A process where a conflict of interest is managed to ensure probity, transparency of interest and the public interest. In some cases, agencies will be required by legislation to manage conflicts in a particular way. The Managing Conflicts of Interest in the Public Sector Toolkit suggests six major options for managing conflicts of interest are:
a common mechanism for managing potential conflicts of interest is to require certain employees to register their pecuniary and non-pecuniary interests that may in the future conflict with some aspect of their work. This requirement is usually confined to people in very senior positions, in roles at higher risk of encountering conflicts or in particular types of public organisation (including procurement or HR). Registers of interests for appointed public employees are usually not public; strict confidentiality policies and procedures should apply. However, the registration or declaration of conflicts of interest does not in itself necessarily resolve the conflict. Additional measures to positively resolve or manage conflicts of interest should also be considered.
Where restrictions are placed on the public employee’s involvement in the matter. Restriction is often the most appropriate management strategy when the employee can be effectively separated from parts of the activity or process and the conflict of interest is not likely to arise frequently. This means: non-involvement in any critical criteria setting or decision-making role in the process concerned; refraining from taking part in any debate about the issue abstaining from voting on decision proposals; withdrawing from discussion of affected proposals and plans; having restricted access to information relating to the conflict of interest; being denied access to sensitive documents or confidential information relating to the conflict of interest.
Where a person without Interest (a third party or probity adviser) is used to oversee part or all of the process that deals with the matter. Recruiting strategies are most useful where it is not appropriate or desirable for the employee, as the individual with the conflict of interest, to remove themselves from the decision-making process. This is particularly relevant if the employee’s particular expertise is necessary and genuinely not easily replaced. Increasing the number of people sitting on decision-making committees to balance the influence of a single member who may have a conflict of interest but who has some special reason to remain on the committee may also be a strategy.
Removal strategies will be most appropriate for ongoing serious conflicts of interest where ad hoc restriction or recruitment of others is not feasible or appropriate. Such strategies aim to remove the employee, as the individual with the conflict of interest, from all duties related to the conflict of interest for as long as the conflict of interest exists. Removal includes abstaining from any formal or informal discussion about the matter and being removed from the situation where the employee may still exert, or be perceived to exert, a covert influence on decisions or actions taken in the matter.
Where the public employee relinquishes the private interest that is creating the conflict. There may be occasions when the employee’s commitment to public duty outweighs their attachment to their private interest. They may therefore prefer to relinquish the relevant private interest rather than radically change their work responsibilities or environment.
Where the employee resigns from their position with the University; this is the most extreme solution to a serious Conflict of Interest. This would only be relevant where the employee cannot or will not relinquish their conflicting private interest when changes to their work responsibilities or environment are not feasible and the conflict of interest and its potential or perceived effects are of high risk or high significance.
At JCU, examples of options for management include the following, which in some circumstances could be incorporated into a management plan:
- taking no further action because the potential for conflict is minimal or can be eliminated by disclosure and effective supervision;
- informing persons likely to be affected of the University's examination of the disclosure and decision that there is no conflict or the potential for conflict is minimal;
- where there may be a reasonably perceived conflict of interest or whereby processes are already underway when the perception is raised - appointing an independent third party to oversee the integrity of the process;
- appointing alternative persons to the panel or committee to remove the influence of the individual about whom the perception 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 arrangements such as a blind trust;
- removing the person from the responsibilities or duties to which the conflict relates (for staff relationships this may mean removal from a role);
- making arrangements for members of boards and committees to absent themselves from debate or decision on specific matters.
- maintaining records of activities that may lead to conflicts, for example: consultancies; membership of committees, boards of directors, advisory groups, or selection committees; and where they hold financial delegation or are in receipt of cash services or equipment from outside bodies;
- seeking input from the Chief of Staff or Director HR;
- providing education to the person about identifying conflict of interest; and
- agreeing with the person triggers to escalate the situation for review of the management plan.