Council gift policy - 'Not everyone likes it'

Sue Bidrose
Sue Bidrose
A new gift and hospitality policy at the Dunedin City Council has had a mixed reaction among staff.

''Not everyone likes it,'' council chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose said.

The policy, reviewed this year, now says staff cannot accept or keep any gift, though there are some exemptions.

Former council chief executive Paul Orders first indicated in 2011 the council would get tougher on gifts and hospitality offers, after it was revealed staff were receiving free rugby tickets, dinners and nights out.

Earlier this year, current chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose said the policy was being reviewed as part of a process to ''tighten up'' council methods since the Citifleet fraud was uncovered.

The new policy states that unless declining a gift felt inappropriate or awkward, for example for cultural reasons, all gifts should be declined.

If a gift, of any value, was accepted, it had to be declared in a register and immediately handed to the chief executive's personal assistant.

Some gifts would be auctioned for charity at the annual staff Christmas party, and some might be given as rewards to staff from across the council.

That meant staff in roles that might not generally attract gifts, might get a small gift at Christmas.

Perishable gifts, such as food or flowers, would be distributed by the personal assistant.

This year, items collected were donated to the Otago Community Hospice, which had sent a letter of thanks, Dr Bidrose said.

The policy was developed in consultation with the Auditor-general and followed best practice for a public sector organisation, she said.

''We are trying to put a stake in the ground saying we are public servants. That's why the guiding principle of the policy is that we take nothing home from our work, other than a salary and the satisfaction of a job serving the people of the city.

''The new policy had ''certainly got some people (staff) talking''.

Some thought it was a bit tough, others thought it was not tough enough. Some thought it was good staffnot usually in a position where people outside the organisation offered them gifts, got some recognition.

She believed compliance with the new policy had been high.

Staff were consulted several times during the new policy's development, and it would be reviewed after it had been in place for a period.

New guidelines

Dunedin City Council's new gift and hospitality policy

• Accept no gifts, although exemptions apply.

• ''Gifts'' include, but are not limited to, bottles of wine, flowers, tickets to events, prizes won in business card draws at council-funded conferences, and free or discounted home maintenance work.

• Any gifts accepted must be handed immediately to the chief executive's PA and declared on a register.

• PA uses discretion on what to do with perishable items, such as flowers or food.

• Tokens of thanks worth under $50 may be accepted by staff who do DCC-related work outside of work hours, such as public speaking.

• Some event tickets may be accepted, with the chief executive's permission, where events must be attended for work-related reasons.

• Hospitality can be accepted where it is required in a role and must be declared.

Other organisations' policies

Otago Regional Council

Gifts of a token nature, such as bottles of wine, confectionery or sporting tickets, are acceptable as long as there is no current tender or contracting process with the giver. Anything larger should be declined or the human resources or chief executive consulted.

Central Otago District Council

Gifts are not accepted and retained by individual staff at any time without the direct approval of a senior leadership team member or the chief executive. Gifts are declared on a gifts and hospitality register.

Clutha District Council

Council must ensure gifts do not alter the decision-making of council, or council employees; are recorded in a register and remain the property of the council; employees can only keep infrequent and inexpensive gifts.

Waitaki District Council

Employees, elected members and other council representatives may accept a gift if it is a low-value business courtesy or is appropriate to the situation in terms of value and nature and is given without condition or expectation of anything in return and is unsolicited and given in recognition of an existing relationship, completed work, or recognised holiday (e.g. Christmas), and has a value of no more than $150.

An appropriate person must be notified if a gift is accepted, unless it is a low-value business courtesy. Written approval from an appropriate person must be obtained for gifts over $150. All gifts offered (whether accepted or declined) must be recorded in a central gift register. A gift declaration form must be completed and logged within one week of the offer of the gift.

Department of Conservation

Gifts to Doc staff worth more than $30 must be entered on the department's gift register. It is up to managers to decide whether a gift will be retained and shared between staff or declined, or distributed to others in the community. Gifts valued at less than $30 do not have to be declared on the register, but staff must let their manager know and it is up to them to decide what happens to the gift.

Queenstown Lakes District Council

Managers must consider the appropriateness of gifts, services and benefits offered. Any gift, service or benefit over $20 is recorded on a gift and hospitality register. Each staff member may keep one gift to the value of $50 each year. All others go into a central pool to be distributed among staff.

Southern District Health Board

Board members and staff are discouraged from accepting gifts, and cash is not to be accepted under any circumstances. Donations are only accepted where other groups or individuals have decided to make the donation, and must be approved by management. Donations of art works must be referred to the appropriate arts committees. Staff are not allowed to gift each other money, time or leave entitlements.

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