FAQs: Directive on Conflict of Interest
Where can I find out what my responsibilities are with respect to conflict of interest and conflict of duties?
You can find this information in the following documents.
- Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector
This document outlines the values and expected behaviours that guide federal public servants in all activities related to their professional duties. The integrity value and the expected behaviours associated with it are the ones that relate most closely to conflict of interest
- Directive on Conflict of Interest
This document, which complements the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector, sets out the requirements for persons employed by the government to help them prevent, report and resolve situations of real, apparent or potential conflicts of interest and conflict of duties
- Policy on People Management, Appendix D
This document contains the definitions of real, apparent and potential conflict of interest and conflict of duties
- Your organization's code of conduct
Every organization in the federal public sector is required to have a code of conduct that is consistent with the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector. Departments and agencies for which Treasury Board is the employer may include in their code of conduct organization-specific direction and interpretation of the conflict of interest requirements set out in the directive
- Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector
Is compliance with the Directive on Conflict of Interest a condition of employment for federal public servants?
Yes. Compliance with the directive, as well as with the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and their organization’s code of conduct, is a condition of employment for all federal public servants.
For more information, contact your organization’s senior official for values and ethics (list accessible on the Government of Canada network only) or senior official responsible for conflict of interest and conflict of duties (list accessible on the Government of Canada network only).
Can a third party access, under the Access to Information Act or the Privacy Act (ATIP), information contained in a conflict of interest report that I submitted to the deputy head?
Your report is considered personal information. This means that a third party can access it only if it can be disclosed under subsection 19(2) of the Access to Information Act.
The information in your conflict of interest report, such as information on ownership of assets, receipt of gifts, hospitality or other benefits; or information on your participation in any outside employment or activities that could give rise to a conflict of interest would not be given to a third party unless it is in accordance with section 8 of the Privacy Act. Tombstone information in the report, such as your name, classification and position title, however, would likely be provided.
A person employed by the government may, at any time, access the information contained in their own conflict of interest report.
As a person employed by the government, can I accept an honorarium for participating in an outside activity such as a meeting or conference, or serving on a board of directors?
Every situation must be looked at separately to determine whether a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest exists.
You may be allowed to accept an honorarium if:
- there is no real, apparent or potential conflict of interest between your official duties and the outside activity
- the outside activity will be conducted on your own time and not as part of your official duties and done during working hours (for which you are already receiving a salary)
- the outside activity will be conducted in a manner that will not call into question your capacity to perform your official duties
- you will not be directly or indirectly using government property of any kind in connection with the outside activity
- to carry out your outside activity, you will not knowingly be taking advantage of, or benefiting from, information you obtain in the course of your official duties and that is not generally available to the public
Under the Directive on Conflict of Interest, persons employed by the government may engage in employment outside the public service or take part in outside activities unless the employment or activities are likely to give rise to a conflict of interest or in any way undermine the neutrality of the public service.
If you have any doubts as to whether accepting an honorarium would be in compliance with the directive, discuss the situation with your manager or with your organization’s senior official responsible for conflict of interest and conflict of duties and, if necessary, submit a conflict of interest report in accordance with your organization’s procedures.
Why doesn’t the Directive on Conflict of Interest specify any dollar amounts for gifts, hospitality and other benefits that I can accept?
The directive specifies the conditions under which you, as a person employed by the government, can accept these benefits, but it doesn’t specify any dollar amounts for these benefits or how often you can accept them.
The lack of specifics is intended to help keep people from falling into the numbers trap and to encourage them to exercise judgment in order to maintain the integrity of the public service.
When you are offered a gift, hospitality or other benefit, you need to carefully consider whether accepting it could influence or could appear to influence your objectivity in carrying out your official duties, and whether it could be seen as placing you under obligation to the donor.
Imaging you’re a procurement officer in the middle of a competitive bidding process and one of the bidders invites you out for coffee. In this situation, if you accept this invitation for a simple cup of coffee, other bidders could get the impression that this bidder has a special relationship with you and has some influence over you, which could then undermine their trust in the fairness of the bidding process.
Whether this influence is real or not is immaterial. The main issue is whether your having coffee with the bidder will lead others to doubt your objectivity. The bidder’s gesture of inviting you for coffee could be seen as an attempt to influence your judgment as the procurement officer, and your accepting the invitation could be seen as placing you under some obligation to the bidder.
In another set of circumstances, accepting a cup of coffee or a modest lunch as a normal expression of courtesy may be totally acceptable.
The key to avoiding situations of real or perceived conflict of interest is to use good judgment, always keeping in mind the full context of both the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and the Directive on Conflict of Interest.
Your organization may have additional guidelines or rules on the acceptance of gifts. If you are ever faced with a situation you are unsure about, feel free to discuss it with your manager or with your organization’s senior official responsible for conflict of interest and conflict of duties.
I operate a government vehicle as part of my work. Can I use the Government of Canada fleet card and accumulate rewards or points on my own personal loyalty card or receive cash-backs for fuel purchases or repairs?
No. Persons employed by the government who use the Government of Canada fleet card are not allowed to accumulate rewards or points on their own personal loyalty cards (for example, Air Miles, Petrol-Points) or to receive cash-backs for fuel purchases or repairs made using the Government of Canada fleet card.
The Directive on Conflict of Interest prohibits the solicitation of gifts, hospitality or other benefits for personal gain. Subsections 4.2.13 to 4.2.15 provide specific guidance to help you avoid and prevent situations that could give rise to a real, apparent or potential conflict of interest.
The Government of Canada credit card, often referred to as the fleet card, is normally assigned to a specific vehicle and is to be used for all fuel purchases and other vehicle operating expenses. All costs accumulated using the fleet card are paid directly by departments. Benefits on the use of this card include corporate discounts and tax exemptions applied directly to the invoice at time of purchase.
Persons who are employed by the government and who are authorized to use the fleet card should not benefit personally as a result of fulfilling their duties. In other words, they may not collect rewards or points on their own personal loyalty cards when they are conducting government business. The only exception to this general principle can be found in section 1.2 of the National Joint Council Travel Directive.
I am thinking about taking an unpaid leave of absence to work at a foundation that receives government funding. Are there any conflict of interest issues I need to consider?
Yes. Subsections 4.2.3 and 4.2.5 of the Directive on Conflict of Interest set out the criteria with respect to engaging in outside employment or activities.
Every case has to be judged on its own merits. An opportunity to work in another organization often benefits everyone concerned, because each party gains a greater understanding of the work environment and the issues of the other.
Before you accept this position, ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I being offered this position because of my abilities or because of the information and influence the foundation might think that I have due to my current job?
- If I accepted this position, what would my relationship be with my current colleagues and department? Would I be put in an uncomfortable position of either being asked to use my influence with them or to work against them?
- When I return to the department after my leave of absence, would others question my ability to whether I could go back to doing my duties in a neutral and objective manner?
- Does my manager know that I am taking a leave of absence to work elsewhere? Can they foresee any potential problems either while I am working for the foundation or when I return to my government position?
If you have any doubts as to whether accepting the position would be in compliance with the directive, discuss the situation with your manager or with your organization’s senior official responsible for conflict of interest and conflict of duties and, if required, submit a conflict of interest report in accordance with your organization’s procedures.
What is permitted with respect to fundraising and soliciting donations in kind for officially approved charitable activities such as the Government of Canada Workplace Charitable Campaign?
Under subsection 4.2.17 of the Directive on Conflict of Interest, persons employed by the government must not solicit donations in kind from persons or organizations in the private sector with which the federal government has official dealings unless they have prior written approval from their deputy head.
There are several reasons for this requirement.
- It helps avoid situations where prospective donors, because of their business relationship with the department or agency concerned, feel pressure to make a donation.
- Donations obtained through these business relationships could inadvertently put all parties in an apparent, potential or even real conflict of interest situation.
- Deputy heads are accountable for ensuring that the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and the Directive on Conflict of Interest are fully upheld in their organizations. This requirement helps ensure they have the chance to exercise that accountability by determining what types of fundraising activities are appropriate, and with whom, based on the organization's particular operating environment.
- This requirement ensures that the Directive on Conflict of Interest is consistent with section 121(1)(c) of the Criminal Code.
What are the general principles surrounding games of chance, such as 50-50 draws, which are often used for fundraising purposes in the workplace?
Games of chance are not considered solicitation for the purposes of the Directive on Conflict of Interest, but they may not be appropriate in public service workplace settings.
Games of chance are provincially regulated activities and are subject to licencing requirements. The Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector, Respect for Democracy, expected behaviour 1.1, requires public servants to respect the rule of law. Therefore, games of chance must be carried out in accordance with local and provincial regulations, if permitted by the deputy head.
Do the Directive on Conflict of Interest and the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector apply to persons who are employed by the government and who accept temporary assignments with another sector under Interchange Canada?
Yes. Adherence to the Directive on Conflict of Interest and the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector is a condition of employment for all persons employed by the government. Both the directive and the code apply during Interchange Canada assignments.
Under Appendix B of the Policy on People Management, a person who is employed by the government and on an Interchange Canada assignment remains attached to their home organization in the federal public service and must return to that organization at the end of the assignment, unless all parties agree to other arrangements.
All terms and conditions of employment with the federal government, with the exception of the exclusion status associated with the position being vacated temporarily, continue to apply during the assignment. The deputy head must ensure that the assignment is free from conflict of interest and political influence.
My substantive position is not subject to post-employment restrictions, but the position I am acting in is. Will the post-employment restrictions apply to me after I leave the public service?
Yes. The post-employment measures will apply to you because they apply to your "most recent responsibilities" in the federal public service. For the purpose of the Directive on Conflict of Interest, "most recent responsibilities" include responsibilities in acting appointments.
Your department has identified the positions covered by post-employment restrictions. For more information, consult the senior official responsible for conflict of interest and conflict of duties in your organization.
As a public servant who do I go to if I have a question about the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector or the Directive on Conflict of Interest?
Talk to your manager first, if possible. Then, contact either your organization’s senior official for values and ethics or senior official responsible for conflict of interest and conflict of duties.
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