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Managing a conflict of interest

When a conflict of interest disclosure reveals a potential, perceived or actual conflict of interest, a management strategy is developed to document and proactively address questions that may arise regarding an individual's objectivity, integrity or professional commitment as a result of the disclosed activity, relationship or financial interest. The existence of a management plan demonstrates that the individual and the University have considered the situation carefully, recognise the issues involved, and taken steps to prevent future problems.

A Conflict of Interest Management Strategy outlines the scope and nature of actions, conditions or restrictions put in place to manage, mitigate or eliminate any actual, potential or perceived conflict of interest. The strategy is developed by the employee in close collaboration with their supervisor and submitted when declaring a Conflict of interest. 

Strategies

In some circumstances, simply the act of declaring the perceived, potential or actual conflict may be sufficient to adequately mitigate or manage the conflict.

Other strategies may include consideration of activities of the following nature:

  • Removal from situation or conflict. 
  • Restricted involvement in the situation or conflict.
  • Recruitment of an independent third party to oversee part or all of the process.

More significant conflicts may also involve consideration of:

  • Relinquishing an interest which is ongoing, unacceptable and/or likely to damage the reputation of the University, or
  • as a last resort, Resigning from the role.

Examples 

More specifically, options may include the following, which in some circumstances could be incorporated into a management strategy:

  • taking no further action because the potential for conflict is minimal or can be eliminated by disclosure and effective supervision,
  • informing impacted persons of the disclosure and the decision that there is no conflict, or that the potential for conflict is minimal;
  • disclosing the connection to those involved in making decisions to purchase products or services from the entity in which the employee may have an interest; 
  • refraining from the decision-making process in his/her University role when services or products are being selected involving the entity in which the employee may have an interest;
  • forwarding any transactions requiring approval for payments to identified entities to a nominated oversight Manager for approval;
  • appointing an independent third party to oversee the integrity of the process;
  • appointing extra persons to a panel or committee to minimise the influence of the individual about whom the perception of conflict is held;
  • seeking the views of persons likely to be affected about the person continuing in the process;
  • restricting the access of the person to relevant information that is sensitive or confidential;
  • requesting the person to relinquish or divest the personal interest which creates the conflict or to make other arrangements;
  • removing the person from the responsibilities or duties to which the conflict relates;
  • making arrangements for members of boards and committees to absent themselves from debate or decision on specific matters;
  • seeking input from the Director, Professional Integrity and Conduct; and
  • agreeing on the triggers to escalate the situation for review of the management strategy.

When conflict of interest arises in a committee situation and is disclosed by a committee member, the Chair (subject to the views of the meeting) may:

  • ask the employee to leave while the item of business is discussed;
  • ask the employee to abstain from voting and or discussion;
  • allow the employee to participate in the discussion but withdraw from the meeting before the vote or abstain from voting;
  • allow the employee to stay but not participate in the debate; or
  • allow the employee to stay with full rights to debate and vote.

Where a committee conflict is declared and likely to remain an ongoing concern, future papers on the matter might not be made available to the employee concerned.

All committee related declarations of conflicts of are to be minuted along with any ensuing action, and filed consistent with the requirements the University's record keeping policy.