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Gifts, Benefits and Hospitality Procedure

Purpose:
The purpose of this procedure is to provide guidance on the individual and organisational accountabilities for responding to offers of gifts, benefits and hospitality. This includes a guide on the recording of gifts, benefits and hospitality and to encourage behaviours that will earn and sustain public trust and reinforce the Victorian public sector values of accountability, impartiality and integrity and the appropriate use of public resources.

Scope:
This procedure applies to all Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital employees and Board Directors.

The Eye and Ear encourages the individual to determine whether the offer represents an actual, potential or perceived conflict of interest or has a legitimate business benefit to the organisation.

Gifts or benefits to or from a relative, friend or acquaintance outside of the course of official hospital business and which are not an actual or perceived conflict of interest do not fall within the scope of this procedure.

Procedure:

Accepting gifts and hospitality.
All employees must comply with the following minimum requirements.

  • Must not solicit gifts, benefits or hospitality.
  • Must refuse all offers of gifts, benefits or hospitality that could give rise to an actual or perceived conflict of interest
  • May adversely bring the organisation of public health sector into disrepute, or are non-token offers without legitimate business benefit.
  • Refuse all offers of gifts, benefits or hospitality from people or organisations about whom they are likely to make business decisions involving:
    • Tender process
    • Procurement
    • Enforcement
    • Licensing; or
    • Regulation.
  • Must refuse all offers of money, items used in a similar way to money, or items easily converted to money such as shares.
  • Refuse bribes or inducements and report inducements and bribery attempts to the Chief Executive Officer and to the Victoria Police or the Independent Broad based Anti-corruption Commission.
  • If unsure how to respond to an offer of a gift, seek advice from a manager.
  • Prior to accepting an offer the staff member must first consult and gain approval from their manager and complete the Eye and Ear declaration.
  • Declare all non-token offers (valued at $50 or more ) of gifts, benefits and hospitality (whether accepted or declined) on the declaration form which will be recorded on the organisational register.

Providing gifts and hospitality
Staff should ensure that any gift or hospitality is provided for a business purpose in that it furthers the conduct of official business or other legitimate organisational goal or policy objective.

Staff should ensure that any costs incurred are proportionate to the benefits obtained for

The Eye and Ear and would be considered reasonable in terms of community expectations.

Providing gifts and hospitality to external guests
Modest hospitality in relation to external guests may be provided for the purposes of:

  • Receiving guests (for example a visiting delegation from another organisation, or hosting a meeting held over lunch time);
  • Facilitating relationships between third party organisations that are in the interests of the State (for example, an event where community sector organisations can meet business organisations to establish partnerships);
  • Celebrating the opening of an event, exhibition, or launching an initiative;

When considered appropriate the giving of a gift for the purposes of making guests feel welcome and provide a reminder of the visit is acceptable. The gift should normally be symbolic rather than financial in value.

Providing gifts to staff
The provision of token gifts to staff is permissible as part of:

  • Reward and recognition programs or events; celebrating length of service milestones and/or retirements; and
  • At the discretion of the Chief Executive Officer or Executive.
  • A token, such as a card and/or flowers, may also be sent to family members to acknowledge a staff members contribution to the workplace in the event of their death. Doing so can also assist their colleagues with their bereavement.
  • Celebrations of events such as birthdays, marriages or the birth of children should not be funded using public monies.

The audit committee reviews the gifts register or the gifts declarations on file to assure the organisation that there is transparent reporting of accepted gifts, benefits and hospitality, and there is no evidence of attempts to improperly influence the decisions or actions taken by its employees.

Definitions:

  • Bribes are money or other inducements given or promised to employees to corruptly influence the performance of their role. Bribery of a public official is an offence punishable by a maximum of ten years imprisonment.

Conflicts of interest occur when an employee’s private interests conflict with their public duty. Employees have a duty to always resolve a conflict in the public interest, not their own. This may mean that they decline a gift if this is identified as being in the public interest. There can be situations that entail significant legal risks such as public tender processes. Failure to manage conflicts of interest in these situations can compromise the integrity of the tender and may result in legal action by dissatisfied bidders.

  • Employees are the directors, chief executive and all other employees of the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital.
  • Conflict of interest –
    • Actual – there is a real conflict between an employee’s public duties and private interests.
    • Potential- an employee has private interests that could conflict with their public duties. This refers to circumstances where it is foreseeable that a conflict may arise in future and steps should be taken to mitigate that future risk.
    • Perceived – the public or third party could form the view that an employee’s private interests could improperly influence their decisions or actions now or in the future.
  • Gifts are the free or discounted items, and any item that would generally be seen by the public as a gift. These include items of high value (eg artwork, jewellery or expensive pens) low value (e.g. a small bunch of flowers) and consumables (e.g. chocolates). Fundraising that is consistent with relevant legislation and government policy is not prohibited under the minimum accountabilities.
  • Benefits include the preferential treatment, privileged access, favours or other advantage offered to an individual . They may include invitations to sporting, cultural or social events, access to discounts and loyalty programs, and promises of a new job. While their value may sometimes be difficult to quantify in dollars, they may be highly valued by the intended recipient and therefore used to influence their behaviour.

  • Hospitality is the friendly reception and entertainment of guests. Hospitality may range from light refreshments at a business meeting to restaurant meals and sponsored travel and accommodation.

  • Reportable gifts are those that must be recorded on a gifts declaration form and/or gifts register. At a minimum, reportable gifts include accepted gifts, benefits and hospitality that exceed a nominal value of $50. They could also include gift offers of any value, whether they are accepted or not. The gifts may have been offered to an employee directly or extended to them as a guest of their partner or other close relation.

  • Gifts Declaration Form is the form an employee uses to declare reportable gifts.(*Appendix 1) 

  • Gifts Register is to be made available on the organisations’ website is a register of reportable gifts (*Appendix 2 ). It records the date a gift was offered, information about the donor and recipient, the nature of the gift, its estimated value and how it was handled. The Director People and Culture maintains the register which is reviewed by the organisation’s audit committee. (*Both forms can be found on the Intranet Forms)

  • Official business is work that is consistent with the Hospital’s functions and objectives, and an employee’s role.

  • Value is the estimated or actual value of a gift in Australian dollars. It is also the cumulative value of gifts offered by the same individual or organisation within a 12-month period. Significant gifts may warrant independent valuation.

  • Token offers – is of trivial value and does not create and any conflict of interest They may include promotional pens and notepads received at a conference, light refreshments at a meeting and/or receiving a box of chocolates after presenting at a conference

  • Non token offers - Nominal value refers to the monetary value of acceptable token gifts. The nominal value for RVEEH is up to $50. Irrespective of dollar value, a gift offer that could create a reasonable perception that an employee could be influenced must be refused. An example of a non-token offer may include tickets to entertainment events that do not relate to duties at work

    Guidelines:

    The following principles will apply to the acceptance, rejection, recording and approval of all gifts, benefits and hospitality:

    1. Employees must refuse all offers of gifts, benefits or hospitality, irrespective of the value, where it could be reasonably perceived as undermining the integrity and impartiality of the Hospital or themselves.

    2. Where 1 above does not apply, employees may accept a token gift, benefit or hospitality of nominal value (up to $50 in value) and do not need to record the gift or seek approval.

    3. Where 1 above does not apply, employees may accept a non-token gift, benefit or hospitality over the value of $50 but only if the offer is recorded on the Gifts/Benefits Declaration Form and is approved by the Chief Executive Officer. In the case of the Chief Executive Officer, approval must be from the Board Chair. Approval must be received before the gift is accepted.

    4. Where 1 above does not apply, a second or subsequent gift with a combined value over $50 from one gift giver within a 12 month period can be accepted only if the offer is recorded on the Gifts/Benefits Declaration Form and is approved by the Chief Executive Officer. In the case of the Chief Executive Officer, approval must be from the Board Chair. Approval must be received before the gift is accepted.

    5. Any offers of bribes or money must be declined, recorded on the Gifts/Benefits Declaration Form, reported to the Chief Executive Officer and to the Victoria Police.

    6. Employees must report a colleague to the Chief Executive Officer who tries to solicit a bribe.

Method:
Declaration forms should be completed by the relevant employee then submitted to the relevant manager for recommendation and then to the Chief Executive Officer for approval. These steps must be followed before a gift is accepted.

Completed forms will be kept on file by People and Culture. The Declaration form is available on the intranet.

People and Culture will maintain the Gift Register and will provide the Gift Register to the Board Audit Committee annually. The Gift Register will be displayed on the website record the following information for the:

  • Date offer made
  • Name of person the offer was made to
  • Name of the organisation and person who made the offer
  • (Whether the above is a current supplier, potential supplier or tender)
  • The nature of the offer
  • The estimated value of the offer
  • The raising of any actual, potential or perceived conflicts of interest or reputational risks
  • For accepted offers the business reason for acceptance
  • The name of the person approving the acceptance.

Breach of this Procedure:
Employees who breach this procedure including failure to formally declare a reportable gift ,benefit or hospitality as required by this procedure, may face disciplinary action which may include counselling, warning, suspension, transfer, demotion or dismissal.

References:
Gifts, Benefits and Hospitality Policy Framework, Victorian Public Sector Commission, revised October 2016

View the gift registry here.