Public role brings obligations

A South East man was in the news last month after being charged with six counts of wilfully making a statutory declaration, knowing that declaration to be untrue. 

Those who breach section 27 of the Oaths Act 1936 face up to four years' imprisonment.

What is interesting and relevant about this matter is that a person is a 'public officer' by virute of being in a contractual relationship with a state government or local government agency. This potentially applies to a range of services, from laying pavers for footpaths to supplying produce. 

This is the position that has been made clear by the SA Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Bruce Lander.

The commissioner has the power to investigate corruption, misconduct and maladministration in public administration.

While many corruption, misconduct and maladministration offences relate to the special obligations of public officers to act honestly without conflicts of interest, they also include a person's treatment of a public officer. 

Public officers have special reporting and conduct obligations so it is vital to know whether you fall into this category. While the obvious example includes a person performing contract work for a public authority or the Crown, many are not aware it also includes a person assisting a public officer.

As for prosecutions in relation to corruption, misconduct or maladministration, it is not only public officers at risk. 

Prosecutions before the courts as a result of ICAC investigations include those who have aided and abetted a public officer's abuse of public office.

With the increasing levels of multi-tasking required of South Australians in the regions, it is possible those providing services in the regions may, unknowingly, become a public officer or assist someone who is a public officer without realising the obligations this creates. 

For those with concerns about obligations in dealings with government, it would be prudent to seek advice. 

By Anthony Kelly, Partner

This article first appeared in The Stock Journal on Thursday 13 July 2017. 

Practice Area: Corporate, Commercial & Business

Head Office

5th Floor, 80 King William Street Adelaide, South Australia 5000
t: Australia (08) 8414 3400  International +61 8 8414 3400
t: Australia (08) 8414 3400
t: International +61 8 8414 3400
f: Australia (08) 8414 3444  International +61 8 8414 3444
f: Australia (08) 8414 3444
f: International +61 8 8414 3444

Connect With Us

ShareThis