This policy sets out our standards and procedures for responding to gift offers, providing gifts, travel and hospitality, and incurring travel and out-of-pocket expenses.
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This policy sets out Sustainability Victoria's standards and procedures for responding to gift offers, providing gifts, travel and hospitality, and incurring travel and out-of-pocket expenses. The policy applies to all Board members and Sustainability Victoria employees, contractors, volunteers and temporary staff (Employees) at all times in the performance of their duties.
The aim of this policy is to minimise gift offers made to, and accepted by, Board members and Employees. This helps to protect and promote public confidence in the integrity of Sustainability Victoria. Gift offers are discouraged and must never be accepted unless there is clear justification, consistent with the prohibitions in this policy, to do so.
Sustainability Victoria's policy is consistent with the DEECA model policy on Gifts, benefits and hospitality – responding to gift offers, which is published by the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA).
Board members and Employees are responsible for ensuring that their own conduct meets the required standards of integrity. They place the public interest above their own interests when carrying out their official duties. This includes declaring all gift offers in accordance with this policy and refusing prohibited gifts (item 5).
The Chairperson, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), and Employees with direct reports are responsible for being aware of, and monitoring, the risks inherent in their team’s work and functions. They model good practice and promote awareness of this policy and related processes.
A gift offer is anything of monetary or other value that is offered by an external source (organisation or individual) to a Board member or Employee as a result of their role with Sustainability Victoria. It includes free/discounted:
The following offers do not exceed common courtesy. They are not a gift offer and do not need to be disclosed under this policy:
The following offers exceed common courtesy. They are a gift offer and must be disclosed under this policy:
A gift offer may be direct or indirect. It may be offered directly to a Board member or Employee or indirectly via an offer to their relative or close associate, including:
A gift offer that is made by an external source is either token or reportable:
If a Board member or Employee is offered a $20 bottle of wine three times by the same source in 12 months, the third offer makes a cumulative total of $60. This exceeds the $50 threshold. The third offer is therefore reportable, even if none of the offers are accepted. What counts is the total offered in the last 12 months.
A gift offered by a visiting delegation, such as a delegation from another country, is reportable, regardless of its monetary value. Even if it is not of cultural or historic significance, it is of 'other' significance.
A 'conflict of interest' is a conflict between a Board member's or Employee's public duty to act in the best interests of the agency and their private interests (financial or non-financial). A conflict exists whether it is:
A 'bribe' is an offer of money or other inducement made with the intention to corruptly influence a Board member or Employee in the performance of their duties. Bribery or attempted bribery of a public official is a criminal offence.
A 'legitimate business reason' is a business purpose that furthers the official business or other legitimate goals of Sustainability Victoria, the public sector, or state.
The 'responsible person' is the person who the Board member or Employee notifies of gift offers they receive, notifies of any suspected bribery attempts; and seeks advice from about this policy and how to comply.
*Where appropriate, the Chairperson should also seek advice from the Minister and/or DEECA.
A Board member or Employee must refuse any gift offer that:
If it is a reportable gift offer (item 9), it must also be refused unless there is a 'legitimate business reason' to accept it.
To ensure compliance with the above requirements, Board members and Employees must be particularly cautious about accepting gift offers of hospitality (i.e. food, drink, travel, accommodation, events or activities). Gift offers of hospitality are often inconsistent with community expectations. There is also a high risk of conflict of interest. In such cases, the gift offer must be refused even if there is a legitimate business reason to accept.
In particular, note that:
To assist Sustainability Victoria to monitor the frequency and nature of prohibited gift offers, it is essential that all such offers are disclosed in accordance with the requirements for token (item 8) or reportable (item 9) gift offers.
Accepting a prohibited gift offer may constitute misuse of a Board member's or Employee's position, a breach of this policy and/or a breach of the relevant code of conduct, and may result in disciplinary action. In addition, if the gift was offered with the expectation of something in return, such as preferential treatment, accepting it may constitute a bribe (item 6) or other form of corruption and lead to criminal prosecution.
A Board member or Employee who receives a gift offer that they believe is an attempted bribe must refuse the offer. They must:
A Board member or Employee who believes that another Board member or Employee may have solicited or been offered a bribe which the other person has not reported must either notify the responsible person or report the matter to IBAC as a protected disclosure.
The CEO has approved a process to ensure that he or she is notified when a responsible person becomes aware of a bribery issue. In addition, the Fraud and Corruption Control Plan provides for this. The CEO must notify IBAC of any matter which he/she believes on reasonable grounds may be corrupt conduct or, if appropriate, notify the police of a suspected offence.
Board members and Employees must not solicit gifts for themselves or anyone else, in any form. To do so may constitute misuse of their position, a breach of this policy and/or a breach of the relevant code of conduct and may result in disciplinary action. It may also constitute corruption and lead to criminal prosecution.
A Board member or Employee who is offered a gift of token value (as defined in item 4.1) that is not a prohibited gift (item 5) may:
Regardless of whether a token gift offer is accepted it must be disclosed as soon as practicable to the responsible person. The Board member or Employee who receives the offer must send an email to the responsible person that sets out:
A gift offer declaration form (item 10) does not need to be completed. Nor does the gifts register (item 11).
'On 16 July 2017, l received a gift offer from Berringer and Co. of a bottle of wine. It was offered to me as a thank you for presenting at their annual education forum, which I did as part of my official duties. I estimate the value of the bottle of wine to be $30. I estimate the combined total of gift offers l have received from this source in the last 12 months to be $45. I consider this to be a token gift offer. It was not a prohibited gift offer. I accepted the offer.'
'On 13 December 2017, l received a gift offer from Murks and Co. of a desk calendar. It was offered as ‘a Christmas good will gift’. I estimate the value of the desk calendar to be $20. I estimate the combined total of gift offers l have received from this source in the last 12 months to be $45. It was a prohibited gift as it is a conflict of interest – Murks is a prospective tenderer about whom l am likely to make or can influence a decision. I refused the offer and explained why to the rep.'
The Board member or Employee disclosing the token gift offer and the responsible person must each retain a copy of the email. An email record:
A Board member or Employee who is offered a reportable gift (as defined in item 4.1) must, regardless of whether the gift offer is accepted:
A gift offer must not be accepted if it is a prohibited gift (item 5).
A Board member or Employee who accepts a reportable gift is doing so on behalf of Sustainability Victoria. Sustainability Victoria is the owner of the gift.
The CEO has approved a process for the receipt and use or disposal of reportable gifts by Sustainability Victoria. As part of these processes:
Applications for 'public interest approval' will be determined by the Board (for Board members and the CEO) or the CEO (for Employees) in accordance with the following criteria:
The reason(s) for any public interest approval that is granted must be well documented, attached to the gift offer declaration form, and recorded in the gifts register.
The gift offer declaration form is set out in Addendum 1 of this policy. The CEO has approved a process for the lodging and processing of gift offer declaration forms.
A Register of responses to reportable gift offers ('gifts register') must be maintained by the Chief Financial Officer that includes a record of:
The gifts register template is set out in Addendum 2.
The CEO has approved a process for ensuring that the register is up-to-date; is protected from unauthorised changes; and is published on Sustainability Victoria's external website (see item 11.1). This includes designating Employee position(s) whose occupant(s) manage these functions.
The CEO must ensure that Employees are provided with regular reminders of the need to lodge gift offer declaration forms (see item 14.2).
At the start of each Board meeting, the Chairperson must ask all Board members present to state whether their entries in the gifts register are complete and correct. If there are no changes, the minutes will note that:
'All Board members present confirmed that their entries in the Register of responses to reportable gift offers are complete and correct'.
If changes are declared, these will be noted in the minutes, together with the Board member’s undertaking to lodge a gift offer declaration form (item 10) within five working days.
A copy of the gifts register that complies with privacy obligations (see next item) must be published on Sustainability Victoria's external website. It should be updated at least every six months. Entries should remain on the website for at least the current and previous financial year.
The CEO has approved a process to ensure that Sustainability Victoria complies with the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 when collecting, using, and disclosing personal information in relation to gift offers (token and reportable). This includes ensuring that:
The administration and quality control of Sustainability Victoria's policy and processes, including the gifts register and gift offer declaration forms, must be subject to regular scrutiny.
The CEO must provide a report at least annually to the Audit, Risk & Finance Committee that includes the matters set out in Addendum 3 in relation to:
The Audit, Risk & Finance Committee must submit a report at least annually to the Board that takes into account the CEO’s report and includes any other information or recommendations that the Audit , Risk & Finance Committee chooses to include.
Gifts, benefits and hospitality may be provided to welcome guests, facilitate the development of business relationships, further Sustainability Victoria's business outcomes and to celebrate achievements.
When deciding whether to provide gifts, benefits or hospitality or the type of gift, benefit or hospitality to provide, ensure that:
Costs involved in the provision of gifts, benefits and hospitality should be contained wherever possible. The following questions may be useful to assist individuals to decide the type of gift, benefit or hospitality to provide:
Further to these requirements:
a) Gifts to external individuals or organisations will normally be symbolic, rather than financial, in value.
b) Gifts to Board members or Employees (e.g. to recognise significant work achievements or service milestones) will be token. Personal celebrations (e.g. birthdays, marriages, birth of a child) will not be funded using public monies.
a) It will not usually be in the public interest for alcohol to be consumed at Board meetings or at meetings between Employees and/or Board members.
b) A Board member or Employee who extends or receives hospitality will demonstrate professional conduct at all times and will uphold his/her obligation to extend a duty of care to other participants.
c) The requirements apply to both:
a) Catering for stakeholder functions will be kept to appropriate levels and proportionate to the significance of the event while minimising food waste. As a guide and in accordance with public expectations of modesty, cost of meals for stakeholder functions should be kept to under $40 per person.
b) Catering for stakeholder functions will be restricted to events over three hours or events where a meal is the focus of the event e.g. breakfast, lunch or dinner.
c) Entertainment and catering is charged to the relevant project code and approved by the relevant financial delegate.
a) Catering for staff functions will be kept to appropriate levels and proportionate to the significance of the event while minimising food waste. As a guide and in accordance with public expectations of modesty, cost of meals for staff functions should be kept to under $40 per person.
b) Other than in exceptional circumstances, reimbursement will not be paid for alcoholic beverages at staff-only functions. Directors will approve such reimbursement.
c) Except in exceptional circumstances or for workshops that exceed four hours, there will be no internal catering for staff only meetings, workshops or other events.
d) Entertainment and catering is charged to the relevant project code and approved by the relevant financial delegate.
a) In accordance with the VPS Workplace Determination, reasonable meals and other incidental expenses associated with an overnight absence from home or significant day duties away from the normal work location will be reimbursed.
b) These will be charged to the relevant project code and approved in accordance with the Travel Policy.
A Board member or Employee will only incur travel or out-of-pocket expenses if it is clearly in the public interest to do so, that is, if there is a legitimate business reason (as defined in item 4.4) that is consistent with:
To promote and improve compliance with this policy:
The CEO must have suitable business rules, processes, and record-keeping requirements in place for the practical implementation of this policy.
The Chairperson (for Board members and the CEO) and the CEO (for Employees) must ensure that all Board members and Employees receive induction training and annual refresher training, including:
A copy of Sustainability Victoria’s policy and related practical guidance must be provided to each Board member and Employee when they commence their term of appointment/ employment. Updates to the policy and related guidance must be provided as soon as practicable after they occur.
Summary flow chart
To assist Employees and Board members, a flowchart of how to respond to gift offers is set out in Addendum 4.
The CEO has designated the General Counsel or equivalent to manage (or act as) a 'Gifts hub' to provide responsible persons and other Board members and Employees with a central point from which to obtain expert advice and guidance materials.
All contracts for 'in house' contractors and consultants (including those engaged through an employment agency) must explicitly state that the contractor or consultant is bound by this policy and by the Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Sector Employees.
All contracts for suppliers and external contractors (external stakeholders) must ensure that the contract can be revoked (or renegotiated) by Sustainability Victoria if the external stakeholder offers a prohibited gift to a Board member or Employee. The CEO has approved a process to ensure that external stakeholders have ready access to information that explains the prohibitions and restrictions in this policy. This includes ensuring that:
The CEO has approved a process to ensure that patterns of frequent or prohibited gift offers are identified and, where appropriate, remedial action is taken – e.g. a letter is sent to the source of the offers explaining why such offers must not be made.
It is essential that Board members, Employees, and external stakeholders are supported to raise queries and issues about gift offers, including queries and issues relating to their own conduct or that of others.
A Board member or Employee who is uncertain how to comply with this policy should seek advice from their responsible person. They can also seek advice from the Gifts hub (item 15.3). This does not abrogate their responsibility to make the right decision.
A Board member or Employee who may have breached this policy must immediately notify the responsible person and remedy any breach.
A Board member or Employee who believes that another Board member/Employee may have breached this policy must:
If the matter involves corruption or serious misconduct, the Board member or Employee can choose to instead report the matter to IBAC as a protected disclosure.
Decisive action, including possible disciplinary action, will be taken against any Board member or Employee who discriminates against or victimises a person who speaks up in good faith about a possible breach of this policy.
Board members and employees must act in accordance with their respective obligations and with good public sector governance practice, including:
The Board will review this policy on an annual basis or more frequently, if required, to keep up-to-date with changes to laws, government policy, etc. This policy will be consistent with the most recent version of the DEECA model policy. This policy was last reviewed in May 2017.
For more information, visit the Gifts, benefits and hospitality section of the DEECA website.
It includes the DEECA model polices and DEECA guidance notes, plus direct links to this topic on the VPSC website.