The main role of the Senate Ethics Officer is to provide independent, non-partisan advice to senators on the application and interpretation of the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators.
The SEO strives to provide consistent and transparent advice to Senators in a timely fashion.
Although senators are ultimately responsible for arranging their affairs in such a way as to prevent foreseeable real or apparent conflicts of interest, they are encouraged to consult with the SEO before embarking on a course of action, particularly where the facts in question are complex and the relevant provisions of the Code require interpretation and analysis.
Opinions and advice may be of a formal nature, in writing, or of a more informal nature, through telephone conversations, meetings and e-mail exchanges. The opinions are based on the facts provided by senators.
The Code requires that these opinions and advice be kept confidential but they may be made public by the senator to whom they were given, or by the SEO with the senator’s written consent.
The importance of this advisory function should not be underestimated. It helps to prevent conflicts of interest and avoids having to deal with them once they have already arisen. The approach is preventative, not punitive. Preventing conflicts from arising is always preferable to conducting inquiries.