– Code of Conduct and Ethics Administrative Guidelines –

Furthering Private Interests

Defining the Conflict

Employees are expected to withdraw from any decisions where they know that the decision could affect a private interest of theirs or of their spouse or minor child. They should also advise their Deputy Head or designate as to the reasons for withdrawing from the situation.

Employees are in violation of the Code if they use their public roles to influence or seek to influence a government decision which could further a private interest of theirs or of their spouse or minor child.

Employees are in violation of the Code if they use or communicate information gained through their public role, to further or seek to further a private interest of theirs or of their spouse or minor child.

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Definition of A Private Interest

It is not possible to precisely define the term private interest, however the following provides information and examples to assist in determining if a matter is a private interest.

The private interest of an employee is one which is unique to the employee, or his or her spouse or minor child, as opposed to an interest or matter that would apply to all employees or members of the public. A private interest benefits or impacts the individual in a disproportionate or preferential way. A private interest often has a financial component, but is not limited to financial interests, for example an employee's involvement in a volunteer organization could be described as a private interest.

In determining whether a matter is a private interest, it is helpful to review the specific case in terms of the definition of private interest from the Code which outlines what a private interest is not.

  • A private interest does not include a matter that has general application. This means that an employee's interests are affected in the same way as others across Alberta, for example, a tax program that would apply to all Albertans.

  • A private interest does not include a matter that affects a person as one of a broad class of the public. This means that an employee may benefit from a program that affects all others in the broad class or category the same way. For example, an employee who is also a farmer would be eligible to participate in decisions affecting, and benefit from, Government programs developed specifically for farmers.

  • A private interest does not include an interest that affects the compensation or benefits of an employee. This is fairly clear in that if a matter is being reviewed, the issue is not a private interest if it relates to the employee's compensation or benefits.

  • An interest that is trivial is not considered a private interest. This means that the interest of an employee may normally have been seen as a private interest, however the interest is of such minor significance that it is trivial. One example might be an employee's minor child having a $10.00 share in an organization impacted by a decision of Government in which the employee participated. Caution must be exercised because if the decision had a significant impact on share price the interest may no longer be trivial.

If employees are in doubt as to whether a matter is a private interest, they should request clarification from their Deputy Head or designate.

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Examples of Furthering Private Interests

  • An employee recommends her spouse's consulting firm for departmental work. In this situation the employee has used her public role to attempt to influence a Government decision (awarding a contract) which would further the private interest of her spouse.

  • A government psychologist refers clients to a private clinic where he is employed on a part time basis. This is a conflict of interest in that the employee is furthering his private interest by making the referrals.

  • An employee involved in the decision making process for the provision of services to the Crown intends to provide this type of service to the Government (example: printing services). This would be a conflict of interest unless the transaction is reviewed and approved by the department involved. Departmental approval is also required in situations where an employee who is involved in the decision making process for the acquisition or sale of assets for the Crown intends to sell assets to or purchase assets from the Crown.

  • An employee who has a strong personal interest in environmental matters would not usually be considered as furthering their private interest by participating in decisions affecting environmental programs of general application. They could be in conflict if the decision impacted only, or primarily, land in which they, their spouse or minor child had an interest.

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About this Guideline

Authority: Code of Conduct and Ethics Regulation
Application:   Organizations Under The Public Service Act
Effective Date:   March 18, 1998
Contact:   Labour Relations
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