On the subject of Conflict of Interest


Thursday May 26th 2016

Speech Transcript:

Please not carefully that INTJ works only with Australian corporate clients and is unable to provide contractors to any Australian government agencies.

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today I would like to talk with you about conflict of interest. This is a very important topic which I am proactively taking the time to discuss with you here today because such conflicts can create potential for lacklustre governance and this subject in particular is important to consider and manage very carefully as a public servant whenever you engage in outside work interests.

The pre-eminent principle for solving conflicts of interest was provided almost 2500 years ago by Plato, one of the progenitors of Western philosophy. The Greek thinker and teacher established the guiding ethical notion that those in public office hold positions of public trust and should therefore place the public interest above all other considerations.

I Clarke Towson am currently an employee of the Australian public service and there currently exists a perceived conflict of interest as well as a potential conflict of interest with my professional duties as an Australian public servant in my work here with my startup INTJ. This of course was unavoidable in starting a company of this kind. I wanted to go on the public record before an actual conflict of interest occurred in relation to my business activities with my High Performance Computing startup INTJ.

Sometimes in our professional lives the opportunity presents itself for us as leaders to go beyond the institutions we serve and to serve the greater good – i.e. society at large which includes the Australian general public. This is the situation I find myself in as a High Performance Computing professional. Due to my background and my experience in high technology startups I recognised early on the potential of bringing together the best and brightest HPC professionals to work together as a team to serve corporate Australia to help develop solutions to the difficult but important problems we face in science and technology to help move humanity forward.

I would like to make a number of statements proactively – for the public record. A number of promises I am making both to myself and to the Australian public

Firstly - As an Australian public servant I am in a position of trust and as such I will place the public interest above all other considerations.

I will put service to the public ahead of all of my personal interests including this High Performance Computing startup INTJ.

Whilst I remain an Australian public servant - In all of my dealings with any department or agency of the Australian Government I will place the public interest above my private corporate interests. I will ensure that I will not personally benefit financially from any of my dealings with the Australian Government except where this is deemed appropriate in the course of my current employment as a government employed HPC system administrator.

Integrity, Honesty and the highest standards of probity are important values that I hold dear. As such - I will avoid and/or manage conflicts of interest in a manner consistent with my legal obligations, Commonwealth policy and Defence instructions, policies and values.

In all of my dealings I will seek to protect the public interest, support transparency and accountability and promote my individual responsibility for integrity and impartiality

I have gone to some lengths since starting this company to disclose to my supervisor what I am doing and I have taken a series of reasonable steps to avoid any conflicts of interest in connection with my official government duties.

I have been taking all reasonable steps to restrict the extent to which my private interests could compromise or be seen to compromise my impartiality when carrying out my official government duties and I have been acting transparently when making work related decisions

I have stopped to reflect – based on the APS values and code of conduct decision making model. I have identified the relevant legislation, policies and guidelines – both APS wide and agency specific and I have identified the rights and responsibilities of relevant stakeholders. I have used my intuition and analysed the situation. I have listened and reflected. I have evaluated my options – identified the risks and I am going on the public record today to ensure I remain accountable and my actions stand up to public scrutiny.

Now - Avoiding all conflicts of interest (real or perceived) is not always feasible or even desirable. Where conflicts of interest are apparent, they should be handled in an open and transparent way that can be understood and defended. I want to let you know the practical measures I will be personally be taking to manage this situation:

Firstly – I am declaring in writing the situation to my direct manager. I will remove myself from any matter in the course of my employment as a public servant in which I have a perceived or actual conflict of interest. I intend to work with a third party probity advisor who does not have an interest to advise on the matter.

My personal motto is that my own self-interest will not overtake my loyalty to the long-term interests of the agency that employs me, or to the wider Australian public.

My behaviour – my actions as an Australian public servant sets the values in the agency in which I am employed. My ideas, words and actions in some measure help shape the culture of the agency. By their deeds you shall know them. By your own deeds you shall know yourself. Actions are important and actions really do speak louder than words.

As an APS employee I am obligated to uphold the APS Values and comply with the Code of Conduct. I will be vigilant about identifying personal interests – financial and otherwise, including my close personal relationships – that may, or as importantly, may be seen to influence me improperly. I am actively managing these conflicts of interest. We can all be leaders in how we conduct ourselves, make our decisions and manage our affairs and I am ensuring by my actions here today that I am taking a leadership role in this important matter.

The Relevant Values that are a requirement that I adhere to under the public service act 1999 are:

(a) the APS is apolitical, performing its functions in an impartial and professional manner

(d) the APS has the highest ethical standards

(g) the APS delivers services fairly, effectively, impartially and courteously to the Australian public

As an APS employee I must behave honestly and with integrity in the course of my APS employment.

I must disclose, and take reasonable steps to avoid, any conflict of interest (real or apparent) in connection with my APS employment.

I must not make improper use of:

inside information; or

my duties, status, power or authority; in order to gain, or seek to gain, a benefit or advantage for myself or any other person and I as an APS employee must at all times behave in a way that upholds the APS Values and the integrity and good reputation of the APS.

Ethical behaviour goes beyond the requirements of lawful behaviour. It requires employees to merit the respect of the public in their official dealings. This is not a requirement for zealotry, but for professionalism, taking into account all the APS Values, including achieving results and managing performance.

As an APS employee – I intend through my actions, to be a champion of ethical decision making and behaviour.

Well - that's it from me today ladies and gentlemen. I hope that in this article I have adequately covered the important subject of conflict of interest and how I will actively manage it in my professional life as both an employee of the Australian public service and as a High Performance Computing startup founder.

Until next time – all the best!

Clarke Towson


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