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Out to lunch?

APS Values and Code of Conduct in Practice provides advice for managers and employees in the APS about the application of the Code of Conduct and the APS Values. Section 5 of the publication discusses accepting gifts and benefits in more detail.

Question: I've just managed a complex procurement project worth millions of dollars. The successful tenderer has offered to buy me lunch at an expensive restaurant to celebrate. Should I accept? Can I accept?

APS employees have obligations under both the Public Service Act and the Public Governance Performance and Accountability Act to avoid both real and apparent conflicts of interest.

Your agency will have specific policies on accepting and declaring gifts and benefits. Check what's on your agency's intranet or get advice from your agency's Ethics Contact Officer.
If you have any questions about this article, please submit them via the form on the 'Integrity: your questions answered' page.

But in a case like this, how can there be a conflict of interest? After all, accepting the offer of a free lunch happened after the procurement process was finalised so it couldn't possibly have influenced your decision to accept that bid from that tenderer. And you know that you were scrupulously fair in evaluating each of the tenders, so there's no bias there either.

If only life were so simple. It's always easier to see conflicts of interest in other people than in ourselves.

Public servants should always be cautious about accepting hospitality from private sector service providers, but especially when that hospitality is of a significant monetary value and their agency is in a contractual relationship with that provider. It is easy for people to look at offers of this kind and think either that you were influenced by the prospect of this free lunch, that it will affect the management of the contract, or that it will affect your judgement in future procurement rounds.

An appearance of conflict of interest undermines the reputation of your agency and the APS just as much as a real one does.