Conflicts of interest
As employees, it is critical that our conduct is seen to meet the highest ethical standards and is aligned with the University’s values of respect, integrity and excellence. Identifying, declaring and managing conflicts of interest is an important part of demonstrating impartiality and integrity when executing our University responsibilities and official duties.
What is a conflict of interest?
A conflict of interest is a situation where your personal or private interests could, or be seen to, improperly influence the performance of your official duties or responsibilities at the University. A conflict of interest can be actual, perceived, or potential:
- An actual conflict of interest involves a direct conflict between your official duties and University responsibilities and a competing interest or obligation, whether personal or involving a third-party.
- A perceived conflict of interest occurs where it could reasonably be perceived, or give the appearance, that a competing interest could improperly influence the performance of your official duties and University responsibilities.
- A potential conflict of interest arises where you have an interest or obligation, whether personal or involving a third-party, that could conflict with your official duties and University responsibilities in the future.
How do I identify a conflict of interest?
It is not always easy to identify a conflict of interest. The objective test is whether an individual could be influenced, or appear to be influenced, by a private interest in carrying out their duties to the University. This test should focus on the official role and the private relationships and interests of the individual concerned, and whether a reasonably disinterested person would think these relationships and interests could conceivably conflict or appear to conflict with the individual’s duties to the University.
The key test when assessing these situations is to ask yourself – "Could this conflict with my public duty to serve the public interest?" A good test to help you to decide whether you have a conflict of interest is to ask yourself a few quick questions:
- Would I be happy if my colleagues became aware of my involvement?
- Would I be happy if my involvement appeared in the media?
- If I saw someone else doing this, would I suspect that they might have a conflict of interest?
It can sometimes also be helpful to consider some examples of conflicts of interest.
It is important to understand that the mere perception that a conflict of interest has occurred could undermine the University’s integrity. Conflicts of interest are often confused with impropriety, however, a conflict of interest can exist even if there is no improper behaviour resulting from it. If in doubt, it is better to declare and then manage a conflict.
It is not always possible to avoid having a conflict of interest. What is important is what you do or don’t do once you become aware of the conflict of interest. Remember, it is always better that you disclose and discuss a possible conflict of interest than conceal the matter.
How do I declare a conflict of interest?
Conflicts of interest must be declared during an employee’s annual performance review.
If you have not already declared a conflict of interest during an annual performance review, or it arises in an incidental or ad hoc circumstance outside of your review cycle, you must make a declaration to your supervisor as soon as practicable using the Declaration of Conflict of Interest Form.
How do I manage or resolve a conflict of interest?
Managers and supervisors have a responsibility to carefully consider any conflict of interest that is declared to them, and to take reasonable steps to ensure that the conflict is appropriately managed. Once a Declaration of Conflict of Interest Form has been completed, the supervisor will review the declaration and then, where appropriate and necessary, will work with the employee to develop a Conflict of Interest Management Strategy.
The strategy outlines the agreed scope and nature of actions, conditions or restrictions put in place to manage, mitigate or eliminate any actual, potential or perceived conflict of interest. This strategy is to be submitted as part of the Declaration of Conflict of Interest Form and is reviewed annually or until the conflict no longer exists.
There are a number of possible options which may be considered when developing a strategy to avoid or manage a conflict of interest.
Declared conflicts of interest, and developed management strategies, are stored securely and confidentially on the employee's personal employment record.
Contacts and resources
For any inquiries related to conflicts of interest, please contact Mr Les Mitchell, Director (Integrity and Professional Conduct).
The following resources may also be helpful:
- Code of Conduct Policy
- Employee Conflicts of Interest Procedure
- Queensland Integrity Commissioner
- The Crime and Corruption Commission has also produced a number of guidelines, toolkits and checklists associated with identifying and managing conflicts of interest in the public sector.