An investigation by the Integrity Commission in Tasmania has revealed public servants accepting gifts, including sports tickets, dinners, and Coles gift cards. 

A recent probe, known as Project Vulcan, found that the primary reason cited for accepting such gifts was “networking and goodwill”. One individual even received membership to the exclusive Qantas Chairman's Lounge. 

However, the report concludes that the majority of these gifts should not have been accepted.

The commission recommends the implementation of a ‘no gifts’ policy, and for employees to provide a detailed explanation of the benefit to the agency when accepting a ‘networking’ gift, even if such a policy is not adopted. 

The audit reveals various reasons for accepting gifts, such as “professional development and training” or “maintaining stakeholder relationships”. However, it questions the legitimacy of these justifications, particularly when conflicts of interest or additional rewards for public duties are involved.

The investigation highlighted instances where hospitality, such as tickets to sporting events or seasonal dinners, was approved without clear connections to networking opportunities. 

The report suggests that business interactions should occur in a more formal setting rather than at sponsored events.

The Integrity Commission also raises concerns about specific cases, such as the Department of Police, Fire and Emergency Management's acceptance of 222 Coles gift cards, valued at $500 each, totaling $111,000. 

While these gift cards were part of Coles Group's donation to rural fire brigades, the report questions their acceptance, considering the prohibition on accepting money equivalents and potential positive publicity for Coles.

Despite uncovering some gifts that should not have been approved, the report notes a lack of records for gifts that are “categorically prohibited”, except for four entries from the Tasmanian Health Service. 

These entries showed health employees accepting money from patients, a clear violation of the policy.

The Head of the State Service has agreed to amend the policy in line with the commission's recommendations.