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What is a conflict of interest?

APS employees are required to take reasonable steps to avoid real or apparent conflicts of interest. But what does that mean? What is a conflict of interest?

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 conflicts of interest in more detail.

You can also get advice from the Ethics Advisory Service on 02 6202 3737.

The principle is a simple one. When you're making a decision at work you should only be influenced in that decision by factors that are genuinely relevant to it. You shouldn't be influenced by, for example, the impact that it might have on you, members of your family, or your friends. Your only motivation
has to be the public interest, not your private interests.

When your private interests affect the decisions you take as an APS employee then you have a conflict of interest.

Your agency may have specific policies on managing and disclosing conflicts of interest. 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.

Where a reasonable bystander would think that your private interests affect the decisions you take then you have an apparent conflict of interest.

It's usually easier to see conflicts of interest in other people than ourselves. You might not think that you have a conflict of interest, but ask yourself how you would see someone else in a similar situation. Would you think that that person's work actions might be affected by their personal interests?

It's an important point. Even if you are absolutely sure that your decisions and motives are beyond reproach, the appearance of a conflict can be just as damaging to public confidence as an actual conflict of interest. Don't accept a standard of behaviour in yourself that you wouldn't accept in other
people.

There are a number of things that you can do to manage conflicts of interest. Discussing the issue with your supervisor is often a good first step.