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Spring cleaning: Dust off your probity framework

With a change in government and spring just around the corner, now is the time to dust off your organisation’s probity framework and consider whether you have any conflicts of interest (COI) to update in your declaration. 

Related Topics:
Rethinking work
17 August 2022
Alyssa Royters
3 Minutes

We all know the importance of strong and defensible probity practices when we’re involved in grants or procurement activities – including the requirement to complete a COI declaration and confidentiality acknowledgement or undertaking. 

But we sometimes forget the obligation to update our COI declarations and maintain robust probity practices when circumstances change outside of the usual activities where probity is actively monitored. 

  • Have you thought about how your close friend’s involvement in that climate change not-for-profit may be perceived to relate to your work on sustainability policy? 

  • Did you remember not to discuss the procurement that you’re working on at the Christmas in July party where your host works for the incumbent provider? 

  • Have you declared that your partner is a new staffer in the Albanese government? 

These are just a couple of examples of instances where probity should be considered and, if necessary, where you can disclose and propose to mitigate any probity risks that arise from your circumstances. 

 

Robust probity practices 

Sound and defensible probity practices go further than attending an initial probity briefing and signing a COI declaration and confidentiality acknowledgement at the commencement of a grant or procurement.  

Robust probity practices include setting up a probity framework for your organisation, your division, or your particular grant or procurement activity. It involves setting up and maintaining a probity register, including active management of the probity risks that may arise from the COI declarations. It includes prompt probity issue notification if there is a probity concern, and effective mitigation or treatment of those probity issues. 

 

Sound and defensible probity practices include having a clear audit trail to demonstrate how you have established and maintained probity. 

Having a clear audit trail of their probity activities is the key step that organisations often find difficult when it comes to probity. This is seen through the countless Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) reports that point to poor probity practices in government grant or procurement processes. 

A probity register can be used to demonstrate robust probity practices and should detail: 

  • Probity briefings: when they were conducted, who provided each briefing and who attended 

  • COI declarations: each individual COI declaration, any disclosed COIs and proposed treatments or mitigation 

  • Confidentiality acknowledgements or deeds: each signed acknowledgement or deed 

  • Probity issue notifications 

  • Probity advice 

  • Record management: where each of the probity documents (including COI declarations and confidentiality documents) are stored and can be easily retrieved. 

Spring is the perfect time to dust off your current probity practices, or consider putting a probity framework in place that will set you up for success in the long term. 

 

How Synergy can help 

Synergy Law is a Synergy Group legal offering, specialising in Government law and legal advisory services. 

We have a deep understanding of the Commonwealth grant and procurement frameworks, including a strong track record as probity advisor for those processes. 

We can act as external probity advisors on a particular project, or set you up for success with a probity framework that provides an organisational approach to managing probity, and can be tailored for individual processes. 

If you would like to know more, reach out to Alyssa Royters (aroyters@synergygroup.net.au) or Synergy Law Partner, Bobbi Campbell (bcampbell@synergygroup.net.au). 

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