What laws and regulations are the public sector bound to?
As well as being required to comply with the many laws that apply to the private sector, government agencies also have their own unique obligations to meet. These obligations apply in areas such as:
Accountability, transparency and ethical decision making are expected of those in the public sector at all times and scrutiny of the use of public monies is becoming more intensive than ever.
What is procurement?
Procurement in the public sector is regulated by the 2005 Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines. The principles underpinning government procurement are that procurement practices must provide value for money, encourage competition, use resources efficiently, effectively and ethically and demonstrate accountability and transparency.
The Guidelines require government agencies involved in procurement to:
- Deal fairly with suppliers
- Not accept inappropriate gifts
- Deal with public property in a scrupulous manner
- Deal with any conflicts of interest
- Comply with all legislation (i.e. Privacy Act, Crimes Act and Public Service Act).
What is contract law?
In contract law, Regulation 10 of the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 requires that you must seek authorisation before entering into any contract or agreement that commits funds in a future financial year or contains any kind of government liability through a warranty or guarantee.
What is Occupational Health and Safety?
Commonwealth government agencies are also bound by the regulations contained in the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1991. There are also unique obligations for senior employees and managers of government agencies.
While Commonwealth departments or agencies can’t be criminally prosecuted for breaches of the OHS Act, they can face civil proceedings, which may result in fines, injunctions and remedial orders.
How can the public sector meet and understand obligations?
Compliance training as part of a learning management system is an effective way to educate your employees about the unique compliance obligations your agency must meet. It can assist in establishing risk management practices and the setting up of a compliance program within your agency.
An effective compliance program should aim to:
- Promote a culture of legal and ethical behaviour
- Encourage staff acceptance of responsibility for compliance
- Create policies and procedures for compliance
- Include regular audits and reporting
- Educate employees about their compliance obligations
- Conduct annual self-assessment
- Strive for continual improvement.
Those in the public sector are subject to intense scrutiny because of the position of trust they hold and failure to comply with your unique obligations could result in civil action or regulatory investigation.
Therefore, you need to ensure you have adequate controls in place to manage the risks of non-compliance. Internal audits, regular reporting, and compliance training are excellent means to this end.
By properly managing your compliance obligations, you can minimise the risks, develop a more efficient and effective workforce and as a result, identify savings that can be made along the way.