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Gift and Benefit Acceptance and Management Policy

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Section 1 - Section 1 - Purpose and Context

(1) To offer, give, seek or receive a gift or benefit with the intention of influencing the behaviour of any person to act contrary to the rules of honesty and integrity is considered an offence under both common law and NSW legislation.

(2) The University recognises the potential for corruption (in the form of bribery) arising from the giving and receiving of gifts and benefits in relation to the daily operations and decisions of its employees. Having done so, the University is committed to providing clear boundaries as to when gifts and benefits may and may not be accepted. Furthermore the University is committed to the implementation of strategies that effectively minimise or eradicate the likelihood of corruption in regard to the acceptance of gifts and benefits.

(3) The University recognises its obligations under the law in regard to failure to effectively manage the giving and receiving of gifts and benefits as well as the potential implications for its reputation, image and future standing. The University also recognises that it has a duty of care to provide a safe working environment for its employees, in this regard protecting them from compromising situations and the possibility of prosecution. Importantly the giving of gifts can involve a conflict of interest or the perception of a conflict of interest, and while such conduct may not be corrupt it is inappropriate.

(4) The University's aim therefore is to develop and support sound business practices that demonstrate its commitment to the principles of integrity and honesty. It should be recognised that the purpose of this policy is not to endorse nor encourage the presentation or exchange of gifts and benefits. Instead the policy aims to ensure such exchanges are limited to appropriate circumstances and are undertaken in an ethical manner that will not compromise the reputation of the University or its employees.

(5) Further, in regard to recognition of excellence in service and achievement the University has developed programs such as the Vice-Chancellor's Excellence Awards specifically for this purpose and strongly recommends that members of the University community utilise this evaluative approach to identify and officially recognise deserving employees. In circumstances where this level of recognition is not considered appropriate, for example a student wishing to thank an employee for their assistance, the University would recommend an alternate and acceptable expression of appreciation might be provided by way of a letter or card.

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Section 2 - Section 2 - Definitions

(6) For the purpose of this policy:

  1. benefit - refers to anything believed to be of value to the recipient, or that might be perceived by a reasonable person to be of benefit to the recipient. A benefit may include, but is not limited to; preferential treatment in regard to employment, access to events, functions and information; club membership; discounts in shops.
  2. bribe - refers to a gift or benefit that is offered to or solicited by an employee in order to influence that person to act in a particular way.
  3. gift - refers to articles, items or monies given by one party to another party. A gift may include but is not limited to money, tickets, alcohol or other products. Within this policy, a gift does not mean a donation. Refer to the Donations and Fundraising Policy.
  4. gift of appreciation - refers to gifts that are generally given to express gratitude or thanks, such as flowers, chocolates and the like, in appreciation of performing a specific task or for performing duties in an exemplary manner.
  5. nominal value - refers to the amount set by the University to guide employees in terms of what would be considered a minor amount, currently $50.00. This value will be regularly reviewed by the University.
  6. official gift - refers to gifts that are presented to the University usually from another organisation in recognition of its services/achievements and/or gifts presented to the University at official/ceremonial functions.
  7. official representative - refers to an employee attending an event in their capacity as an employee of the University.
  8. solicitation - refers to the act of asking another party for something such as a gift, benefit or to commit or to aid in a crime.
  9. token gift - refers to the types of gifts that are generally exchanged as a formality or custom by visiting delegates such as pens, pencils, paperweights, ties, scarfs and the like which may include the company logo, and which have a nominal value or less.
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Section 3 - Policy Statement

Reporting and Recording Offers of Gifts or Benefits

(7) The University will have a process for the reporting of offers of gifts and benefits and the outcomes of offers (i.e. acceptance or refusal). Certain gifts will be required to be recorded on the University Gift Register.

Bribes, Potential Bribes and Solicitation of Gifts

(8) The offering of a bribe to an University employee is a serious matter. Employees must never accept a bribe.

(9) The solicitation of a gift or benefit by a University employee to act in a particular way is a bribe.

(10) The University is required to report to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) offers of or solicitations of a bribe.

(11) If an employee believes they have been offered a gift as a bribe, or believes that there is potential for the offer of a gift to be perceived as being a bribe they should decline acceptance of the gift/benefit. The employee should cease all interactions with the person that made the offer and report the incident to their supervisor, as soon as possible. See Gift and Benefit Reporting and Registration Procedure.

(12) If an employee believes they have witnessed the solicitation by another University employee a gift/benefit as a bribe they should report the incident to his/her supervisor, or if his/her supervisor is involved, then to an appropriate senior officer such as an Dean, Director or DVC/VP, as soon as possible. See Gift and Benefit Reporting and Registration Procedure.

(13) The University has responsibilities in regard to acting on reports of bribery under the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988.

Monetary Gifts

(14) The acceptance of monetary gifts such as cash, cheques, money orders, travellers' cheques, direct deposits, gift cards and the like is strictly forbidden. Employees cannot accept a gift of this nature under any circumstance.

(15) Any external party wishing to make a legitimate monetary donation to the University may do so in compliance with the Donations and Fundraising Policy.

Acceptance of Gifts or Benefits

(16) The best method for avoiding compromising situations is to forgo participation in any transaction or activity that may be perceived as corrupt or unethical. Accordingly the University applies the following general principles to the acceptance of gifts and/or benefits.

  1. As a general rule and wherever practical, employees should decline acceptance of any gift(s) and/or benefit(s).
  2. An employee must not accept a gift and/or benefit that could reasonably be perceived as having been provided with the intent of influencing the employee in carrying out their duties with the University.
  3. Transparent processes are in themselves a defence against allegations of corruption, therefore the University requires that employees report offers of gifts and/or benefits and the outcome of such incidents (i.e. acceptance/refusal of gift/benefit). See the Gift and Benefit Reporting and Registration Procedures.

(17) Employees should consider both the value, frequency and the purpose of the gift and/or benefit which is being offered. Employees must also look at the range of perceptions that might apply to a situation regarding the acceptance of a gift and/or benefit. Part D of the Code of Conduct provides a simple ethics test that might help reduce the level of uncertainty.

(18) The University strongly recommends employees seek advice from their supervisor/manager if they have any doubt regarding the acceptance of a gift and/or benefit. In addition, advice on the acceptance of gifts and benefits can be obtained from a range of sources. These include:

  1. Office of Human Resources
  2. Student Experience Office
  3. Vice-President, People and Advancement
  4. Office of University Secretary and General Counsel who is also the Protected Disclosure Coordinator
  5. Office of Audit and Risk Assessmentt
  6. Equity and Diversity Unit
  7. REDI - Research Ethics and Integrity
  8. Finance Office
  9. Western Sydney International; or
  10. Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

(19) Benefits are often of intangible value and therefore difficult to assess in terms of nominal value. Accordingly, as a precautionary measure, the University requires employees to treat the value of all benefits as being of greater than the nominal value and to manage them as they would a gift of greater than nominal value in accordance with this policy.

(20) Where an employee is unsure of the actual value of a gift, he/she should treat the gift as having a value of greater than the nominal value.

(21) At times an employee may inadvertently accept a gift/benefit which contravenes this policy. This may occur for example because the gift/benefit is anonymous or the gift was wrapped and was not opened when received. Where this occurs, the gift/benefit should be recorded in accordance with the Gift and Benefit Reporting and Registration Procedures. In all such instances, the unit head will determine the outcome of keeping the gift/benefit.

Gifts of Appreciation

(22) The University strongly recommends that individuals seek an approach to demonstrating their appreciation for services rendered that does not involve the presentation of a gift or benefit to University employees. Acceptable alternatives might include a letter of thanks or a thank you card to the employee and/or the employee's supervisor. These alternatives are recommended on the basis that they are considered far less likely to result in a situation that compromises either participant. Another alternative is for the individual to make a small donation to the UWS Foundation. See the Donation and Fundraising Policy.

(23) In line with clause 16a, the University requires employees to politely decline all gifts of appreciation. Having said this, the University recognises that situations may arise where it is not possible to decline the offer of such gifts without affording offence. In such circumstances the University considers it reasonable for employees to accept one-off offers of such gifts where the gift is of nominal value or less and provided the acceptance does not breach of any section of this policy.

(24) No employee is to accept a gift of appreciation of greater than nominal value. In circumstances where such a gift is offered the employee should politely decline the offer explaining that it is against University policy for them to accept.

(25) While there are obvious exceptions, gifts of appreciation that would generally be considered of nominal value might include such items as a bouquet of flowers, box of chocolates or bottle of wine. In contrast a watch, gold bracelet or other jewellery would not be considered to be of nominal value.

(26) While one gift of nominal value may be considered insufficient to cause an employee to deviate from a proper course of duty, the sum total of multiple or cumulative gifts may be considered sufficient to do so. Accordingly, where a party or a representative of that party presents a subsequent gift employees should politely decline the offer, explaining that it is against University policy for them to accept.

(27) All offers of gifts of appreciation should be reported in accordance with the Gifts and Benefits Reporting and Registration Procedures.

Token Gifts

(28) Employees may, from time to time, be involved in business, social, cultural or community events where the presentation or exchange of token gifts is customary. In such circumstances where it would cause offence to decline the offer of a gift the University deems it reasonable and appropriate for official representatives of the University to accept token gifts of nominal value or less on behalf of the University provided that doing so does not breach any part of this policy.

(29) Gifts of greater than nominal value are not token gifts. Instead these should be considered Official Gifts and managed accordingly.

(30) Token gifts accepted in accordance with clause 28 do not need to be recorded on the gift register but should be reported to the employee's unit head.

(31) An employee may retain token gifts unless otherwise instructed by his/her unit head. When accepted gifts are suitable for display, the recipient is responsible for displaying them in an appropriate and secure manner. Gifts that are not suitable for display, for example ties, scarfs and perishable items such as food, may be utilised by the employee in an appropriate manner.

Official Gifts

(32) From time to time employees may represent the University at business, social, cultural or community events where official gifts are presented or exchanged. In such circumstances, where it would cause offence to decline the offer, the University deems it reasonable for official representatives of the University to accept official gifts on behalf of the University. If the acceptance of such a gift breaches any part of this policy it should be declined.

(33) Gifts that would generally be considered official might include dedicated plaques, plates, vases, trophies and the like, along with any gift of greater than nominal value.

(34) Any official gifts accepted in accordance with clause 32 shall:

  1. be reported to the employee's unit head and be recorded in accordance with the Gift and Benefit Reporting and Registration Procedures, and
  2. normally be considered the property of the University, and
  3. where said gift is suitable, be displayed in an appropriate and secure location as determined by the unit head.

(35) Exceptions to the requirements set out in the above clauses may be applied on a case by case basis, for example when the item received is not suitable for display (such as a corporate tie or scarf). The unit head, DVC/VP or Vice-Chancellor and President will consider such applications on a case by case basis and make a determination as to the appropriate disposal/utilisation of the gift. Refer to the Gift and Benefit Reporting and Registration Procedures.

Disposal of Gifts

(36) Some areas of the University, by the nature of their work, receive many official gifts, e.g. Western Sydney International. As a general rule, official gifts of nominal value or less can be disposed of after 12 months or 12 months after the end of official relationship with the other organisation.

(37) Where the official gift is of unknown value or of more than nominal value, it is the responsibility of the unit head to seek advice on and determine the appropriate disposal method. Generally, the item will have little or no value to external parties, however it is possible that the item is of significant artistic or heritage value and it could be included in the University's collection. This should be done in accordance with the Art Promotion and Collection Policy or the Library Collection Development and Access Policy, or in consultation with the archivist. The unit head is required to check with the Records and Archives Management Services Unit as to the disposal requirements if any.

(38) The unit head is required to advise the Office of Human Resources of any disposal action of official gifts of greater than nominal value. See Gift and Benefit Reporting and Registration Procedures.

Commercial Agreements

(39) Generally, where there is a commercial relationship between the University and another organisation, acceptance of any gift other than an official gift is deemed inappropriate. Under these circumstances the intended recipient should politely decline the gift explaining that it is against University policy for them to accept. A gift of any item that might provide or be perceived as providing incentive for an employee to seek the services of a particular company over others may result in a conflict of interest or be in contravention of the Procurement Policy. It may also be considered a bribe.

(40) Where a commercial relationship includes the offering and acceptance of gifts, the University requires that the acceptance and utilisation of any gift be determined prior to entering any commercial agreement containing gifts. Consideration must include a determination as to:

  1. whether the gift is appropriate, and
  2. how the gift will be utilised and/or disposed of.

(41) Gifts should be excluded from agreements if there are no clear and appropriate avenues for their utilisation or disposal, or if they are deemed inappropriate in nature.

(42) As a general rule, where a gift is not likely to be available to other organisations providing the same or a similar service as the University, the University should decline inclusion of said gift in any agreement. This assessment is to be undertaken by the employee responsible for negotiating the agreement and should be undertaken as part of the negotiation process prior to signing the agreement. In circumstances where there is uncertainty regarding the acceptance of a gift, the University requires the employee to err on the side of caution and either:

  1. decline the gift, or
  2. seek further advice regarding acceptance of the gift from the relevant unit head, DVC/VP or the Dean, the Office of Human Resources or the Office of General Counsel.

(43) Examples of appropriate utilisation or disposal may include:

  1. displaying a gift in an appropriate and secure location,
  2. donating the gift to a recognised charity, such as the UWS Foundation
  3. using the gift for educational purposes.

(44) Any pre-agreed gifts that are accepted shall:

  1. at the time of receipt, be reported in accordance with the Gift and Benefit Reporting and Registration Procedures, and
  2. be considered the property of the University, and
  3. be displayed/utilised in accordance with predetermined arrangements.

Gifts/Prizes Received at Conferences and Trade Shows

(45) University employees regularly attend conferences where it is not uncommon for conference sponsors to provide gifts/benefits to participants for registering and/or prizes for entering competitions during the course of the conference. Generally these gifts are of a nominal value or less and are considered token in nature (e.g. pens, stress balls, stubbie holders etc.). At times, however, prizes may be of a value higher than nominal amounts e.g. cameras, ipads, and notebooks. Note: this does not apply to academic 'prizes' awarded for excellence or competence based on merit, such as for a paper or presentation.

(46) Additionally, University employees attend trade shows where companies offer gifts and prizes to attendees. These can also be of a value higher than the nominal value. Such gifts/benefits and prizes are designed to foster goodwill, with the view that it might create a potential business opportunity for the company in the future.

(47) All gifts/benefits or prizes received by employees at conferences and trade shows over the nominal value should be considered as gifts/benefits under this policy and should be dealt with as required in this policy and the Gift and Benefit Reporting and Registration Procedures.

(48) Employees attending conferences or trade shows should not enter any competitions where they may have a decision making role at the University which may concern the company offering the prize or company's products. Winning a prize from that company could be perceived as a conflict of interest in that it may influence an employee's decision making process. Where an employee is appointed to a decision making role that involves that company, they should declare any conflict of interest as a result of receiving a prize/gift at a trade show or conference.

Gifts of Hospitality

(49) Employees will at times be offered hospitality (e.g. food and drinks) in relation to work-related functions and similar activities as part of their role in representing the University or managing University business. As a general rule it is acceptable for employees to accept modest offers of hospitality, of the type that the University itself would offer for similar activities. Employees should not accept extravagant hospitality, regular or frequent hospitality, or any hospitality designed to influence an employee's decision-making process.

(50) Employees should report offers of hospitality to their supervisor. Refer to the Gift and Benefit Reporting and Registration Procedures.

Gifts/Benefits to Family members

(51) Offers of gifts and/or benefits made to family members of employees to avoid the requirements of this policy should not be accepted.

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Section 4 - Procedures

(52) Refer to Gift and Benefit Reporting and Registration Procedures.

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Section 5 - Guidelines

(53) The information provided in the Associated Documents page may assist employees in making appropriate determinations in regard to the acceptance of gifts and/or benefits.

Other References

(54) Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), 2006. "Managing Gifts and Benefits in the Public Sector - Toolkit".