Conflict of interest determination

What is the basis for the commissioner to make a conflict of interest determination?
Under the Public Service of Ontario Act, 2006 (the Act), section 65, the commissioner may make a determination about the application of the conflict of interest rules to a public servant or former public servant.

Who may seek a conflict of interest determination from the commissioner?
The following persons may request that the commissioner make a conflict of interest determination:

  • A public servant or former public servant for whom the commissioner is ethics executive
  • The supervisor of a public servant for whom the commissioner is ethics executive
  • The ethics executive of a public servant (an ethics executive may request that a matter be referred to the commissioner)

In addition, the commissioner may make a conflict of interest determination upon being made aware of concerns that a conflict of interest rule has been or is about to be contravened.

How is the process initiated?
The above-mentioned persons may contact the commissioner’s office, preferably in writing, to request that the commissioner make a conflict of interest determination. The request should include enough background information for the commissioner to understand the nature of the conflict of interest issue. A referral request from an ethics executive should include information about why the ethics executive is requesting to refer the matter rather than making the determination. The commissioner may request additional information.

Will the commissioner always make a determination if asked?
In some cases, the commissioner may decide not to proceed to a determination, such as where another process under the Act is more appropriate (e.g., providing advice under section 64 of Act) or where it is more appropriate for the ethics executive to make the determination.

Will the public servant or former public servant have an opportunity to provide comments to the commissioner?
Yes. Before making a determination, if the public servant or former public servant has not already provided comments, the commissioner will contact the individual to seek his or her comments on the issues.

What might the determination include?
In making a determination, the commissioner may include the following:

  • Relevant provisions of the Act and regulations
  • Relevant factual and legal issues to be considered
  • Findings on the factual and legal issues
  • Directions appropriate to addressing the matter
  • Advice on how to reduce the risk of a breach of the Act

Do determination and directions have to be followed?
Yes. Determinations and directions under the Act are final and public servants or former public servants must comply with them. Sanctions may be imposed for contravening determinations, directions, or the conflict of interest rules. The commissioner may recommend that a public servant’s supervisor take the following actions:

  • Impose disciplinary measures on the public servant, including suspension or dismissal
  • Transfer the public servant to another position
  • Temporarily relieve the public servant from duty

Will the commissioner contact any other individuals?
The commissioner may contact other individuals to confirm or supplement the information received. Also, the commissioner may notify other individuals (such as the ethics executive) of the outcome of the matter, but only to the extent required to discharge the commissioner’s duties under the Act.

What happens after the determination?
The commissioner or the ethics executive may contact the public servant or former public servant after the determination in order to ensure that suggested or required actions have been followed, provide additional advice, or add further determinations or directions.

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