This Code of Conduct applies to all members of Dams Safety NSW (the Board), which has been established under the Dams Safety Act 2015 (the Act).
Given the Board’s independence, this Code stands apart from the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s (the Department’s) Code of Conduct; however, it does align to the broader public service principles promoted by the NSW Public Service Commission and the Department.
The Department staff who support Dams Safety NSW must comply with the Department’s code of conduct.
This Code outlines the standards of conduct expected of Board members in exercising their statutory functions. It is the personal responsibility of each Board member to comply with this Code.
The Code has been developed to ensure Board members:
● commit to upholding a high degree of professional service and ethical leadership
● act in a way that promotes public confidence in the conduct of Dams Safety NSW
● ensure Dams Safety NSW achieves its mission as a regulator
● have a clear understanding of their public duty and legal responsibilities
● act for proper purposes without exceeding their powers
● exercise due diligence in all their functions.
The Code will be reviewed annually.
The following principles are key tenets of the Code under which the Board operates:
The Board will ensure that its decisions and actions are, and are perceived to be, independent and impartial. The Board is apolitical and will not be beholden to stakeholder interests; only the broader NSW community.
The Board will seek to instil and uphold ethical values and behaviours in both the operations of the Board and Dams Safety NSW officers. Unethical behaviour by members or Dams Safety officers will not be tolerated. The Board will act on any unethical behaviour or wrongdoing by a member as soon as it becomes apparent. The CEO will do the same in relation to officers.
The Board will act professionally, with honesty, consistency and impartiality at all times to ensure a regulatory environment that treats staff and stakeholders fairly and with respect. The Board will exercise good judgement in the interests of the NSW community and work with stakeholders to ensure that they are consulted appropriately. The Board will listen and address stakeholder concerns when these are raised.
The Board recognises the need for innovation in the Dams Safety regulatory environment and will explore new and better approaches to maximise the likelihood of declared dam owners meeting their regulatory obligations. The Board will demonstrate intellectual leadership and innovation to ensure that better regulatory practices are developed and implemented. The Board will act appropriately on suggestions for improvements when they are raised and will look to assess these on their merit.
The Board will ensure effective and efficient regulatory services that consider industry, community and other stakeholders’ needs and build community confidence in Dams Safety regulation. The Board will make decisions fairly, consistently, in a timely manner and without bias using the best factual information available.
The Board will conduct all actions, including interactions with stakeholders, to a high professional standard mindful of probity, equity and effective use of resources. The Board will hold the CEO accountable for ensuring that the systems and procedures used by Dams Safety staff are effective and efficient and will initiate and encourage system improvements. The Board will maintain adequate and secure documentation to support its decisions and transparently disclose information in the public interest guided by legislative requirements, this Code and the Board’s judgement.
The Board will ensure its decisions, actions and processes are transparent and accessible. The Board recognises the need for public information that is accessible, reliable and current. The Board will consult with relevant stakeholders on significant decisions to ensure they have the opportunity for input and that this input is considered. The Board will initiate proactive reporting on key milestones and achievements as well as acknowledge any challenges to achieving good regulatory outcomes.
The Board will demonstrate its accountability to the Minister against the Board’s legislative mandate through Ministerial and public reporting and the provision of relevant information on the dams safety website. The Board will actively promote public scrutiny. The Board will be fiscally responsible and ensure effective, efficient and prudent use of resources.
Conduct of Board members
As public officials, members of the Board have a particular obligation to act in the public interest. Members should be aware of the strict rules that apply to the affairs of public bodies and their employees in terms of acting in accordance with the law or charter; expending public money and resources only with proper authority; using public powers appropriately; and accounting for the use of public resources.
A Board member must:
- act honestly and exercise a reasonable degree of care and diligence in carrying out the member’s functions
- act for a proper purpose in carrying out the member’s functions
- not use the office of member for personal advantage
- not use the office of member to the detriment of Dams Safety NSW
- disclose any interest (whether pecuniary or otherwise) that could conflict with the proper performance of the member’s functions and avoid performing any function that could involve such a conflict of interest.
Reporting corrupt conduct
The Chair must report corrupt conduct, or suspected corruption, to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). Corruption in this context includes the dishonest or partial exercise of public official functions. It may also involve the conduct of non-public officials which adversely affects the honest and impartial exercise of a public official’s functions. For conduct to be considered corrupt under the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988 definition, it has to be serious enough to involve a criminal offence, a disciplinary offence, be grounds for dismissal or, in the case of Members of Parliament, involve a substantial breach of their Code of Conduct.
A report must be made to the ICAC as soon as the Chair has a reasonable suspicion that corrupt conduct may have occurred or may be occurring. Matters must be reported to the ICAC regardless of any duty of secrecy or other restriction on disclosure. It is important that reports to the ICAC be made without advising the person(s) to whom the report relates and without publicity.
Board members can also report directly to the following investigative bodies:
- disclosures concerning corrupt conduct should be made to the ICAC
- disclosures concerning maladministration should be made to the NSW Ombudsman
- disclosures concerning serious and substantial waste of public money should be made to the NSW Auditor General.
Use of public resources
Board members may be provided with equipment and other resources to perform their statutory functions. All such resources are to be used for Dams Safety NSW purposes and in accordance with any guidelines or rules about the use of those resources. Members should be mindful of the need to be efficient and economical in their use of public resources.
Use of official information
During the course of duties, members will gain information on a range of areas of government policy, stakeholder groups and individuals. Such information is varied in form including written information, stored information, e-documents and verbal information.
Such information may only be used for the purposes of the work of the Board and Dams Safety NSW. Each member has a responsibility to maintain Dams Safety NSW’s reputation for integrity and credibility in relation to the use and release of official information.
Misuse of official information or documents includes:
- speculation in shares, commodities, or property on the basis of confidential information about the affairs of a business or of proposed Government actions
- seeking to take advantage of another person, for personal reasons, on the basis of information held in official records
- disclosing sensitive information to members of the public, political parties, clients, lobby groups, other public servants, other government organisations, or members of Parliament, without proper authority
- providing or trading confidential information for use by private investigators, banks and credit agencies.
In relation to confidential information, members must:
- protect confidential information
- only release confidential information if they have authority to do so
- only use confidential information for the purpose it is intended to be used
- not use confidential information gained through their position as a Board member for the purpose of securing a private benefit for themselves or any other person
- not use confidential information with the intention to cause harm or detriment to the Board or any other person or body.
Members must comply with the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998.
The Board Chair is responsible for speaking to the media on behalf of the Board to allow its decisions to be properly represented and communicated. The Chair can authorise another member to speak to the media on behalf of the Board at any time.
Members should ensure that any public comments made in a private capacity are not attributed as official comments of Dams Safety NSW. In this respect, members should not use official stationery for private correspondence or for purposes not related to their official duties.
Conflicts of interest
Members must disclose, as soon as possible, any conflicts of interest and any direct or indirect pecuniary interests at a meeting of the Board. Particulars of the disclosure must be recorded by the Board and accessible for inspection by any person.
The NSW Government Board and Committees Guidelines (September 2015) clarifies that members must disclose interests "which include positions and pecuniary interests in corporations, partnerships or other businesses that may be relevant to the activities of the board or committee". When an issue arises, the board or committee member must as soon as practicable disclose full and accurate details of the interest or issue to the Board Chair.
All declarations are to be recorded within a register maintained by the Chair, with the assistance of the Secretariat and noted within the minutes of the meeting.
A conflict of interest arises when a board member is influenced, or appears to be influenced, by personal interests. The perception of a conflict of interest can be as damaging as an actual conflict, because it undermines public confidence in the integrity of the organisation involved, its staff and its board.
A pecuniary interest is a conflict of interest which involves an actual or potential financial gain. It may result from a board member, or a member of his or her family, owning property, holding shares or a position in a company bidding for government work, accepting gifts or hospitality, or receiving income from a second job. Money does not have to change hands. A conflict of interest may also arise from personal or family relationships, or involvement in sporting, social or cultural activities, without having a financial component.
Board Members should be aware of the process for identifying, declaring and dealing with pecuniary interests, set out in Clause 11 of Schedule 1 of the Act.
The Department’s Board Member’s Pecuniary Interests Declaration and Undertaking Form must be completed on appointment and when an issue arises.
Gifts and Benefits
Gifts and benefits include any items, service, hospitality or travel which has intrinsic value to the member, their family, relation or associate.
Board members must not:
- seek or accept a bribe or other improper inducement
- seek gifts or benefits of any kind
- accept any gift or benefit that may create a sense of obligation or may be perceived to intended or likely to influence their decision making as a Board member
- accept any offer of money of any kind.
Rules for lobbyists
Board members who are involved in lobbying must not represent the interests of a third party in relation to any matter that relates to the functions of the Board and must be aware of and comply with the following laws and guidance: Lobbying of Government Officials Act 2011, the Lobbying of Government Officials (Lobbyists Code of Conduct) Regulation 2014, Lobbyists Code of Conduct , www.lobbyists.elections.nsw.gov.au and the Premier’s Memorandum M2014-13 NSW Lobbyists Code of Conduct.
Employment outside of the Board
Board members must ensure that any employment, business or other roles or activities they engage in will not:
- conflict with, impair or otherwise prevent the full exercise of their functions as board members
- involve using confidential information or resources obtained through their role as a board member
- discredit, bring into disrepute or disadvantage the reputation of Dams Safety NSW or the Board.
Members should ensure that any participation in political matters does not bring them into conflict with their duties as Board members. A determination of what is appropriate in any particular case will depend upon the extent of the participation of the individual and the nature of the issue.
Members contesting elections
If members are considering contesting elections, they should refer to the rules outlined in the joint Department of Premier and Cabinet Circular C2013-04 and Public Service Commission Circular 2013-03 Contesting Elections: https://arp.nsw.gov.au/pscc2013-03-dpc2012-04-contesting-elections/.
Compliance with the Code
If a member does not comply with the Code, the Chair may direct the member to take a specified action to rectify his or her conduct or determine that further work not be allocated to the member until the breach is rectified. If the Chair is in breach of the code, members of the Board may take similar relevant actions.
In the case of a serious breach, the Chair may need to refer to the Minister and consider appropriate action. Any action taken will consider the seriousness of the breach, whether there is a pattern of such conduct, the intent of the member concerned and the effect it is having on the work of Dams Safety NSW
Links to information
NSW Ministers: https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/members/Pages/ministers.aspx
NSW legislation: https://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/
NSW Public Sector Governance Framework: https://www.dpc.nsw.gov.au/tools-and-resources/public-sector-governance/
NSW Boards and Committees Guidelines: https://www.psc.nsw.gov.au/legislation-and-policy/nsw-government-boards-and-committees
Department of Planning, Industry, Environment: https://www.dpie.nsw.gov.au/