The Conflicts of Interest Act (COIA), which establishes conflicts of interest rules for Members of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta and political staff, has been extended to public agencies. Similar requirements are in place for senior government officials through the Public Service Act. COIA also provides for investigations and enforcement for breaches of the act.
COIA applies to all public agencies, boards and commissions governed by the Alberta Public Agencies Governance Act (APAGA) and all of their subsidiaries.
Public agencies account for approximately 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 ensures that public agency staff and board members are acting in the public interest.
Code of conduct
A code of conduct provides a framework to guide ethical conduct and reflects the key values of the public agency and the public it serves.
All public agencies and their subsidiaries must have a code of conduct that applies to board members as well as staff. These codes must include:
- prohibition of using a public agency position to advance a private interest
- 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
- information about when core elements become applicable to each person or category of people who are subject to the code
In addition to the requirements under COIA, all directors are screened for potential conflicts of interest prior to their appointment.
Requirements for senior officials
All board chairs and CEOs or equivalents are prohibited 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 subject to additional rules. These rules include limitations on:
- other employment
- business undertakings
- Board chairs and CEOs or equivalents are subject to the following:
- restrictions on advancing private interests
- restrictions on the use of influence and insider information
- the requirement to disclose real and apparent conflicts of interest
- CEOs and equivalents are subject to restrictions on concurrent employment, offices and appointments
For more information on the requirements, read Conflicts of Interest Act At A Glance.
Requirements for designated senior officials
Additional requirements will apply to public agency CEOs and equivalents of significant agencies, which are considered designated senior officials (DSOs). 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
- restrictions on concurrent employment
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
Significant agencies and designated senior officials are listed in the Conflicts of Interest Act Part 4.3 Designation Order.
For more information about these requirements, read:
- COIA section 23.97 to 23.971
- Conflicts of Interest Act At A Glance (PDF, 348 KB)
Role of the Ethics Commissioner
The Ethics Commissioner is responsible for:
- reviewing the code(s) of conduct of each APAGA public agency to ensure compliance with COIA
- advising agencies on any necessary revisions to codes of conduct to ensure compliance with COIA and approving them once compliant
- receiving and reviewing disclosures from DSOs
- investigating alleged breaches of COIA by senior officials and DSOs as necessary
- reviewing concurrent employment and appointments of CEOs and DSOs to determine if these commitments will create a real or apparent conflict of interest
More information can be found on the Office of The Ethics Commissioner website.