MESSAGE FROM THE CEO
This Code of Conduct is provided to ensure that as Toowoomba Regional Council employees we fulfil public expectations of us and our organisation, and apply in our workplaces all the principles laid down in the Public Sector Ethics Act 1994.
The Code of Conduct expands on and reinforces the principles contained in the Act, and provides guidance on how to apply them in practical terms.
We each have a collective and individual responsibility to comply with the Code of Conduct and to carry out our duties in line with its intent and content in our daily working environment.
Doing so provides a vital benefit to all council employees and to the community we serve and the public at large. Our commitment to upholding these principles will ensure that we continue to provide the people of our region with the highest quality service that we can.
Chief Executive Officer
Toowoomba Regional Council
In line with the Public Sector Ethics Act 1994,
Toowoomba Regional Council (TRC) has developed this Code of Conduct for its employees (or 'public officials', as referred in the Act).
This document replaces and revokes the former TRC Code of Conduct for Employees, Policy Number 3.13.
The Toowoomba Regional Council Code of Conduct for Employees (the Code of Conduct) sets out the acceptable standard of conduct and workplace behaviour required of employees involved in council operations. The primary aim of the Code of Conduct is to create an environment where all employees operate as a team, based on mutual respect, trust, loyalty and professionalism. It provides a set of standards related to the way we do our jobs and puts a responsibility on each of us to use sound judgement while at work. It aims to deliver best practice by ensuring those standards are clear and guided by sound ethics. By consistently applying the standards, we enhance public trust and confidence in each of us. Nothing in this Code of Conduct interferes with your rights as a private citizen or a ratepayer.
The Code of Conduct does not cover every situation. However the values, ethics, standards and behaviour it outlines are reference points to assist decision-making in situations it does not cover. If you act in good faith and in keeping with the spirit of the Code of Conduct, you can expect to be supported by your colleagues, your team leader/supervisor and by council. A guide to ethical decision-making is included to help you in situations not covered in the Code of Conduct.
All TRC employees, regardless of their employment status, role or position – permanent, temporary, casual or part-time contractors or volunteers or any person who exercises power or controls resources on behalf of council – must be familiar with and follow the spirit and content of this Code of Conduct.
The Code of Conduct refers to various principles and appropriate behaviour between employees and those receiving services from, or providing services to, Toowoomba Regional Council.
Councillors are excluded from the provisions of this Code of Conduct and operate under the provisions of a separate Code of Conduct for Councillors.
The Code contains the ethics principles and their associated set of values prescribed in the Public Sector Ethics Act 1994. The Code describes how we will conduct ourselves in delivering services to the community of the Toowoomba region. It also contains standards of conduct for each ethics principle.
The ethics principles are:
These are the fundamental principles of ethical behaviour essential to robust local government integrity and accountability which council
must promote in its internal and external relationships.
Each principle is strengthened by a set of values describing behaviours that demonstrate each principle. The principles and associated values are equally important. The standards of conduct, contained in the Code under each set of principles and values, help us as individuals to understand how we put these principles and values into practice.
The standards are not intended to cover every possible scenario. Therefore in adhering to the Code, we commit to upholding the intent and spirit of the principles and values.
As well as upholding the principles and values and complying with standards of conduct set out in this Code, we also need to comply with relevant legislation, awards, certified agreements, subsidiary agreements, directives, whole-of-government policies and standards. We also need to adhere to the policies, organisational values and relevant documents of Toowoomba Regional Council.
The Public Sector Ethics Act 1994 states the following four fundamental ethics principles and values:
Recognising that working in local government involves a public trust, employees must seek to promote public confidence in the integrity of Toowoomba Regional Council. Where a conflict of interest occurs or one could be perceived between an individual and their employment with council, the employee is required to report this immediately and directly to their manager to ensure their actions are transparent. If an employee is unsure as to whether a conflict of interest exists they are expected to disclose all relevant information to their manager for determination.
All council employees are expected to:
Having regard to the obligation mentioned above, all employees should:
You should at all times seek to advance the common good of the community. In particular, you must ensure that your official position is not used improperly for personal advantage and that any conflict between personal interest and public duty is resolved in favour of the public interest.
All council employees must strive to provide excellent customer service. They must treat councillors, other employees and members of the public honestly, fairly and with respect. Employees must adopt the highest standard of conduct in communicating with clients, whether they are members of the public, or representatives of government, or the private sector.
Toowoomba Regional Council is the mechanism through which the elected representatives deliver programs and services. The benefit of the people of the region, employees must therefore strive to:
You must carry out your duties honestly, responsibly, in a conscientious manner and to the best of your ability.
In recognition that Toowoomba Regional Council has a duty to uphold the system of government and the laws of the State, Commonwealth and local government, all employees must seek to:
You are required to be aware of and act within the law as it applies to your work. You are entitled to have access to any legislation that may be relevant to your work. You are required to obey legal, reasonable directions from your supervisor. You have the right and responsibility to question how to do work, particularly if you think there is a better way to do something, or that a direction may be in breach of the law.
In recognition that public trust in Toowoomba Regional Council requires high standards of public administration, all council employees are expected to:
You must avoid waste, abuse and extravagance in providing or using public resources and must disclose any fraud or corruption of which you become aware. You must carry out your duties honestly, responsibly, in a conscientious manner and to the best of your ability.
Toowoomba Regional Council aims to ensure all employees have the necessary information to perform their work. This means you may be entrusted with documentation and information that belongs to:
You must maintain council information confidentially in a secure environment, except to the extent that you are required by law to disclose it in line with relevant legislation or through established council processes. You must take all reasonable care and necessary precautions to maintain confidentiality and prevent the disclosure of any private information. You must not disclose any private or confidential information without prior written consent of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or a General Manager, except as required in the ordinary course of employment.
This means that:
Remember that council has information about individuals, businesses and commercial issues that is private and sensitive and could be harmful if released. Employees must keep this information confidential at all times. You can maintain privacy by:
Council may only collect personal information directly relevant to its activities and only by fair means. The collection of this information should not unreasonably intrude on the privacy of the individual concerned. In most cases when collecting personal information, council must tell the individual why the information is being collected, and to whom the information is normally disclosed. You must take reasonable steps to ensure that this information is relevant, accurate, up-to-date and complete. There are very strict limitations on the use of this information and its disclosure to third parties.
As a general rule, councillors comment publicly on council business. Council business can be topical, sensitive and controversial and there is a process to be followed when making public comments.
You must not approach the media or make any public comment on council matters without obtaining prior approval from the CEO.
If you are asked to comment on any council matter by the media or public relations firms, refer the request to the Stakeholder Engagement and Communication branch.
Sometimes, it might be appropriate to share information based on your personal and
professional experience (eg. in seminars or training programs). Make sure if you share your experiences, you do not breach confidentiality of council information.
You are free to engage in trade union, party political, professional, interest group or charity activities. You must make sure your participation in such activities does not cause a real or apparent conflict of interest, and does not restrict the performance of your duties.
If you comment publicly in connection with such activities, you must make a clear distinction between your opinion as a member of those organisations and your opinion as a council employee.
Council employees are entitled to undertake paid work outside of council in their own time. If you perform paid work outside of council, you must be sure this work complies with council's Code of Conduct, specifically Integrity and Impartiality. You must ensure that this work:
If an employee is planning to undertake work outside of council, the Ethics Principles and Values – Integrity and Impartiality and the questions outlined on page 25, A Guide to Ethical Decision Making should be used as a guide for determining whether a conflict of interest may exist. If the employee is unsure as to whether a conflict or a potential perceived conflict of interest exists they should immediately discuss this with their manager or supervisor.
Council aims to conduct its business with integrity, honesty and fairness, and to achieve the highest standards in service delivery. You contribute to this aim by carrying out your duties honestly, responsibly, in a conscientious manner and to the best of your ability.
If you are responsible for managing or supervising others, you must also ensure that:
You must take reasonable steps to ensure your own safety, health and welfare in the workplace. You also have a duty of care to both fellow employees and members of the public.
We must all:
We must keep the workplace drug and alcohol free if we are to maintain the health and safety of all staff and the trust and confidence of customers. The use of drugs or alcohol adversely affects productivity, attendance and on-the-job safety.
You must not:
You are expected to follow council procedures when at work or leave. This includes not being absent without authority and accurately and truthfully recording work and leave periods.
You should aim to maintain and improve your work performance and that of your work unit in the delivery of customer service. You have a continuing responsibility to maintain and enhance your skills and expertise, and keep up-to-date with knowledge associated with your area of work. Council will assist you by providing equitable access to training and development opportunities. This may include accessing council's study assistance scheme, learning new work duties, participating in project work or undertaking internal or external training.
All employees must strive to provide excellent customer service. We must treat members of the public with honesty, fairness, sensitivity and dignity. All council employees serve ratepayers directly or indirectly. If your role in council involves regular contact with the public, it is important to know how to deal comfortably and calmly in difficult situations or with difficult people.
Customers have a right to complain or criticise council. While you must make all reasonable efforts to help customers lodge complaints, if you think a situation is threatening or intimidating, you are entitled to withdraw. If in doubt, ask for help from a more experienced colleague or a team leader/supervisor.
Council will support any employee who believes they are under threat from a member of the public.
Council's preference is to use internal suppliers when providing services to our customers. Enterprise Bargaining Agreements outline requirements and information regarding the use of internal suppliers that need to be followed when seeking suppliers for service delivery.
If you have approval to be involved in offering contracts or buying goods and services from outside council, you must be sure you have taken reasonable, fair and consistent steps to allow all potential suppliers to bid for work.
We all share the responsibility of managing the impacts of air, water, land and noise pollution and creating healthy surroundings for our community. This includes individual responsibility for our own actions (eg. taking care when disposing of waste and using and storing chemicals, reducing energy consumption and waste in our work spaces and applying high standards for environmental protection across the region).
All employees must treat other employees with respect, honesty, fairness, sensitivity and dignity. Employees who supervise or manage other employees have a special responsibility to model this kind of behaviour and to ensure the people they supervise understand the standard of performance and behaviour expected of them.
We need to accommodate and respect different opinions and perspectives, and manage disagreements through rational debate. You must not behave towards other people in a way that could reasonably be perceived as intimidating, overbearing or bullying.
Effective teamwork is an essential part of a productive workplace culture. Each team member needs to work co-operatively with fellow employees and actively and willingly take part in team activities (eg. meetings).
Council is committed to creating and maintaining a workplace free from discrimination. By law, all employees must ensure that discrimination is not part of our workplace or our practices.
Council is committed to preventing harassment of employees and the public. All employees need to contribute to building a workplace that tolerates differences and that is free from intimidation, bullying and harassment.
Fighting of any sort is not permitted while on council duty or while at council-related functions. Any employee who participates in fighting under these circumstances, may be subject to immediate disciplinary action which may include suspension or dismissal. Fighting can include any behaviour that is consistent with criminal behaviour or is sufficient to place the council in disrepute through an employee's actions (eg. assault).
Council's resources include property, plant, equipment, information systems, computers, laptops, mobile phones, goods, products and valuables, as well as council's intellectual property, which means its original information, designs, ideas and processes. All employees share the responsibility for looking after them.
If you are in charge of resources, you must take good care of them while they are in your possession or use. It is an offence to misuse them or allow anyone else to misuse them. Your responsibility includes making sure council resources are secured against theft and properly stored, maintained and repaired.
In the course of your daily work you are required to:
Council equipment must not be taken home or used for private purposes except as provided above. You can use telephones on a reasonable basis for local calls that you can not make conveniently outside working hours. Such use must be kept to a minimum.
Except as required in the performance of your duties as an employee, you must not access private council information which pertains to your personal dealings with council or those of your family or friends, that would provide unfair advantage over other members of the public conducting similar business with council.
When you leave council, you must return all equipment and work-related documents.
If in the course of your council duties you handle information and records, you will be given training in council's Electronic Document and Records Management System (8).
Employees with record-keeping responsibilities will also receive annual training regarding legislated obligations such as are covered by the Public Records Act 2002. You must follow sound record-keeping practices as legislated including those relating to the storage, retention and disposal of records.
Any documents received or created by you in the course of your duties may be subject to a Right to Information (RTI) application by a member of the public, under the Right to Information Act 2009. Council has appointed an RTI decision-maker who considers all applications and an RTI Coordinator. These are the people to turn to for advice on RTI issues.
Only documents produced for public release may be provided to the public without authority from your supervisor or manager. These include council's public records such as minutes, public consultation documents on anticipated projects, council advisory brochures, other government department publications and tourist information.
More details regarding information management, record-keeping and privacy are provided in council's documents: Use of Council Computers and Electronic Communications Network Facilities; and Management of Council Information.
The Ombudsman, an officer of the Queensland Parliament, can require access to documents and information from council and its employees, acting on a complaint or on his/her own initiative. The Ombudsman may conduct an investigation which may involve interviewing council employees. We are obliged under law to comply with any requests made by the Ombudsman. The CEO will take charge of council's cooperation with the Ombudsman, and is the person you should contact if approached about any request from the Office of the Ombudsman.
You must maintain high standards of accountability if you collect and use public money. You are not to borrow or use council money for private purposes. This also applies to items such as taxi vouchers.
You must obtain approval before arranging to publish or disclose any articles or materials you produced as part of your official duties. Any original work, invention or product you contributed to in association with your work remains council property.
Similarly, you must not publish or disclose any matters relating to council's intellectual property without appropriate authority.
This does not stop you from sharing with other organisations information relating to your official duties. However, if you do, you must make sure you do not breach the confidentiality of council information or its clients, or compromise council's intellectual property rights.
You must also respect the intellectual property rights of individuals and organisations outside council. For example, you must not copy, quote or reproduce their work unless they have given you permission to do so.
If the responsibilities of your position require you to undertake a criminal history check or hold a current driver's licence and you are charged with, an indictable offence or lose your licence or let it lapse, during the course of your employment, you may have jeopardized your employment contract with council. Council reserves the right to discontinue your employment should this occur. If you are convicted of an indictable offence or lose your licence or let it lapse, you are required to inform your manager immediately.
Taking council goods or property, regardless of the value, is not permitted unless an authorised agreement is in place (eg. private use of a motor vehicle agreement). Supervisors do not have the authority to give away any council property, including waste material.
Any employee who is found to be working while under the influence of alcohol or an illegal substance may be subject to immediate disciplinary action include dismissal.
This particularly applies to employees operating, or working in close proximity to heavy vehicles, plant, machinery or equipment, for whom a complete zero tolerance policy to alcohol or any illegal substances applies (refer to the TRC Drug and Alcohol Management Plan for more details). Observing this restriction is vital to fulfilling our obligations to protect the safety of employed and the public.
All employees of council have a statutory duty to ensure there is no real potential, or perceived conflict between their own interests and the interests of the community and the honest and impartial performance of their role with council.
A conflict of interest can arise if your private or personal interests (or those of relatives or friends) affect your ability to carry out your duties objectively.
You must ensure that:
You must not try to obtain any advantages or favours by influencing any person in an improper way.
All decisions need to be and be seen to be, fair and transparent. This can be achieved in a number of ways, including clear record-keeping and showing how decisions were made.
Where it could be interpreted that you have a conflict of interest within your work area, you must declare the conflict of interest to your supervisor, manager or general manager. You must not become involved in or influence the decision unless you are advised by your supervisor, manager or general manager that it is appropriate to contribute to the decision-making process after declaring your interest in the issue.
The 'Guide to Ethical Decision-Making' has more information on this.
Council staff must give elected officials (councillors) advice that is thorough, responsive and unbiased so that councillors can make decisions and carry out their community responsibilities.
If you believe there is conflict between a request from an elected official and council policies, discuss this with your team leader/supervisor.
Employees are delegated work from supervisors and managers. Councillors are not able to direct employees in their work. The Local Government Act 2009 makes it clear that employees should be directed by their supervisors or the CEO, but not by individual councillors. This is to avoid employees receiving conflicting directions and confusion arising about lines of accountability. It also helps to avoid the inappropriate influence being placed on employees that may conflict with the fair and impartial performance of their covered duties.
Where employees reside within the Toowoomba Regional Council area, they have constituents' right of access to councillors in relation to residential matters, providing that such rights are exercised outside of working hours.
Employees must not, without first informing the CEO, approach councillors to discuss any matter relating to the administration or management of any aspect of council's affairs.
Employees must not approach councillors to discuss any matter relating to the terms and conditions of their employment with council, or any other staffing or operational council matter. Any concerns should be raised with supervisors and if necessary with more senior levels of management. This reflects current council guidelines for dealing with operational and staffing issues, including procedures set out in the current Enterprise Certified Agreements in force with council.
You have the right to comment on or raise concerns about council policies or practices where they affect your employment. You must do this in a reasonable, constructive way, using established managerial pathways while respecting the right of management to make the ultimate decision.
In relation to bribes, gifts and benefits, you must:
Sanctions may be applied if this Code of Conduct or any relevant law is breached. Depending on the nature of the breach, sanctions may include counselling, disciplinary action (including termination of employment), criminal charges, and/or civil action. Breaches of the Code of Conduct by employees will be responded to in accordance with relevant Local Government Legislation, eg. provisions of the Local Government Act 2009. Suspected official misconduct will be referred to the Crime and Misconduct Commission for investigation.
If you become aware of an actual or potential breach of this Code of Conduct by a fellow employee, you must report it to either the CEO or to your supervisor.
In the interests of fairness, and to avoid unintentional false allegations, it is advisable that you report your concern to your supervisor, or if your concern relates to your supervisor, to the next highest level of management, before escalating it to the CEO.
You can report your concerns verbally or in writing. Upon receiving a verbal report, the CEO or your supervisor will document the details of the breach. If after receiving your report, initial discussion and investigation does not resolve your concern, your supervisor must advise the CEO as soon as practicable. Suspected breaches will be treated individually and all relevant circumstances will be taken into account.
Some situations may constitute official misconduct as defined in the Crime and Misconduct Act 2001. These are generally described as conduct by a public official that involves:
If you become aware of or suspect official misconduct within council, you must report it to the CEO. Upon receiving notification of official misconduct, the CEO must report it to the Crime and Misconduct Commission.
The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 provides unique protection for employees who provide information about certain types of wrong-doing (public interest disclosures):
The following guide is designed to help you reach an ethical decision based on the relevant facts and circumstances of a situation.
Step 1: Assess the situation
What is your aim?
What are the facts and circumstances?
Does it break the law or go against council policy?
Is it in line with the Code of Conduct principles?
What principles does it relate to? Why?
Who is affected? What rights do they have?
What are your obligations or responsibilities?
Step 2: Look at the situation from council's viewpoint
As a public official, what should you do?
What are the relevant laws, rules and guidelines?
Who else should you consult?
Step 3: How would others see your actions?
Would a reasonable person think you used your powers or position improperly?
Would the public see your action or decision as honest and impartial?
Do you face a conflict of interest?
Step 4: Consider the options
Ask your supervisor, team leader, manager or any person who is able to give sound,
What options and consequences are consistent with council's values, the five principles and your obligations?
What are the costs and long-term consequences?
How would the public view each option?
Step 5: Choose your course of action
Make sure your actions are:
Approved by the CEO of Toowoomba Regional Council on
16 October 2009, and updated to reflect the changes in the Public Sector Ethics Act 1994 effective from 1 November 2010.
Executive Manager, People & Organisational Development
Executive Manager, People & Organisational Development - 4688 6871