Codes of conduct

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 December, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 December, 2004, 12:00am

The United States has the toughest conflict of interest restrictions for former senior officials who were political appointees.

Under US law, heads of executive agencies, referred to as 'very senior personnel', are subject to multi-tiered restrictions according to their seniority:

a lifetime ban on 'switching sides' to represent any organisation on a matter on which they directly worked as an executive employee;

a two-year ban on cases on which they may not have directly worked but for which they had 'direct responsibility';

a one-year ban on representing any organisation to the executive, regardless of what portfolio they are with; and

a one-year ban on representing a foreign entity 'before any department or agency of the United States' and on aiding or advising a foreign entity.

A statutory agency, the Office of Government Ethics, advises executive employees to ensure compliance with this law.

In Britain, ministers must abide by the Ministerial Code (Ministers' Private Interests), which provides that on leaving office, they should seek advice about prospective paid appointments from the independent Advisory Committee on Business Appointments within two years of leaving office.

If an appointment could lead to public concern that the statements and decisions of the minister, when in government, had in any way been influenced by the expectation of future employment with the firm or organisation concerned, or that an employer could make improper use of official information to which the minister had access, the committee may recommend a delay of up to two years.

The Australian government does not have any law, code or advisory body to govern post-separation employment of ministers, although individual states have introduced relevant restrictions.

In 2002, the Australian Democrats proposed a two-year ban against ministers providing 'advice for personal profit or for commercial advantage on any aspect of the work of any department or agency for which the former minister had ministerial responsibility for any period of time during the last two years of service as a minister', while the Labor opposition proposed a 12-month ban.

But the bills were blocked by the ruling Liberal and National Party coalition.

Source: Parliamentary Library of Australia



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