FAQ – Conflict of Interest

  1. What is a conflict of interest?
  2. To whom do the rules apply?
  3. What is the purpose of the conflict of interest rules?
  4. What are the rules concerning conflict of interest?
  5. What are the conflict of interest rules for current public servants?
  6. What are the conflict of interest rules for public servants who have left the Ontario public service?
  7. Do the rules apply to public servants who left before the PSOA came into force in 2007?
  8. What is the role of the ethics executive?
  9. Who are the ethics executives?
  10. What is the role of the conflict of interest commissioner under the PSOA?
  11. What should public servants do if they think they have a conflict of interest?
  12. What happens if a public servant doesn’t report a conflict of interest or doesn’t follow the direction given to him/her by the ethics executive?

Q1: What is a conflict of interest?

A conflict of interest is any situation where a public servant’s private interests may be in conflict with his/her public service responsibilities. For example, having certain outside interests could impair a public servant’s ability to undertake his/her duties fairly and impartially.

Q2: To whom do the rules apply?

The conflict of interest rules in Ontario Regulation 381/07 apply to current ministry employees and to public servants employed in and appointed to public bodies. The conflict of interest rules in Ontario Regulation 382/07 apply to ministers’ office staff (for information visit the Integrity Commissioner’s website: http://oico.on.ca).

Q3: What is the purpose of the conflict of interest rules?

Public servants are in a position of trust and are accountable for fulfilling their duties with integrity. Conflict of interest rules assist public servants in acting honourably and avoiding situations where their private interests may interfere with their public service duties and responsibilities.

Q4: What are the rules concerning conflict of interest?

The conflict of interest rules are set out in Ontario Regulation 381/07 of the Public Service of Ontario Act, 2006 (PSOA). These rules are intended to be broad enough to cover most situations, but the PSOA allows public bodies to develop their own rules for the commissioner’s review and approval.

Q5: What are the conflict of interest rules for current public servants?

Ontario Regulation 381/07 specifies the prohibited activities that could put a public servant at risk of a conflict of interest. Conflict of interest rules for current public servants prohibit them from engaging in the following activities:

  • Using their positions to benefit themselves, their spouses or their children
  • Accepting gifts
  • Disclosing confidential information
  • Giving preferential treatment
  • Hiring their spouses, children, parents or siblings
  • Engaging in outside activities that conflict with their public service duties
  • Making personal use of government resources
  • Participating in decision-making where they could benefit from the result
  • Acquiring financial interests related to their duties as public servants.

The regulation also includes requirements for public servants involved in matters that might involve the private sector, as well as rules for former public servants.

Q6: What are the conflict of interest rules for public servants who have left the Ontario public service?

All former public servants are governed by the post-service restrictions set out in Ontario Regulation 381/07. Conflict of interest rules prohibit former public servants from engaging in the following activities:

  • Seeking preferential treatment from the government
  • Disclosing confidential information
  • Providing advice or assisting others on certain matters with which they were involved as a public servant
  • In some cases lobbying the government or accepting post-service employment or serving on the governing bodies of certain entities

Q7: Do the rules apply to public servants who left before the PSOA came into force in 2007?

All former public servants who have left a ministry position need to follow the post-service restrictions, even if they left before the legislation came into force. The rules do not apply to former public body employees or appointees who left a public body before the rules came into force.

Q8: What is the role of the ethics executive?

Every public servant has an ethics executive who has the following responsibilities:

  • Providing advice about the application of conflict of interest rules
  • Determining whether a conflict of interest exists
  • Providing direction where there is a conflict of interest or potential conflict of interest

The onus is on each public servant to promptly disclose an actual or potential conflict to his/her ethics executive.

Q9: Who are the ethics executives?

The ethics executives for current and former public servant are shown in the table below:

Current/Former Public Servant Ethics Executive
Ministry employees Deputy minister
Ministers’ staff Integrity Commissioner
Deputy ministers Secretary of Cabinet
Secretary of the Cabinet Conflict of Interest Commissioner
Former ministry employees Public Service Commission
Former deputy ministers Conflict of Interest Commissioner
Former cabinet secretaries Conflict of Interest Commissioner
Chairs of public bodies Conflict of Interest Commissioner
Public body appointees Chair of public body
Public body employees Chair of public body or the person prescribed in O. Reg. 147/10
Persons listed in O. Reg. 147/10 Conflict of Interest Commissioner
Former public body employees and appointees Conflict of Interest Commissioner
Conflict of Interest Commissioner Integrity Commissioner

Q10: What is the role of the conflict of interest commissioner under the PSOA?

The Conflict of Interest Commissioner is appointed by the Lieutenant Governor-in-Council and has the following responsibilities under the PSOA:

  • Acting as ethics executive for certain public servants
  • Providing advice and giving direction on conflict of interest and political activity matters referred by ethics executives
  • Giving direction on the post-service conflict of interest obligations of deputy ministers, cabinet secretaries, and chairs appointees, and employees of public bodies
  • Receiving personal financial disclosures from public servants working on matters involving the private sector and giving direction regarding such disclosures
  • Approving public bodies’ conflict of interest rules

Q11: What should public servants do if they think they have a conflict of interest?

Current and former public servants are required to advise their ethics executives if they think they have an actual or potential conflict of interest. The ethics executive will determine whether a conflict of interest exists. If there is a conflict, the ethics executive will provide direction to the public servant. The public servant is required to follow any direction provided by his/her ethics executive or by the Conflict of Interest Commissioner.

Q12: What happens if a public servant doesn’t report a conflict of interest or doesn’t follow the direction given to him/her by the ethics executive?

A public servant who doesn’t report a conflict of interest, or who doesn’t follow a direction given by his/her ethics executive or by the Conflict of Interest Commissioner, can be subject to disciplinary measures up to and including dismissal.

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