Conflict of interest and ethical and political activity guidelines
As public office holders, Board of Management members must comply with the statutory conflict of interest rules and ethical and political activities guidelines set out by the Government of Canada.
1. The Federal Accountability Act was enacted in December 2006 to provide for conflict of interest rules, restrictions on election financing, and measures respecting administrative transparency, oversight and accountability.
2. This legislation, among other things,
Enacted the Conflict of Interest Act (COIA); and
- Provided for the creation of the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.
3. The COIA is a legislative framework to govern the ethical conduct of public office holders both during and after employment. As part-time Governor in Council appointees, members of the CRA's Board of Management are "public office holders" within the meaning of section 2 of the new Act.
4. Some of the most significant changes introduced under the COIA are:
- A definition of conflict of interest was introduced. Section 4 of the COIA provides: "…a public office holder is in a conflict of interest when he or she exercises an official power, duty or function that provides an opportunity to further his or her private interests or those of his or her relatives or friends or to improperly further another person's private interests";
- The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner has the mandate to administer the COIA; and
- Compliance with the COIA is a condition of a person's appointment or employment as a public office holder.
5. The Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner issues a useful Summary of Rules for Public Office Holders.
6. In 2015, the government published a document called Open and Accountable Government. All public office holders are held to comply with Annex A Ethical and Political Activity Guidelines for Public Office Holders.
Roles and responsibilities
7. The Chair of the Board is responsible for:
- ensuring that members are informed of their duties to the CRA provided for in sections 42 and 43 of the Canada Revenue Agency Act and of their responsibilities to comply with the legislative and policy framework regarding conflict of interest, ethics and political activity, including these Guidelines;
- consulting, where appropriate, the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and the Legal Counsel to the Board;
- advising members concerning appropriate compliance measures to resolve situations where a real, potential or apparent conflict of interest may arise, including suggesting that an activity be curtailed, modified, or ceased; and
- ensuring that any information concerning the private interests of a Board member provided under these guidelines is kept in strict confidence and in secure safekeeping.
8. Members of the Board are responsible for taking the following actions:
- Notification: Members should provide a written statement to the Chair indicating participation in any activity that could:
- place the member in a real, potential or apparent conflict of interest relative to his or her duties and responsibilities to the CRA;
- place on the member demands inconsistent with his or her duties and responsibilities to the CRA; or
- call into question the member's capacity to perform his or her duties and responsibilities to the CRA objectively.
- Gifts or other Benefits: Any acceptance of a gift or other benefit by a Board member is subject to the provisions of section 11 of the COIA. Where there is doubt as to the application of section 11 in a particular situation, members should consult the Chair or Legal Counsel to the Board.
- Avoidance: Members should take steps to remove real, potential or apparent conflicts of interest relative to their duties and responsibilities to the CRA, including curtailing, modifying or ceasing an activity.
9. For members of the Board who are engaged in advising clients with respect to their rights and obligations under CRA's tax and benefit program legislation:
- they can provide such advice to their clients or to members of their firm representing their clients;
- they can deal with CRA officials for the purpose of exchanging general information respecting the administration and enforcement of program legislation; however
- they shall not be personally involved in advocating their clients' positions with respect to program legislation, whether orally or in writing, with officials of the CRA or before the courts.
10. At any time, a member of the Board may consult with Legal Counsel to the Board, with the Chair or directly with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, in order to seek clarification on potential conflict of interest or the application of the legislation to his or her situation.
11. The Commissioner of the CRA is responsible for: informing CRA managers, in writing, and requiring that, in any circumstances where members of the Board deal with Agency officials, members must be treated by Agency officials in a manner which is consistent with the way in which all other clients of the Agency are treated.
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