ANAO wants big gift list
The audit office has called for a government-wide policy for gifts and benefits received by public servants.
The ANAO has issued a new report into the financial controls of government entities, which says accountability could be increased by publishing a gifts and benefits register online.
“The ANAO sees merit in the development of a whole of government gifts and benefits policy setting the minimum requirements for entities to include within their policies, to promote good practice across Commonwealth entities,” the report states.
“Transparency would be enhanced through the publication of entity gifts and benefits registers on the internet. The maintenance of a central register may assist entities in meeting accountability and transparency obligations.”
The Australian Public Service Commission code of conduct advises public servants against accepting gifts from people or companies involved in a tender process with the agency, or in “the sphere of influence of the APS employee concerned”.
Different agencies have different policies on when and how quickly gifts must be reported.
Some departments require all gifts to be declared, while at the other end of the scale, the highest threshold for reporting is $250 or greater at Australia Post.
The Department of Finance calls for “all non-inconsequential” gifts to be reported, including gifts like small items like diaries, calendars, pens and scarves and even entry to local sporting events.
“There is no whole of government guidance issued to Commonwealth entities that details the minimum requirements to report the offer and acceptance of gifts and benefits and the information to be included in a register,” the audit report said.
Politicians must declare any gifts worth over $750 from official sources and more than $300 from other sources within 28 days of receiving them,
While the politicians’ register is online, the internal registers of gifts received by public servants are only accessible through Freedom of Information requests.
The APS Commission does not appear to welcome the idea of a centralised register.
“Agencies are responsible for making policies regarding gifts and benefits, in accordance with their obligations under the PGPA Act. Following the release of a final report, the APSC may consider amending its guidance to reflect ANAO recommendations insofar as they relate to the APS,” a commission spokesperson said.
“The APSC is unlikely to administer a whole of government register of gifts and benefits. Section 20 of the Public Service Act 1999 vests responsibility in agency heads for the administration of their own agencies, which includes gifts and benefits.”