Conflicts of interest legislation changes

Learn about how Alberta’s Conflicts of Interest Act now also applies to public agencies.

Overview

The Conflicts of Interest Act (COIA), which establishes conflicts of interest rules for groups such as Members of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta and senior Alberta government officials, has been extended to public agencies. COIA also provides for investigations and enforcement for breaches of the Act.

Under the Amendments to Bill 27, Conflicts of Interest Amendment Act (2017), COIA now also applies to all public agencies, boards and commissions governed by the Alberta Public Agencies Governance Act (APAGA) as well as subsidiaries of Alberta Health Services.

APAGA agencies:

  • carry out public functions on behalf of government
  • may be primarily funded by government or be responsible for managing or allocating substantial amounts of public funding
  • are accountable to government

These agencies include 20 public post-secondary institutions and agencies that perform regulatory and adjudicative functions as well as service delivery and advisory functions.

Why these changes were made

Public agencies account for about half of government’s total budgetary spending. Albertans expect public agencies to be held to a high ethical standard and governed with integrity and transparency. As such, a consistent and comprehensive set of conflicts of interest rules was needed to better ensure that public agency staff and board members are acting in the public interest.

Timeline and implementation

Each APAGA public agency has until April 30, 2018 to submit a code of conduct, covering all agency board members and staff, for review and approval by the Ethics Commissioner. These codes must include:

  • specific elements and requirements identified in the COIA
  • information about when it becomes applicable to each person or category of people who are subject to the code

The Ethics Commissioner has until March 31, 2019 to review all agencies’ codes of conduct to make sure they comply with the Act, and report back to the responsible Minister and agency CEO or Chair.

Public agencies whose codes of conduct have been approved by the Ethics Commissioner must publish their codes of conduct by April 30, 2019.

  • Public agencies must set out a notice period, indicating when the code of conduct will be implemented.
  • Approved codes of conduct will take effect for senior officials and designated senior officials following a 2-year transition period or upon a new appointment or contract renewal, whichever comes first.

Requirements for agency staff and board members

All public agency board members and staff will be subject to a code of conduct which prohibits using one’s position to advance their private interests.

In addition, all agency codes of conduct must include:

  • limitations on the receipt of gifts, including setting the maximum monetary value allowed
  • limitations on conflicting outside employment and a review process
  • a process for receiving complaints and investigating alleged breaches

Requirements for senior officials

In addition to being subject to their agency’s code of conduct, all board chairs and CEOs or equivalents are prohibited by the Act from using their position to advance their private interests, whether in their decisions, influencing the decisions of others, or using insider information.

Public agency CEOs or equivalents are also now subject to additional rules, as are MLAs and senior public servants, including limitations on:

  • other employment
  • business undertakings
  • appointments

The Ethics Commissioner may approve additional employment and appointments if it is determined that these commitments will not create a real or apparent conflict of interest.

Statutory requirements

  • Statutory restrictions for CEOs and equivalents and board chairs relating to restrictions on private interests, the use of influence and insider information and the requirement to disclose real and apparent conflicts of interest will apply immediately.
  • New CEOs and equivalents will immediately become subject to restrictions on concurrent employment, offices and appointments. These requirements will apply to existing CEOs and equivalents following a 2-year transition period or upon new appointment or contract renewal, whichever comes first.

For more information on the requirements, read Conflicts of Interest Act At A Glance (PDF, 348 KB).

Requirements for designated senior officials

Additional requirements will apply to public agency CEOs and equivalents of significant agencies. These requirements are consistent with those in place for senior public servants, and include:

  • disclosure of financial information and information on direct associates to the Ethics Commissioner
  • restrictions on holding stocks and other securities
  • a 12-month cooling-off period from holding certain positions following employment with a public agency

Designated senior officials will be identified through an Order in Council in early 2018.

Significant agencies include those that:

  • perform a regulatory function
  • make independent and/or binding decisions
  • manage or allocate substantial amounts of public funding
  • have extensive interaction with the private sector

Statutory requirements

  • Statutory requirements for concurrent employment, disclosure to the Ethics Commissioner, restrictions on holding public securities and post-employment restrictions will be subject to a transition period.
  • New designated senior officials (DSOs) will immediately become subject to disclosure requirements and restrictions on public securities and post-employment.
  • The requirements will apply to existing DSOs following a 2-year transition period or upon new appointment or contract renewal, whichever comes first.

For more information about these requirements, read:

Penalties for non-compliance

Non-compliance with disclosure requirements includes:

  • not disclosing to the Ethics Commissioner on time
  • knowingly disclosing false or misleading information to the Ethics Commissioner

Designated senior officials who violate the post-employment restriction are subject to a fine of up to $50,000.

Role of the Ethics Commissioner

The Ethics Commissioner is responsible for:

  • reviewing and approving codes of conduct for each APAGA public agency by March 31, 2019
  • advising agencies on any necessary revisions to ensure compliance with COIA

The Ethics Commissioner will also:

  • receive and review disclosures from designated senior officials
  • have the authority to investigate alleged breaches of the Act as necessary