What is an appropriate gift?
Appropriate gifts and hospitality have an acceptable form and value that is proportionate to the circumstances; they are offered openly, with legitimate intent and no specific expectation of return but are equivalent to what might be provided in return; their exchange should not be a cause for concern if published in the public domain.
In considering the offer or receipt of gifts or hospitality, University staff and representatives are encouraged to use the following checklist to help determine whether an offer is appropriate:
What is the form of the gift or hospitality?
Cash or equivalent vouchers, credit, personal discounts, etc. should never be accepted or offered since there are likely to be tax implications and there may also be an appearance (or reality) of bribery, fraud or corruption. Similarly, hospitality of an illegal or improper nature is not acceptable.
What is the actual or estimated value?
Disproportionate or lavish gifts and hospitality should be avoided – taking into account the reason why or circumstances in which it is being offered, is it of an appropriate value to the occasion?
How and when is it offered?
Offers made immediately prior to or during a decision-making process that might affect the person making the offer, or offers made in a manner that is not open and transparent are unlikely to be legitimate gifts or hospitality and may breach not only this University Policy but also criminal law.
What is the intent?
The building or maintenance of academic, collaborative, professional or business relationships is usually acceptable; what is not acceptable is where the underlying intent is to exert undue influence on a decision, activity or outcome or to induce someone to act improperly.
Is there any expectation of a return?
Gifts and hospitality should be freely given in order to avoid the appearance of undue influence and inducement – if there is the expectation of a specific return, other perhaps than reciprocal gifts and hospitality (see below), then the situation should probably be avoided.
What if the situation were reversed?
Is the offer equivalent to what might reasonably be provided in return? i.e. the type of gifts or hospitality that you accept should be similar to the type that would be offered by the University. If there is a significant imbalance between what is offered by each party this can create the appearance of undue influence or inducement on the part of the party offering the ‘bigger’ or ‘better’ gifts and hospitality.
How would it look in the public domain?
Would you be content if the details of the item(s) in question appeared in the public domain? If you saw an article about someone else offering or accepting gifts or hospitality in similar circumstances, what would be your reaction? If your answer to these questions is negative then this is a strong indicator that the item may be inappropriate.
Considerations and guidance when using this checklist:
University staff and associated persons may find themselves involved with third parties who have a different cultural perspective or more relaxed attitude towards gifts and hospitality. There may be pressure, therefore, to accept offers in order not to cause offence, or to offer gifts and hospitality in return so as to avoid embarrassment. As a fundamental principle, however:
University staff and associated persons should never put themselves in a position where their integrity could be called into question.
The checklist provided above should be used to help determine whether a gift or hospitality is appropriate but, where there is any doubt, University staff and representatives should err on the side of caution and:
(a) not accept or offer gifts or hospitality that could create any suspicion or appearance of a conflict between official duties and personal interests; and
(b) not accept or offer gifts or hospitality that may give an outward impression of having influenced the activities or decisions of the recipient or others.
Gifts or hospitality of an inappropriate nature should be politely declined or returned with, where appropriate, an explanation of the University Policy and why it is not possible to accept the offer.
Where it is not possible to determine whether a gift or hospitality is appropriate, or not possible to decline an offer without causing serious offence, the matter must be referred to the Head of Department who will determine whether it is appropriate or not. Where this is impractical or where the Head of Department cannot decide, the matter should be referred to the Registrar who will have final judgement on the matter.