The Hills Shire Council - Statement of Business Ethics
The Hills Shire Council has a proud history of being a professional, friendly and ethical organisation that works with private, public and non-profit sectors to provide a diverse range of services to the community.
Our community expects many things from its Council including leadership and vision, but above all it expects high ethical standards in the provision of those services and in everything we do.
Council is expected to not have any conflict between its own interests and its obligations to the community and has frameworks in place to manage its relationships with those with whom it does business. Those frameworks are the key to maintaining the community’s trust and confidence.
This Statement is intended to help those in the private, public or non profit sectors who are currently involved in business arrangements or are proposing to be in such an arrangement understand Council’s business ethics and provide some guidance on what to expect from Council and what Council expects from those involved in any business dealings.
Statement of Business Ethics (2.55MB)
Why a Statement of Business Ethics?
Our statement of business ethics has been developed to assist those dealing with The Hills Shire Council know what ethical standards the community expects from both the Council representatives and those that enter into a business relationship with Council. The principles outlined in this Statement reflect those in Councils Code of Conduct.
By complying with our statement of business ethics, you will be able to advance your business objectives and interests in a fair and ethical manner. The Council expects all its customers to comply with this Statement and to know and understand the standards in this Statement.
It is important to be aware of the consequences of not complying with Councils ethical requirements when doing business with us.
Why comply with a Business Ethics Statement?
Doing business with Council is so much easier and more effective when you comply with this Statement. You can be assured that you will not be disadvantaged because we require others who deal with us to do the same.
You will find it easier to deal with other government bodies when you do business ethically and gain a reputation for doing so because they also must operate ethically.
Ethical practice makes good business sense. Conversely, corrupt or unethical behaviour can lead to:
- Termination of contracts;
- Loss of future opportunities;
- Loss of reputation;
- Loss of approvals;
- Investigation for corruption;
- Investigation for criminal activity
What are Council’s Key Business Principles?
Our Key Business Principles are largely driven by Council’s Code of Conduct which relies on the eight (8) principles: Integrity, Leadership, Selflessness, Impartiality, Accountability, Openness, Honesty and Respect.
This means that we uphold high standards of conduct and ethics in everything we do for Council and we expect those doing business with Council to apply similar high standards when dealing with Council.
In upholding these high standards of behaviour and ethics we:
- Act with integrity to maintain public trust
- Avoid (or if necessary resolve) personal and professional conflicts in the public interest
- Respect and follow the spirit and intent of the law as well as our policies and procedures
- Use public resources properly and efficiently
- Make decisions based solely on merit; and
- Give reasons for our decisions (where appropriate)
In making our business decisions we strive to obtain the best value for money. This does not simply mean the lowest or highest price. Depending on the circumstances, our decision making takes into account many things including implementation or upfront costs, ongoing costs, suitability, quality, reliability, availability, experience, reputation, safety, legal compliance and environmental friendliness.
The lowest or highest bid may be the “best value” if it meets the requirements we believe are needed.
We are fair in our decision making. That means we are objective, reasonable and even-handed. This does not mean that we will always ask for competitive bids or that we will ask for bids from suppliers that have performed poorly in the past.
Conversely, we will rarely deal exclusively with a particular supplier, and then only where we have strong reasons to do so.
Sometimes our decision will have a negative impact on a person or organisation, but that does not necessarily mean it is unfair.
We will only request business proposals (by way of tender or any other method) if we intend to award a contract. If we make a change to our request, we will advise all the affected bidders so that they can respond before a decision is made.
All our business dealings are open and transparent including the surrounding process. Although Council is conscious of the need to maintain confidentiality or protect privacy all those intending to do business with Council should be aware of the Government Information (Public Access) Act which requires Council to maintain a Contracts Register that must contain different types of information depending on the class of contract. This register is publicly available. This legislation also requires Council to release other information if it is in the public interest to do so.
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What should you expect from Council?
You should expect Council’s staff and Councillors to:
- Be professional and act honestly, openly, fairly and ethically in all their dealings with you;
- Be friendly, courteous and respectful in their dealings with you;
- Seek value for money;
- Respect confidentiality of commercial information and privacy of individuals;
- Comply with the law including legislation and regulations;
- Prevent actual, potential or perceived conflict of interest;
- Comply with Council’s procurement policies and procedures as well as the Code of Conduct;
- Make objective decisions based on merit after considering all relevant factors;
- Protect privilege, confidentiality and privacy;
- Communicate clearly and respond promptly to reasonable requests for information;
- Promote open and fair competition;
- Never request gifts or other benefits; and
- Decline gifts or other benefits for doing their job unless the gifts or benefits are nominal or token or otherwise allowed under the Code of Conduct.
What does Council expect from you?
We expect you to:
- Act honestly, openly, fairly and ethically in all your dealings with Council and in all your dealings on behalf of Council;
- Comply with the law including legislation and regulations;
- Declare to us any actual, perceived or potential conflicts of interests if and when they occur and work with us to resolve them in the public interest
- Treat our customers in a friendly, courteous, respectful and professional way in all your dealings on behalf of Council;
- Provide working conditions for your employees that comply with industrial relations laws and regulations:
- Respect confidentiality of commercial and Council information and privacy of individuals;
- Comply with this Statement and Council’s other policies and procedures including the Code of Conduct, purchasing guidelines, secondary employment and post-separation employment policies;
- Provide us with a quality product or service on time that gives us value for money;
- Not be involved in any collusive practices;
- Assist Council in preventing unethical practices in our business relationships;
- Ensure that you do not offer, and refuse requests for, gifts or benefits to Council’s staff or Councillors for doing their job, unless you are offering gifts or benefits that are nominal or token or otherwise allowed under the Code of Conduct.
- Respect the fact that Council’s staff and Councillors must comply with this Statement and Council’s other policies and procedures;
- Uphold Equal Employment Opportunity principals and not be involved in the exploitation of child labour;
- Protect privilege, confidentiality and privacy;
- Communicate clearly and respond promptly to questions aimed at resolving any issues quickly;
- Ensure that you do not lobby or seek to influence Council’s staff or Councillors while business proposals are being considered;
- Obtain Council’s consent before discussing Council’s business with the media;
If you are employed/contracted by us, you must ensure that in your dealings with members of the public you:
- Comply with the values and meet the standards set out in this Statement and in Council’s codes and policies;
- Act reasonably and professionally at all times;
- Provide information about how they can make a complaint about you or your operations and how their complaint will be dealt with including how we will be advised of the complaint and its resolution.
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You must exercise care when dealing with Council (a public authority) and its representatives because they are public officials.
If you engage in corrupt conduct, such as trying to influence the outcome of a tender, Council’s General Manager is required to report the matter to the Independent Commission against Corruption and your tender will be disqualified.
Additional information to assist you
Gifts or other benefits
We do not expect to get a gift from you in return for work from us. While we do not encourage gift giving we do understand that sometimes people like to show their appreciation or demonstrate good faith in our business relationship by giving a gift. Only token gifts of nominal value that do not create a sense of obligation may be accepted by us.
Cash is never acceptable. All gifts or other benefits over a token value (in accordance with Council’s Code of Conduct) must be declared and are entered in Council’s gift register.
We sometimes get financial or other sponsorship for our activities and events and we also provide sponsorship, grants and donations to others. In accordance with our Sponsorship Policy our sponsorship practices are open and transparent and do not compromise our decision making.
Council’s staff members have a duty to maintain public trust.
If a Council staff member works as an employee outside Council, this is called “secondary employment”. Running a business or acting as a consultant is also considered “secondary employment”, even if the staff member is not strictly an employee in the other business.
Council staff must apply for the General Manager’s approval of secondary employment and the General Manager can prohibit Council’s staff from secondary employment where there is, or might be, a conflict of interest.
Council’s staff must not use their access to commercially sensitive information they gain at Council to assist them into secondary employment or into new employment, business or consultancy after they leave Council. This includes detailed knowledge of Council policies, procedures, practices and information unless these are public knowledge.
Council’s staff must also not allow themselves or their work to be influenced by plans for, or offers of, new employment, business or consultancy.
In business relationships with Council, all parties will respect each other’s intellectual property rights and will formally negotiate any access, licence or use of intellectual property.
All Council information should be treated as confidential unless otherwise indicated.
Lobbying of Councillors
Lobbying of Councillors is part of the democratic process and is an acceptable feature of the relationship between citizens and their elected representatives.
However, it is in the public interest that lobbying is fair and does not undermine public confidence in impartial decision- making. Inappropriate or unlawful lobbying usually involves an attempt to obtain preferential consideration or treatment based on factors other than the merits of a matter.
The lobbying of Councillors by tenderers about the outcome of a tender process is not permissible. The conditions which govern tender processes are based on a request for tender (RFT) and RFTs usually contain statements prohibiting proponents from approaching Councillors (and Council officers not nominated as contact people) during a tender process.
Lobbying of Councillors and/or staff by tenderers can lead to a tender being excluded from consideration and further action such as investigation by the Independent Commission against Corruption.
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Donations to Councillors
In recent years, members of the public including developers and businessmen have begun making donations to political campaigns at a local level. The Code of Conduct requires Councillors to consider the perception of influence created by any political donations and take reasonable steps to identify circumstances where this may arise. The Councillor may have to disclose a pecuniary or non-pecuniary conflict of interest and may elect not to participate in any decisions such as determining a tender and or development application if one of the tenderers made a political donation.
Conflicts of Interest
Conflicts or potential conflicts of interest must be disclosed by Councillors, staff and delegates and (where relevant) our customers to ensure their actions withstand public scrutiny.
Conflicts of interest exist when it is likely that a councillor, staff member or delegate may be influenced or perceived to be influenced by a personal interest in carrying out their public duty.
Conflicts of interest that lead to partial decision making may constitute corrupt conduct. Perceptions of a conflict of interest can be as important as actual conflicts.
Councillors, staff, delegates and customers doing business with Council are required to disclose in writing any perceived or actual conflicts and have that recorded on the relevant file.
The Council maintains a large amount of information about our customers and the community. Council has an obligation to protect this information and maintain its integrity in its systems.
Council expects that customers will treat all information appropriately and all information collected must be used for the purpose it was provided.
Legislative and Policy Requirements
Where Councillors, staff, delegates and customers are involved in the contracting or tendering for services or supplies, or other business, all legislative and policy requirements must be adhered to by all parties.
Development applications/LEP and DCP Amendments
Throughout the Development, LEP or DCP Amendment Application process all parties, including Councillors, staff and delegates, should understand that Council in its formal role in determining an Application has to consider the matters prescribed in legislation in a manner that is open and transparent and is seen to be fair to all parties involved.
Support or objections for proposals for applications may be seen to influence the application making process.
Councillors, staff and delegates should not be expected to offer support or otherwise for any party associated with the Application process. Councillors and staff are professional people and will treat all aspects of the Application process in a professional and ethical manner.
The Council’s resources should only be used for Council purposes and in the public interest. Councillors, members of staff, delegates and customers doing business with Council are expected to be efficient, economical and ethical in their use and management of Council resources, including staff time.
Only staff who are specifically delegated to do so by the General Manager may make public comment about Council matters.
Other than those who are specifically delegated, you must not make any public comment or statement that would lead anyone to believe that you are representing Council, or expressing its views or policies. This includes comments or statements made at public and community meetings, via the media, or when it is reasonably foreseeable that the comments, or statements, will become known to the public at large.
Reporting Unethical Behaviour (Public Interest Disclosures Act 1994)
The Council is committed to promoting ethical behaviour. Within Council, reports of unethical behaviour, fraud, corruption, maladministration, serious and substantial waste and failure to properly fulfil functions under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 can be made to the Councils Group Managers, General Manager and the Councils Public Officer on 9843 0122. External reporting can also be made to:
Independent Commission Against Corruption - 8281 5999
NSW Ombudsman - 9286 1000
NSW Department of Local Government - 4428 4100
Public officials reporting corrupt conduct, maladministration or waste can be protected by the Public Interest Disclosures Act 1994. This Act protects public officials who are disclosing corrupt conduct from reprisal or detrimental action and ensures disclosures are properly investigated.
Who to Contact
We think that compliance with this statement benefits everyone and upholds public trust and confidence in The Hills Shire Council. Understanding and complying with this statement may also assist you to complete on a level playing field to obtain other public sector work operating under similar requirements.
If you have any questions regarding this Statement of Business Ethics or these policies, including how it applies to you, please contact The Hills Shire Council’s Public Officer on 9843 0122 or Councils Internal Auditor on 9843 0107.
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