigation. It also requires APS employees to take into account the need to prevent and detect fraud as part of their responsibilities.

7.3.5 The management of fraud risk is a collective responsibility of all Commonwealth officials or persons otherwise engaged by the Commonwealth. Everyone in an agency is responsible for the proper management of Commonwealth resources.

Agency policies and procedures

  1. Agencies are expected to establish clear policies and guidelines so that employees are aware of the provisions that govern the proper use of Commonwealth resources in their agency.
  2. Agencies may care to consider issuing directions that require employees to comply with control measures put in place to meet the requirements of the PGPA Act and other relevant legislative instruments and policies that may apply.
  3. Most agencies have systems in place to monitor the use of equipment and facilities, such as telephones and computers. It is important that this type of monitoring takes account of employees' privacy and the maintenance of good workplace relations. Employees need to be informed of the level of privacy they can generally expect at work.

Footnotes

[19] Section 8 of the PGPA Act defines 'proper' as 'efficient, effective, economical and ethical'.

[20] Department of Finance, Resource Management Guide No. 203: General Duties of Officials explains the PGPA Act duties and their connection with the PS Act. The interaction of these parallel requirements is also explained in Appendix 4 of the Australian Public Service Commission's guidance on Handling Misconduct. More information about the PGPA Act is available on the Department of Finance's website .