Doing Business with DSS

The following information is provided to assist organisations who want to do business with DSS or maintain their funding relationship with DSS.

Tenders

DSS advertises all tenders for public business opportunities on the Australian Government's procurement information system, AusTender.

Purchase Orders

DSS may choose to issue a Purchase Order when obtaining goods and/or services from a commercial business. The Purchase Order will provide details of the item/s required, the price per unit, the quantity required, GST payable, and the total value of the Purchase Order. All goods and/or services listed on the Purchase Order are subject to DSS 's standard terms and conditions.

How to maintain your funding relationship with DSS

Tax reform publications for non-government and private service providers

These publications are written for non government and private service providers to keep you informed on key components of GST and how it impacts on your organisation.

For more information or to order a hard copy, please telephone the DSS Tax Manager on (02) 6244 8422.


GST clauses for contracts/agreements with service providers

The Department uses a number of varying funding agreements and contracts when dealing with suppliers. Each of these include relevant GST clauses which depend on the particular circumstances of your funding. These clauses may include a recipient created tax invoice agreement. You should advise the Department of your GST registration status to ensure the appropriate clauses are included in your agreement.

We are unable to assist you with general tax questions and can not provide tax advice. Please contact the Australian Taxation Office or seek appropriate professional advice.

Suggested Complaints Register process for Funding Agreements

From 11 May, 2011, in order to receive Funding under a DSS Funding Agreement service providers must establish and publicise the existence of a documented complaints process refer to clause 3.4 of the DSS Terms and Conditions Standard Funding Agreement 11 May 2011. The following suggestions may assist  with this requirement.

  1. Create and maintain a Complaints Register throughout the term of the Agreement. Complaints Regis ter means the list of complaints kept by you at your premises.
  2. Ensure that the Complaints Register includes, but is not limited to, the  following materials and information:
    1. details of all complaints received directly by you;
    2. details of all complaints referred to you by, or through, us;
    3. each record in the Complaints Register should include:
      1. details of the parties to the complaint, including the name of  the complainant (if provided) and if relevant, the name of the person being complained about;
      2. the name of your staff member(s) handling the complaint;
      3. the date upon which the complaint was made;
      4. the nature of the complaint;
      5. whether the complaint was referred to you by us;
      6. details of key contacts with the complainant and the action taken, including dates;
      7. outcome of any action taken (including any investigation);
      8. date of finalisation, or resolution of the complaint;
      9. any follow-up action required; and
      10. any changes to your service, or procedures, or other action to be taken, resulting from the complaint;
  3. Hold Your Complaints Register at your premises;

What constitutes a Complaint

You may contact our complaints service with complaints about our service(s) or the  services of another of our funded service providers.

‘Complaint’ means any expression of dissatisfaction by anyone received by you, or referred to you by us with your policies, procedures, employees, or quality of service offered or provided, but does not include:

    1. a request for services, unless it is a second or further request when there  has  been no response to the earlier request(s);
    2. a request for information or explanation of a policy or procedures; or
    3. the lodging of any appeal against a decision when it is a normal part of standard procedure or policy;

Preventing Fraud in DSS

The Department has adopted the definition of fraud as outlined within the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines (2011).  Fraud is defined as 'dishonestly obtaining a benefit or causing a loss by deception or other means'. This definition includes fraud committed by departmental staff, contractors, third party service providers or funding recipients. It covers:

  • theft;
  • causing a loss, or avoiding or creating a liability by deception;
  • providing false or misleading information to the Commonwealth, or failing to provide information where there is an obligation to do so;
  • making, using or possessing forged or falsified documents;
  • bribery, corruption or abuse of office;
  • unlawful use of Commonwealth computers, vehicles, telephones and other property or services;
  • relevant bankruptcy offences; and
  • any offences of a like nature to those listed above.

The benefits referred to can be either tangible or intangible. Examples include:

  • hacking into, or interfering with a Commonwealth computer system;
  • using a false identity to obtain funding or other payments;
  • using Commonwealth systems to gain access to other systems without authority; and
  • charging the Commonwealth for goods or services that are incomplete or not delivered.

Contractors, customers and funding recipients should familiarise themselves with the Department's Fraud Control Policy Statement which also underpins their respective fraud and risk minimisation responsibilities when dealing with the Department. A key responsibility is to report all suspected fraud.

The Department aims to reflect best practice in identifying and controlling fraud risks. This will be achieved by:

  • actively preventing, detecting and investigating fraud;
  • protecting and promoting the proper use of Australian Government property (Property includes money, and anything animate or inanimate capable of being the subject of ownership);
  • referring offenders to appropriate agencies where necessary;
  • seeking civil, administrative or disciplinary sanctions where appropriate;
  • recovering proceeds of fraudulent activity;
  • being accountable and reporting to the Australian Government;
  • maintaining and improving appropriate fraud control standards;
  • training our employees in ethical management, privacy and fraud awareness issues;
  • assuring confidentiality with regard to receiving and handling allegations; and
  • ensuring those engaged in fraud investigation and control activities have the required specialised training.

DSS Policy Statements

Vulnerable Persons, Police Checks and Criminal Offences

The Department's policy is that Persons (including sub-contractors and volunteers) who are working with, or are in contact with, Vulnerable Persons are to be appropriately screened for that purpose.

Vulnerable Persons for this purpose means:

  • a) a Child or Children; or
  • b) an individual aged 18 years and above who is or may be unable to take care of themselves, or is unable to protect themselves against harm or exploitation by reason of age, illness, trauma or disability, or any other reason.

Prior to engaging, deploying or redeploying any Person in relation to an Activity or part of an Activity involving Vulnerable Persons

Funding Recipients must not deploy, redeploy or engage any personnel to work on or in relation to any Activity involving Vulnerable Persons without:

  • (a) conducting a Police Check for that Person; and
  • (b) confirming that the Person is not prohibited under a law of the Commonwealth, State or Territory from being employed or engaged in any capacity where they may have contact with Vulnerable Persons; and
  • (c) complying with all other requirements of applicable laws of the Commonwealth, State or Territory, in which the Activity or part of the Activity is being conducted in relation to employment of Persons or engagement of Persons in any capacity where they may have contact with Vulnerable Persons; and
  • (d) being responsible for the cost of Police Checks and for providing verification to DSS that Police Checks have been conducted, if requested.

What information is verified when a Police Check is conducted?

When a Police Check is conducted it may reveal that a current or potential employee, sub-contractor or volunteer has a criminal conviction or findings of guilt recorded against their name. An assessment is made of the information provided in the Police Check.

Funding Recipients must not deploy, redeploy or engage a Person where the Police Check for that Person states they have a Serious, Criminal or Court Record

Where a Police Check indicates that the Person has a Serious, Criminal or Court Record, the funding recipient must:

  • (a) conduct and document a risk assessment in compliance with this policy and document the actions you will take as a result of conducting a risk assessment of that Person.
  • (b) agree that, whenever they become aware that a Person undertaking the Activity, or any part of the Activity, has been charged or convicted of any Serious or Other Offence, they will:
    • suspend the Person from performing the Activity or any part of the Activity;
    • conduct a risk assessment in compliance with this policy within 24 hours of becoming aware of that Person being charged or convicted; and
    • document the actions they will take as a result of conducting the risk assessment of that Person,

before allowing that Person to continue performing the Activity or any part of the Activity.

The funding recipient will be wholly responsible for conducting the risk assessment, assessing the outcome of the risk assessment and making any decision to engage, deploy or redeploy a Person, who has a Serious, Criminal or Court Record, to work on any Activity, or any part of an Activity.

Mandatory Requirements

Legislation governing protection of Vulnerable Persons varies according to the particular State or Territory in which the Funding Recipient operates so there is currently no overarching national approach.

Funding Recipients must comply with relevant State or Territory legislation including laws governing child protection issues.

Where Police Checks are not mandatory in a particular State or Territory, Funding Recipients must comply with this DSS Policy as notified, referred or made available in writing (including by reference to an internet site), in order to be eligible for Commonwealth Funding.

Existing checking systems such as Blue Cards in Queensland are acceptable in lieu of standard police checks. This reduces the impost on organisations to under go police checks if another similar check by appropriate authorities has already occurred.

Undertaking the Risk Assessment

In undertaking your risk assessment you agree to take into account the following factors:

  • whether the Person's Serious, Criminal or Court Record is directly relevant to the role the person will or is likely to perform in relation to the Activity or any part of the Activity;
  • the length of time that has passed since the Person's conviction and the person's record since that time;
  • the nature of the offence pertaining to the Serious, Criminal or Court Record and the circumstances in which it occurred;
  • whether the offence involved Vulnerable Persons;
  • the nature of the Activity and the circumstances in which the Person will or is likely to have contact with Vulnerable Persons;
  • the particular role the Person is proposed to or is currently undertaking in relation to the Activity and whether the fact the Person has a Serious, Criminal or Court Record is reasonably likely to impair the person's ability to perform or continue to perform the inherent requirements of that role; and
  • the suitability of the Person based on their merit, experience and references to perform the role the Person is proposed to or is currently undertaking in relation to the Activity or any part of the Activity.

After taking into account the factors set out above you agree to then determine whether it is reasonably necessary to:

  • not engage, deploy or redeploy the Person in relation to the Activity or any part of the Activity;
  • remove the Person from working in any position or acting in any capacity in relation to the Activity or any part of the Activity which involves working or having contact with Vulnerable Persons; or
  • make particular arrangements or impose conditions under which the Person's engagement, employment or redeployment in relation to the Activity or any part of the Activity and, where relevant, contact with Vulnerable Persons is to occur,
  • in order to protect the physical, psychological or emotional wellbeing of the Vulnerable Persons to whom the Activity relates.

If we require you must promptly provide evidence, in a form determined by us that you have complied with the requirements of this policy.

You agree to reflect your obligations under this policy in all subcontracts you enter into in relation to the Activity or part of the Activity.

Definitions

  • "Activity" means any tasks, activities, services or other purposes for which funding is provided.
  • Blue card” means the blue card issued by the Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian once it has carried out the blue card check to see if a person is eligible to work in the areas of child-related work covered by the Commission’s Act. If a person is eligible, they are issued a positive notice letter and a blue card. The Blue Card system applies to Queensland only.
  • "Child" or "Children" means an individual or group of individuals under the age of 18;
  • "Criminal or Court Record" means any record of any Other Offence;
  • "Other Offence" means a conviction, finding of guilt, on-the-spot fine for, or court order relating to:
    • (a) an apprehended violence or protection order made against the Person; or
    • (b) one or more traffic offences involving speeding more than 30 kilometres over the speed limit, injury to a person or damage to property; or
    • (c) a crime or offence involving the consumption, dealing in, possession or handling of alcohol, a prohibited drug, narcotic or other prohibited substance;
    • (d) a crime or offence involving violence against or the injury, but excluding the death of a person; or
    • (e) a minor crime or offence involving dishonesty, other than those crimes or offences referred to in paragraph (c).
  • "Person" means each of your officers, employees, contractors and volunteers;
  • "Police Check" means a formal inquiry made to the relevant police authority in a State or Territory and designed to obtain details of an individual's criminal conviction or a finding of guilt in each State and Territory of Australia and in all non-Australian jurisdictions known to you where the Person has resided;
  • "Serious Record" means a conviction or any finding of guilt for a Serious Offence;
  • "Serious Offence" means:
    • (a) a crime or offence involving the death of a person;
    • (b) a sex-related offence or a crime, including offences of sexual assault against an adult or minor, child pornography, or an indecent act involving a minor; or
    • (c) a crime or offence involving dishonesty that is not minor, fraud, money laundering, insider dealing or any other financial offence or crime, including those under legislation relating to companies, banking, insurance or other financial services.
  • "Vulnerable Person" means:
    • (a) a Child or Children; or
    • (b) an individual aged 18 years and above who is or may be unable to take care of themselves, or is unable to protect themselves against harm or exploitation by reason of age, illness, trauma or disability, or any other reason.

Cybersafety – Publicly Funded Service Providers and their Clients

Over the past decade there has been increasing use of computer technology to deliver services to clients. From time to time, client and community groups have raised concerns about the need to protect clients and particularly children from inadvertent exposure to inappropriate material such as very violent or sexually explicit material or other inappropriate uses of this technology.

Under this new policy, it is expected that publicly funded service providers will take reasonable steps to protect their clients, and particularly children, from the risks of harmful content and harmful or inappropriate use of computers and digital technology, where the funding recipient’s computers and other technology are supported through public funding.

Reasonable steps to protect may include having a policy in place about appropriate use of computers and cybersafety protection for staff and clients, filters installed, audits, and providing information and/or training to staff and clients about cybersafety. The policy commences on 1 July 2012.

The implementation of this policy is beginning with the Department of Social Services (DSS) funding agreements and then being extended over time to funding agreements managed by other Commonwealth agencies.

Date of Effect: 1 July 2012

The Commonwealth’s policy is that as part of any publicly funded service delivery, the safety of clients and children when using computers and digital technology must be assured.

Funding recipients must take reasonable steps to protect their clients, and particularly children, from the risks of harmful content and harmful or inappropriate use of computers and digital technology, where the recipient’s computers and other technology are supported through public funding. 

Reasonable steps to protect may include having a policy in place about appropriate use and cybersafety protection for staff and clients, filters installed, audits, and provision of information to clients and/or training to staff about cybersafety.

If we require, you must promptly provide evidence in a form determined by us that you have complied with the requirements of this policy.

You agree to reflect your obligations under this policy in all subcontracts you enter into in relation to the Activity or part of the Activity.

This policy applies to all publicly funded service providers which receive funding under a DSS Standard Funding Agreement.

Definitions

  • “Cybersafety” means having in place strategies to minimise and manage risks of exposure to inappropriate on-line content by users of computers and digital technology.

Fact Sheet: Cybersafety – Publicly funded computers

Conflict of Interest Policy for DSS employees and contractors

DSS Employee means a person employed by the Department under the Public Service Act 1999, whether full-time or part-time, in an ongoing or non-ongoing capacity.

Contractor means a person employed by an external company who is providing services under the supervision of DSS, DSS specifies how the work is to be undertaken and has control over the final form of any resulting output.

Information on this page:

Purpose

This document outlines the responsibilities of DSS employees and Contractors to address real or perceived conflicts of interests that may arise in relation to the administration of DSS programs.

The document also provides advice to organisations funded under DSS programs who believe that a DSS employee that they have dealings with may not be acting impartially due to a real or perceived conflict of interest.

Conflict of Interest Disclosure Process

What is a conflict of interest?

A conflict of interest may occur when there is a real or perceived conflict between a DSS employee’s or contractor’s personal interest, pecuniary (financial) or non-pecuniary (personal), and their official duties. Where there is a real or perceived conflict of interest it is inappropriate for the DSS employee or contractor to be involved in or to make decisions that may be affected by or impact upon their personal interest.

Pecuniary interest is an interest that a DSS employee or contractor may have in a matter because of the reasonable likelihood or expectation of appreciable financial gain or loss to the employee or contractor.

Non-pecuniary interest is an interest that a DSS employee or contractor may have in a matter because it may involve family or other relationships and/or friendships or other interests that do not involve financial gain or loss.

Basic Information

  • financial interests may cover such things as real estate, shareholdings, trusts or nominee companies, company directorships or partnerships, other investments, assets or substantial sources of income, gifts, sponsored travel and hospitality
  • personal interests may include personal relationships such as sporting, social or cultural activities as well as family, sexual or other relationships
  • DSS employees  must notify their manager where there is a real or potential conflict of interest
  • DSS employees  should take reasonable steps to avoid or remove themselves from the real or potential conflict of interest
  • DSS employees wishing to engage in outside employment, including in a voluntary capacity, who suspect there may be a real or perceived conflict of interest with their DSS responsibilities, should seek approval to undertake these activities prior to commencing the outside employment
  • DSS  SES employees are required to provide a statement of their private interests to be examined for potential conflicts of interest
  • contractors are required to advise of potential conflicts of interest as part of their contract.

Examples of a conflict of interest

  • departmental employee is the director of a family company that may be affected by policy changes being considered in his or her work area
  • departmental employee may be assessing tenders from companies in which they or a relative have an interest. This involvement could lead to the perception that they were subject to bias
  • departmental employee is in a position to assess grants to a community group to which they belong
  • departmental employee on a selection panel has a personal relationship with an applicant for the position. This could be seen as providing an unfair advantage and may be a violation of the APS Code of Conduct.

What should a DSS employee or contactor do if a conflict of interest arises?

  • a DSS employee or contractor must advise their manager immediately if they believe that a conflict of interest will arise with their official duties and their financial or personal interests by completing the Conflict of Interest Disclosure Form[DOC 166kB]
  • a DSS employee or contractor must  take immediate action to ensure that they remove themselves from the potential conflict of interest situation, including removing themselves from involvement in any related recommending, approval or decision-making process. They may need to be assigned to different duties on a short or long term basis to ensure the conflict is avoided
  • a DSS employee or contractor must advise their manager of any future change in their personal circumstances that may affect the action already taken.

What are DSS managers required to do in relation to conflicts of interest?

Managers have the responsibility to decide whether:

  • there is, or could be, a conflict of interest
  • it is reasonable and necessary to ask the DSS employee or contractor to divest the interest
  • to change the DSS employee’s or contractor’s  duties or to transfer the employee to other duties where there is no conflict
  • it is appropriate to allow the DSS employee or contractor  to continue their current duties with or without some modifications
  • to terminate a contract.

Discuss the issue with and advise the employee or contractor of the action to be taken and the reasons for the decision.

Completed Conflict of Interest Disclosure Forms

DSS employees must forward completed conflict of interest disclosure forms to the Section Manager, Workplace Relations and Manager Advisory Section in People Branch for storage on the employee’s personnel file.

What should you do if you believe a DSS employee with whom you have dealings has a real or perceived conflict of interest?

You should contact the DSS National Office Complaints Team by phone on 1800 634 035, by email to complaints@dss.gov.au or in writing to DSS Complaints, PO Box 7576, Canberra Business Centre, ACT 2610.

DSS Conflict of Interest Policy Guide

1. Purpose

This guide provides managers and employees with information on the appropriate management of conflict of interest within DSS. Effective management involves identifying potential conflicts of interest (real or apparent) and implementing procedures to prevent these situations occurring or introducing measures to remove the circumstances giving rise to the apparent or actual conflict.

2. Authority

The APS Code of Conduct detailed under Section 13 of the Public Service Act 1999, is the principle statutory instrument governing issues related to conflict of interest in the APS. In reference to conflict of interest, the code requires:

(1)    An APS employee must behave honestly and with integrity in connection with APS employment.
(7)    An APS employee must disclose, and take reasonable steps to avoid, any conflict of interest (real or apparent) in connection with APS employment.
(10) An APS employee must not make improper use of:

(a) inside information; or
(b) the employee's duties, status, power or authority; in order to gain, or seek to gain, a benefit or advantage for the employee or for any other person.
In addition, DSS’s Chief Executive’s Instructions make reference to the ethical use of Commonwealth resources under CEI 1.4.

3. Coverage

The proper management and adherence to conflict of interest principles applies to all DSS employees.

In particular all employees working at the SES level are required to sign (and update at least annually) a declaration concerning potential areas where conflicts of interest may arise from their pecuniary and/or personal interests.

All employees or contractors involved in the preparation and assessment of tenders and applications and general purchasing are also required under the DSS guidelines on ethics and probity in Government purchasing to declare any real or potential conflict or remove themselves from the process if they have a relationship with any of the potential applicants.

Contractors are also required as a condition of their contract to advise any potential conflicts of interest arising during the period of the contract.

4. Principles

The APS Values and specifically the APS Code of Conduct cited under the previous heading "Authority", establish the guiding principles to be followed in respect of addressing conflict of interest situations. In particular, the Code identifies the two main responsibilities in respect of conflict of interest:

  • an employee must notify the department of any real or apparent conflict of interest; and
  • an employee should take reasonable steps to avoid or remove themselves from the real or potential conflict.

5. Potential areas of conflict, external employment, receipt of gifts, contract and funding agreement management, recruitment panels, post separation employment, lobbying

An employee's potential exposure to a conflict of interest situation will vary depending on changes to either their departmental role or private and personal activities. One example is in the area of participating in external employment; including volunteering in community organisations. Employees need to ensure no real or perceived conflict arises from their participation and are asked to make this assessment when applying for approval for external employment or community volunteering leave.

SES and other public servants when dealing with lobbyists are also required to pay particular attention to conflict of interest requirements and this is detailed in the departmental guidelines covering the Code of Conduct for Lobbyists. In a similar respect, where an employee is required to participate in a selection process (including for an employment position or contract for services) and they have a personal or private relationship with any of the actual or potential applicants, they should make a formal and documented declaration concerning this relationship in order that a decision can be made in respect of their ongoing participation in the process.

In another like situation, while it is not uncommon or wrong for couples or other family members to be working in the same agency, it is not usually appropriate for one to have any like responsibility over another. The APSC provides further advice on personal behaviour and conflict of interest in section 4.11 of their "APS Values and Code of Conduct in practice" publication.

Another area of potential risk for a conflict to arise is associated with the acceptance of gifts. As a general principle, employees should not accept gifts or benefits to avoid an actual or perceived conflict of interest. When an employee is offered a gift or benefit, they should consult the relevant departmental guidelines. Employees involved in pre and post separation employment situations including in the transition period prior to a function being outsourced are also required to be mindful of potential conflict of interest issues. The APSC has provided specific advice in respect of these issues in their APSC Circular on this subject.

6. Manager and Employee Role

As discussed in paragraphs 3 and 5 above, the roles and responsibilities of managers and their staff in respect of conflict of interest will vary from time to time depending on their particular functions and circumstances. As a general rule however all employees at all times need to be conscious of and compliant with the APS values and Code of Conduct and the Chief Executive Instructions which summarise the general responsibility in the following way:

"Any circumstance in which an official's public duty impacts their private interests give rise to a conflict of interest. Officials are required to be alert to the possibility of such conflicts and are required to disclose any instances."

Where a manager identifies a potential for conflict involved with a particular project in their section it may be appropriate for all staff engaged on work in that project to sign a declaration to ensure real or perceived conflicts are identified and addressed appropriately. A suggested proforma is provided above. This form should be forwarded to the Section Manager, Workplace Relations and Manager Advisory Section in People Branch to be held on the employee's personnel file when completed.

All new employees and contractors to DSS are required to confirm that no conflict of interest exists at the time of commencing employment with DSS and to undertake to notify DSS of any future conflict should things change in either their personal or professional circumstances.

7. Review of Employment Actions

DSS employees who are dissatisfied with a decision or action taken in relation to conflict of interest may in the first instance seek a review of that decision or action under Part 10 of the DSS Enterprise Agreement 2012-2014.

Content Updated: 27 March 2014