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Gifts, Benefits and Hospitality (GBH) policy

This policy sets out how Yarra Valley Water’s Board of Directors and employees will respond to an offer of a gift, benefit or hospitality.

1. Scope

This policy sets out Yarra Valley Water’s (YVW) standards and procedures for responding to offers of Gifts, Benefits and Hospitality (GBH). 

It applies to all Directors, Executives and employees, including ‘in house’ contractors and consultants.

2. Aim

The aim of the policy is to minimise GBH offers made to, and accepted by, Directors and employees. This
helps to protect and promote public confidence in the integrity of YVW. 

GBH offers are discouraged and must never be accepted unless there is clear justification, consistent with the prohibitions in this policy, to do so.

3. Key principles and accountabilities

Key Principles

Obligations:  Directors and employees are to act in accordance with their respective obligations and with good governance practice (refer Item 16).

Public interest:  Directors and employees are to act in the public interest, in compliance with this policy.

Culture of integrity:  YVW is to foster a culture of integrity.  Directors and employees are supported to raise any unresolved GBH issues.

Risk-based:  YVW’s risks in relation to GBH are to be assessed, managed and monitored.

Processes:  YVW’s procedures are to be transparent and accountable.  Processes are to be in place to ensure that Directors and employees are aware of the requirements of this policy and how to comply with it.

Accountabilities

Directors and employees are to be responsible for ensuring that their own conduct meets the required standards of integrity and are to place the public interest above their own interests when carrying out their official duties.  This includes declaring all GBH offers in accordance with this policy and refusing prohibited gifts (refer Item 5).

The Chair, the Managing Director and General Managers are responsible for being aware of, and monitoring, the risks inherent in their Group’s work and functions.  They are to model good practice and promote awareness of this policy and related processes.

4. Definitions

(a) GBH offer

A gift offer is anything of monetary or other value that is offered by an external source (organisation or individual) to a Director or employee as a result of their role with YVW.  It includes free/discounted:

  • items or services – eg. Christmas hampers, desk calendars, boxes of chocolates, bottles of wine, commemorative objects, or ‘door prizes’ at a function; services such as tree-lopping or house painting.
  • benefits – preferential treatment, privileged access, favours or other advantages or intangibles eg. access to a discount or loyalty program, or the promise of a new job.
  • hospitality that exceeds common courtesy - ‘Hospitality’ is the friendly reception and treatment of guests. It includes offers of food, drink, travel, accommodation, events or activities (eg. sporting, social, industry, arts, entertainment, or other events/activities).  ‘Common courtesy’ is polite, basic and modest. It does not raise a conflict of interest. Whether an offer exceeds common courtesy depends on the circumstances (ie. what is offered, by whom, to whom, when and why).

Example – does not exceed common courtesy

The following offers do not exceed common courtesy. They are not a GBH offer and do not need to be disclosed under this policy:

  • a cup of coffee at another organisation’s premises;
  • a modest working lunch, such as sandwiches and pastries, at another organisation’s premises;
  • a cup of coffee at a café (unless there is a conflict of interest).

Example – GBH offers

The following offers exceed common courtesy.  They are a GBH offer and must be disclosed under this policy:

  • a ‘fine dining and wines’ working lunch at another organisation’s premises;
  • an offer to pay for a working lunch at a café;
  • an offer of a free spot at an industry golf day.
Direct or indirect

A GBH offer may be direct or indirect.  It may be made directly to a Director or employee or indirectly via an offer to their relative or close associate, including:

  • a member of their immediate family (e.g. spouse, partner, child, grandchild, parent, sibling);
  • a regular member of their household (whether or not they are related); or
  • another close associate (e.g. friend, business associate, other relative).
Is the GBH offer ‘token’ or ‘reportable’?

A GBH offer that is made by an external source is either ‘token’ or ‘reportable’:

  • Token – The GBH offer is trivial and inconsequential. The combined total of offers to the Director or employee from that source in the last 12 months does not exceed $50.
  • Reportable – The GBH offer exceeds the token value or is of cultural, historic or other significance.

Example – exceeds token value

If a Director 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.

Example – other significance

A GBH 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.

(b) Conflict of interest

A ‘conflict of interest’ is a conflict between a Director’s employee’s public duty to act in the best interests of YVW and their private interests (financial or non-financial).  A conflict exists whether it is:

  • real – it currently exists;
  • potential – it may arise, given the circumstances; or
  • perceived – members of the public could reasonably form the view that a conflict exists, or could arise, that may improperly influence the person’s performance of their duty to YVW, now or in the future.

(c) Bribe

A ‘bribe’ is an offer of money or other inducement made with the intention to corruptly influence a Director or employee in the performance of their duties.  Bribery or attempted bribery of a public official is a criminal offence.

(d) Legitimate business reason (benefit)

A ‘legitimate business reason’ is a business purpose that furthers the official business or other legitimate goals of YVW, the public sector or the State.

(e) Responsible person

The ‘responsible person’ is the person whom the Director or employee notifies of any GBH offers they receive; notifies of suspected bribery attempts; and seeks advice from about this policy and how to comply.

  Responsible person
Employee Line manager/General Manager
Director or Managing Director Chair
Chair Deputy Chair

Where appropriate, the Chair or Deputy Chair may seek advice from the Minister for Water or the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).

5. Prohibited gifts

A Director or employee must refuse any GBH offer that:

  • is money or is similar to money (eg. gift vouchers) or easily converted into money (eg. shares);
  • is a conflict of interest (real, potential or perceived) – eg. is offered by an external source with an interest in a decision that the Director or employee is likely to make or can influence, including in relation to:
    • procurement of goods or services;
    • tender processes;
    • awarding of a grant or sponsorship;
    • setting of policy;
    • enforcement, licensing or regulation; or
    • contracts;
  • could in any other way create a reasonable perception that it is offered to influence, or could influence, the judgement of the Director or employee (ie. how he/she acts, or fails to act, now or in the future);
  • is inconsistent with community expectations; or
  • could in any other way bring their integrity, or that of YVW into disrepute. (eg. if accepting the GBH offer could be perceived as endorsement of a product or service).

If it is a reportable GBH offer (refer Item 9), it must also be refused unless there is a ‘legitimate business reason’ to accept it.

Note that the following are not a “legitimate business reason”:

  • “It would have impolite to refuse.”
  • “Refusal would offend” (except in compelling circumstances that are in the public interest.  These almost never exist for gift offers of hospitality and rarely exist for other GBH offers).
  • “Networking.”
  • “Maintaining stakeholder relationships.”

(a) Gift offers of hospitality

To ensure compliance with the above requirements, Directors and employees must be particularly cautious about accepting gift offers of hospitality (ie. 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, please note that:

High risk events and activities

Invitations to attend or participate in a sporting, social, ‘industry’, arts, entertainment, or other event or activity are high risk.  Examples of GBH offers that must be refused include:

  • attending as a guest in a corporate box at the football or at a car or horse racing event;
  • attending a concert or theatre event;
  • attending an industry golf day or play golf at a reduced fee;
  • being ‘shouted’ a meal at a restaurant; or
  • accepting complimentary or discounted tickets for a family member to attend the tennis.
Conferences and familiarisation tours

GBH offers in relation to conferences or familiarisation tours (eg. sponsored attendance, participation, travel, or accommodation) must be declined unless there is:

  • clear justification, such as where the invitation is issued by a Government department, or the event is funded by DELWP, or, depending on the circumstances, the offeror is a peak body; and
  • prior written approval that sets out clear reasons is specifically granted by the Managing Director (for employees) or the responsible person (for the Chair, Directors and the Managing Director).  The signed and dated approval must be attached to the GBH Declaration Form (refer Item 10) and noted in the GBH Register (refer Item 11).

(b) Recording prohibited GBH offers

To assist YVW to monitor the frequency and nature of prohibited GBH offers, it is essential that all such offers are disclosed in accordance with the requirements for token (refer Item 8) or reportable (refer Item 9) GBH offers.

(c) Misuse of position

Accepting a prohibited GBH offer may constitute misuse of a Director’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 GBH was offered with the expectation of something in return, such as preferential treatment, accepting it may constitute a bribe (refer Item 6) or other form of corruption and lead to criminal prosecution.

(d) Exemptions

An exemption to this policy will apply for attendances at:

  • events organised by water industry associations of which Yarra Valley Water is a corporate member, such as Australian Water Association and VicWater;
  • water industry charity fundraising functions, such as WaterAid.

6. Attempts to bribe

A Director or employee who receives a GBH offer that he/she believes is an attempted bribe, must refuse the offer. 

He or she must:

  • immediately notify the responsible person and lodge a GBH offer Declaration Form (refer Item 10), so that their refusal can be properly recorded; or
  • report the matter to the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) as a protected disclosure.

A Director or employee who believes that another Director 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.

Processes are to be in place to ensure that the Managing Director is notified when a responsible person becomes aware of a bribery issue.  The Managing Director 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.

7. Ban on soliciting gifts

Directors and employees must not solicit GBH 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.

8. Token GBH offers

A Director or employee who is offered a GBH of token value (as defined in Item 4) that is not a prohibited GBH (refer Item 5) may:

  • refuse the GBH offer; or
  • accept the GBH offer and retain the GBH as their own.

(a) Disclosing token GBH offers

Regardless of whether a token GBH offer is accepted, it must be disclosed as soon as practicable to the responsible person.  The Director or employee who receives the offer must send an email to the responsible person that sets out:

  • the date of the offer;
  • the source (organisation or individual) of the offer;
  • what was offered and why;
  • that it was a token offer, including an estimate of:
    • the value of the GBH offered; and
    • the combined value of all GBH offered to them from that source in the last 12 months;
    • whether it was a prohibited GBH (refer Item 5) and, if so, why; and
    • whether the offer was accepted or refused.

A GBH Declaration Form (refer Item 10) does not need to be completed.  Nor does the GBH Register (refer Item 11).

Example – acceptance of token gift

‘On 16 July 2017, l received a GBH 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 GBH offers l have received from this source in the last 12 months to be $45.  I consider this to be a token GBH offer.  It was not a prohibited GBH offer.  I accepted the offer.’

Example – refusal of token gift

‘On 13 December 2017, l received a GBH offer from Murks and Co of a desk calendar.  It was offered as ‘a Christmas goodwill gift’.  I estimate the value of the desk calendar to be $20.  I estimate the combined total of GBH offers l have received from this source in the last 12 months to be $45.  It was a prohibited GBH 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.’

(b) Keeping track of token GBH offers

The Director or employee disclosing the token GBH offer and the responsible person must each retain a copy of the email.  An email record:

  • assists the Director/employee to fulfil their responsibility to keep track of whether offers made to them by that source exceed a combined value of $50 in the last 12 months (ie. the reportable threshold); and
  • assists the responsible person to monitor the risks inherent in their team’s work and functions.

9. Reportable GBH offers

A Director or employee who is offered a reportable GBH (as defined in Item 4) must, regardless of whether the GBH is accepted:

  • verbally disclose the offer to the responsible person as soon as practicable; and
  • within five working days of the offer, sign and lodge a properly completed GBH Declaration Form (refer Item 10).

A GBH offer must not be accepted if it is a prohibited GBH (refer Item 5).

(a) Ownership of reportable GBH

A Director or employee who accepts a reportable GBH does so on behalf of YVW. The business is the owner of the GBH.

(b) Dealing with accepted gifts

Processes are to be in place for the receipt and use or disposal of reportable GBH by YVW.  As part of these processes:

Gifts of cultural, historic or other significance

Consideration should be given to donating gifts of cultural, historic or other significance to an appropriate public institution, such as the Melbourne Museum, State Library or National Gallery of Victoria.

Donating other reportable gifts

Consideration should be given to donating other reportable gifts, or the proceeds of their sale, to a non-profit organisation or public institution.

‘Public interest’ approval for use of gift by a Director or employee

Occasionally, it will be in the public interest for approval to be given for a Director or employee to use a reportable gift ‘as their own’ at the behest of YVW.

Applications for ‘public interest approval’ will be determined by the Board (for Directors and the Managing Director) or the Managing Director (for employees) in accordance with the following criteria:

  • approval is required to avoid the person being in breach of this policy through no fault of their own; 
  • prior written approval has been granted, in accordance with Item 5 for sponsored hospitality to be accepted in relation to a conference or familiarisation tour.

The reason(s) for any public interest approval that is granted must be well documented, attached to the GBH Declaration Form, and recorded in the GBH Register.

10. GBH Declaration Form

Declaration by a Director or employee who receives a reportable GBH offer

How to fill out the form

The information that you provide in the GBH Declaration Form will be entered into the GBH Register of responses to reportable GBH.  A de-identified copy of the register will be published on YVW website.

For assistance in filling out the GBH Declaration Form, contact your ‘responsible person’ – ie. line manager (for employees), Chair (for Directors and the Managing Director) or Deputy Chair (for the Chair).

For the definition of a ‘reportable GBH offer’ and to decide whether a GBH is ‘prohibited’, refer Items 4 and 5 of the GBH Policy.  For a quick overview, see the ‘summary flowchart’ – refer Appendix 1.

The policy is available on The Source under Controlled Documents and is published on Yarra Valley Water’s website.

For Directors, the GBH Declaration Form is available from the Office of the Corporate Secretary and for employees the form is available on The Source.

Processes are to be in place for the lodging and processing of GBH Declaration Forms.

11. GBH Register

A Register of responses to reportable GBH offers (‘GBH Register’) must be maintained that includes a record of:

  • all reportable GBH offers and responses (based on completed GBH Declaration Forms); and
  • if the GBH offer was accepted, how the GBH will be used or disposed of by YVW.

Processes are to be in place for ensuring that the GBH Register is up-to-date; is protected from unauthorised changes; and is published on YVW’s website (refer Item 11). This includes designating employee position(s) whose occupant(s) manage these functions.

In addition:

Employees

Employees are to be provided with regular reminders of the need to lodge GBH Declaration Forms (see Item 14).

Directors 

At the start of each Board meeting, the Chair is to ask all Directors present to state whether their entries in the GBH Register are complete and correct.  If there are no changes, the Minutes will note that:

‘All Directors present confirmed that their entries in the GBH Register of responses to reportable GBH offers are complete and correct’.

If changes are declared, these will be noted in the Minutes, together with the Director’s undertaking to lodge a GBH Declaration Form (refer Item 10) within five working days.

Publishing of GBH Register on YVW website

A copy of the GBH Register, that complies with Privacy obligations, must be published on YVW’s 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.

12. Privacy protection

There are to be processes in place to ensure that YVW complies with the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 when collecting, using and disclosing personal information in relation to GBH offers (token and reportable).  This includes ensuring that:

  • identifying information is deleted from the copy of the GBH Register that is published on YVW’s website, as set out in Appendix 2; and
  • a Privacy Collection Statement is published on YVW’s website.

13. Monitoring compliance

The administration and quality control of YVW’s policy and processes, including the GBH Register and GBH Declaration Forms, are to be subject to regular scrutiny. 

Annual report to the Risk Management and Audit 

A report is to be provided, at least annually, to the Risk Management and Audit Committee that includes the following matters:

  • risk analysis;
  • steps taken to improve compliance; and
  • recommendations for improvement.

The Risk Management and Audit Committee is to submit its findings to the Board.

14. Promoting and improving compliance

To promote and improve compliance with this policy:

(a) Business rules

Suitable business rules, processes and record-keeping requirements are to be in place for the practical implementation of this policy.

(b) Induction and refresher training – Directors and employees

The Chair (for Directors and the Managing Director) and the Managing Director (for employees) must ensure that all Directors and employees receive induction training and annual refresher training, including:

  • information about the aim, principles, accountabilities, and requirements of this policy;
  • practical guidance on how to comply with it (eg. where to obtain GBH Declaration Forms, how to refuse a gift without giving offence, etc.); and
  • advice that a breach of this policy may constitute a breach of a binding Code of Conduct and may result in disciplinary action and, in the case of corrupt conduct, criminal prosecution.

A copy of YVW’s policy and related practical guidance is to be provided to each Director 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.

(c) Summary flow chart

To assist Directors and employees, a flowchart of how to respond to GBH offers is set out in Appendix 1.

(d) Gifts hub – Directors and employees

The Managing Director must designate an employee position whose occupant manages (or acts as) a ‘GBH hub’ to provide responsible persons and other Directors and employees with a central point from which to obtain expert advice and guidance materials.

(e) Contracts for ‘in house’ contractors and consultants

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 YVW’s Employees’ Code of Conduct 

(f) External stakeholders (tenderers, suppliers, external contractors, etc.)

All contracts for suppliers and external contractors must ensure that the contract can be revoked (or renegotiated) by YVW if the supplier or external contractor offers a prohibited gift to a Director or employee.

Processes are to be in place to ensure that external stakeholders have ready access to information that explains the prohibitions and restrictions in this policy.  This includes ensuring that:

  • an up-to-date copy of this policy is published on YVW’s website;
  • suitable guidance material is:
    • included in information packages for prospective tenderers and suppliers;
    • provided directly to all suppliers and external contractors, with regular reminders thereafter; and
    • published on YVW’s website.

(g) Remedial action

Processes are to be in place to ensure that patterns of frequent or prohibited GBH offers are identified and, where appropriate, remedial action is taken - eg. a letter is sent to the source of the offers explaining why such offers must not be made.

15. Culture of integrity

It is essential that Directors, employees, and external stakeholders are supported to raise queries and issues about GBH offers, including queries and issues relating to their own conduct or that of others.

(a) Assistance with making decisions

A Director 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 GBH hub (refer Item 14).  This does not abrogate their responsibility to make the right decision.

(b) Possible breach of this policy

A Director or employee who may have breached this policy must immediately notify the responsible person and remedy any breach.

(c) Speaking up

A Director or employee who believes that another Director/employee may have breached this policy must:

  • approach the other person to give them the opportunity to notify the responsible person and remedy any breach; or
  • notify the responsible person directly.

If the matter involves corruption or serious misconduct, the Director 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 Director or employee who discriminates against or victimises a person who speaks up in good faith about a possible breach of this policy.

16. Obligations and good practice

Directors and employees must act in accordance with their respective obligations and with good public sector governance practice, including:

  • the Water Act 1989;
  • the Public Administration Act 2004;
  • binding codes and accountabilities issued by the Victorian Public Sector Commission, in particular:
    • Code of Conduct for Directors of Victorian Public Entities and Yarra Valley Water’s Directors Code of Conduct’;
    • Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Sector Employees and YVW’s Employees’ Code of Conduct; and
    • minimum accountabilities for managing GBH (refer Items 1 to 4 and 8 to 13);
  • Government policy;
  • any directions, guidelines and/or Statements of Obligation or expectation issued by the Minister for Water;
  • all other laws and obligations that bind YVW.

17. Regular review of this policy

The Board is to 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 should be consistent with the most recent version of the
DELWP model policy.

18. Related policies

Board policies on:

  • Conflict of interest
  • Meetings and decisions
  • Code of Conduct.

19. Further information

For further information, see the GBH support module in the Governance guides and resources section of DELWP’s governance website, On Board. It includes the DELWP model polices and DELWP guidance notes, plus direct links to this topic on the VPSC website.

Appendix 1 (PDF, 267 KB)