Corruption risk concepts

A key part of the Commission’s approach to corruption prevention is to identify, and raise awareness of, the risks and behaviours which may increase the ACT Government’s vulnerability to corruption.

Below are some of the corruption risks and behaviours we have observed during our investigations, accompanied by a short description explaining what each risk is and how it may manifest as corruption or lead to corrupt conduct.

The Commission will be adding to this list over time.

Corruption RiskDescription
Conflict(s) of interest

A conflict of interest exists when a public official’s personal interests do, or could, inappropriately influence the performance of their official duties. A conflict of interest may also exist when it could reasonably be perceived that a public official’s personal interests could be favoured over their official duties.

Having an actual, potential or perceived conflict of interest does not automatically constitute corrupt conduct, however the potential for corruption may increase where conflicts of interest are undeclared, played down, mishandled, exploited or hidden.

The likelihood of corrupt conduct occurring may increase when public officials decide to self-manage the risk associated with an actual or potential conflict of interest – preventing an agency from resolving or addressing the risk appropriately.

The significant discretion and authority afforded to senior public officials makes them particularly vulnerable to allegations of corrupt conduct – and may result in the legitimacy of important decisions being challenged – if conflicts of interest are not declared or are mismanaged.

Undeclared relationships and associations

A declarable relationship or association exists when a public official has a connection (or a perceived connection) with one or more entities – including people, groups and organisations – which does, could, or may be perceived to, influence the performance of their official duties.

Undeclared relationships, including those involving workplace colleagues or other personal and professional associations, may increase the risk, or add weight to allegations, of cronyism and nepotism – particularly during recruitment or procurement activities.

Serious and organised crime entities are known to target public officials for access and information in order to further their illicit activities. These entities may use intimate relationships, family connections, professional associations or cultural and social links to exploit, leverage or compromise public officials.

Gifts and Benefits

A gift or benefit is any item or service – regardless of monetary value – offered by clients, customers (including potential clients or customers) or other associates of a public official which relates to the performance of their official duties.

The motivations behind the giving of gifts and benefits can vary significantly. The risk of corrupt compromise may increase in circumstances where the gift giver expects or demands reciprocity from the public official in terms of favourable actions or decisions.

Even low-value gifts and benefits may expose public officials to compromise where there is an expectation or perception that they are being used to generate favourable relationships.

Some entities, including serious and organised crime, may use the giving of gifts or benefits as part of sophisticated grooming or manipulation techniques to target and exploit public officials. This risk may increase in circumstances where public officials are exposed to regular or ongoing contact with criminal entities, such as within a Corrections environment.

Unauthorised disclosure of information

An unauthorised disclosure occurs when a public official, intentionally or inadvertently, makes information available or accessible to others without having the authority to do so. The unauthorised disclosure of information may constitute corrupt conduct.

The duties of most public officials provide access to significant amounts of sensitive (personal, commercial and other) information. The value of this information may be considerable for certain external parties. For example, business entities may seek information to gain a commercial advantage over their competitors. Criminal entities also place a high value on information which can be used to exploit people and/or vulnerabilities in systems and processes to further their criminal enterprises.

Motivations for the disclosure of information vary. Reasons can include the seeking of a personal benefit (monetary or otherwise) for themselves or others; out of loyalty or obligation to familial, social or cultural groups; or as a response to a perceived social injustice – commonly referred to as a ‘noble cause’ disclosure.

Inadvertent disclosures may occur when public officials share work-related information online, particularly when using social media, or when discussing their duties in an unsecured environment, including with family and friends.

The unauthorised disclosure of information can cause substantial operational, financial and reputational damage to the integrity of government.