Posted on April 4, 2024 by Megan Hawley and Emma Wei

ICAC’s guide on how to manage conflict of duties

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has issued a guide to assist public officials and agencies in identifying and managing conflicts of duties.

The guide relates to conflicts of duties, not conflicts between a public duty and a personal or private interest of a public official. It therefore covers different ground to the provisions in the Model Code of Conduct for local government which deal with pecuniary and non pecuniary conflicts of interest.

What is a Conflict of Duties?

A conflict of duties arises when two or more public duties of a public official or agency are perceived as incompatible.

A conflict of duties can impair the fair and impartial exercise of public functions including where:

  1. The agency favours one aspect of its activities at the expense of another
  2. The agency derives benefits at the expense of its stakeholders
  3. Some stakeholders are favoured at the expense of other stakeholders
  4. The agency or some of its stakeholders are favoured at the expense of the public interest

The guide contains a number of examples of conflicts of duties in a planning and local government context, including conflicts where councillors are members of a regional planning panel,  a case study involving a council owned swimming pool and conflicts between the council’s duty to the local community and the commercial operation of the pool, and council related development applications.

Managing Conflicts of Duties

The guide identifies the followings steps to address conflicts of duties and contains some detailed discussion regarding how to approach each step:

  1. Identify conflicts of duties.
  2. Refer to legislation, case law, policies and other documents for guidance.
  3. Identify and assess the risk of the conflict of duties.
  4. Remove a duty.
  5. Enhance accountability.
  6. Enhance transparency.
  7. Ensure fairness.
  8. Ensure the organisation structure is appropriate.

There are a range of other policies and codes of conduct which are relevant to such issues including the policies councils are required to adopt under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2021 governing council related development applications, and the codes of conduct for regional and local planning panel members.

The guide can be found here.

If you have any questions about this blog post, please contact Megan Hawley on 02 8235 9703 or Emma Wei on 02 8235 9725.