Policy Conflicts of Interest Procedure - University Council and its Committees

Conflicts of Interest Procedure - University Council and its Committees


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Intent

A conflict of interests occurs where Council or Committee members with a particular interest could be influenced, or might appear to be influenced, in the performance of their duties. Council and Committee members are required to disclose and obtain evaluation of any conflict of interests. This procedure outlines the process for the identification and management of actual, potential or perceived conflicts of interest, and the monitoring requirements once declared.

This Procedure gives effect to the principles in the Code of Conduct – University Council such as integrity, impartiality, accountability and transparency.

Scope

The procedure applies to a member of Council, or to a member of a Committee of Council (including a Council-appointed co-opted additional member) at all times while engaged in University business or otherwise representing the University.

Definitions

Except as otherwise specified in this procedure, the Conflict of Interests Policy – University Council and its Committees and Code of Conduct – University Council, the meaning of terms used are as per the Policy Glossary.

Procedure

1. Identifying Conflicts of Interest

1.1  Council and Committee members must ensure that any conflicts between their personal, private or other interests and their University duties are promptly identified and managed. A conflict may arise if an member could be influenced, or appear to be influenced, by a personal, private or other interest or a conflict of commitment when carrying out their duties and responsibilities as a Council or Committee member of the University.

1.2  Council and Committee members should consider whether a reasonable, disinterested person would think private relationships or interests could conceivably conflict or appear to conflict with the Council or Committee member’s role.

1.3  In the event that there is uncertainty about whether a conflict of interests exists, in accordance with the policy definitions, advice must be sought from the Chief of Staff or University Secretary.

1.4  Examples where conflicts of interest situations may arise are detailed at Appendix 1.

2. Declaring Conflicts of Interest

2.1  Disclosures about actual, perceived or potential conflicts of interest must be made as soon as reasonably practicable. The primary obligation of the Council or Committee member is to disclose in advance, to the Secretariat using the Conflict of Interests Declaration Form at Appendix 2. Types of interests that may need to be declared include personal relationships, real estate investments, shareholdings, trusts or nominee companies, company directorships or partnerships, financial or private affiliation, partnership or engagement with a foreign government, political organisation, agency, university or individual, significant liabilities, gifts (see the Reportable Gifts and Benefits Procedure), paid or pro bono activities that could or could be seen to impact upon the Council or Committee member’s duties and responsibilities as a Council or Committee member of JCU.

2.2  Any sexual encounter or romantic relationship that creates a conflict of interests must be immediately declared. If further action beyond registering the disclosure is deemed to be required (see section 4), this will be advised to the Council or Committee member, and an appropriate option to resolve the conflict of interests will be agreed. Responsible Officers may provide advice on the most appropriate actions.

2.3  Ownership of personal assets such as a personal or family home, works of art, jewellery, furniture, antiques etc., are unlikely to have any real or perceived impact on a Council or Committee member’s responsibilities and would not normally need to be declared, since their possession is unlikely to involve a conflict of interests or any other threat to the Council or Committee member’s probity.

2.4  A declaration only occurs when submitted on the Declaration Form. The fact that a matter may be known by others, or is considered public knowledge, is no substitute for a formal declaration to the University.

2.5  Once further action to address any conflict, if required, has been finalised the competed Declaration Form is to be provided to the Secretariat for recording in the University Council and Committee Conflict of Interests Register.

3. Managing Conflicts of Interest

3.1  The management of conflicts of interest will be determined by the relevant Council or Committee meeting or the Chancellor in conjunction with the University Secretary. The options to manage conflicts include:

3.1.1 Register. A common mechanism for managing potential conflicts of interest is to require Council and Committee members to register their pecuniary and non-pecuniary interests that may in the future conflict with some aspect of their duties. This requirement is usually confined to people in senior positions, in roles at higher risk of encountering conflicts. At JCU members of Council and its Committees are required to update annually their Conflict of Interests Declaration Form. 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 interests should also be considered.

3.1.2 Restrict. This is where restrictions are placed on the Council or Committee member’s involvement in the matter. Restriction is often the most appropriate strategy when the Council or Committee member can be effectively separated from parts of the activity or process and the conflict of interests is not likely to arise frequently. This means: non-involvement in any 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 a meeting where there is discussion of affected decisions, proposals and plans; having restricted access to information relating to the conflict of interests; being denied access to sensitive documents or confidential information relating to the conflict of interests. This is the option most often employed at JCU when a Council or Committee member has declared a conflict of interests in relation to a matter and is excluded from decision-making at a meeting in accordance with clause 4 of this procedure and access to information is restricted.

3.1.3 Recruit. Where a person without an 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 Council or Committee member, as the individual with the conflict of interests, to remove themselves from the decision-making process. This is particularly relevant if the Council or Committee member’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 interests but who has some special reason to remain on the committee may also be a strategy.

3.1.4 Remove. Removal strategies will be most appropriate for ongoing conflicts of interest where ad hoc restriction or recruitment of others is not feasible or appropriate. Such strategies aim to remove the Council or Committee member, as the individual with the conflict of interests, from all duties related to the conflict of interests for as long as the conflict of interests exists. Removal includes abstaining from any formal or informal discussion about the matter and being removed from the situation where the Council or Committee member may still exert, or be perceived to exert, a covert influence on decisions or actions taken in the matter.

3.1.5 Relinquish. Where the Council or Committee member relinquishes the personal, private or other interest that is creating the conflict. There may be occasions when the Council or Committee member’s commitment to their JCU role outweighs their attachment to their personal, private or other interest. They may therefore prefer to relinquish the relevant personal, private or other interest rather than change their Council or Committee related duties and responsibilities.

3.1.6 Resign. Where the Council or Committee member resigns from their position with the University; this is the most extreme solution to a serious conflict of interests. This would only be relevant where the Council or Committee member cannot or will not relinquish their conflicting personal, private or other interest when changes to their duties and responsibilities are not feasible and the conflict of interests and its potential or perceived effects are of high risk or high significance.

4. Exclusion from Meeting or Decision-Making Process of a Member with a Conflict of Interests

4.1  A Council or Committee member who has a conflict of interests in an issue to be considered at a meeting:

4.1.1 must disclose the conflict of interests as soon as is practicably possible or immediately when they become aware of it; and

4.1.2 must not be present at or take part in the meeting whilst the issue is being considered or voted on unless authorised under clause 5 of this procedure.

4.2  The disclosure required under clause 4.1 must be given:-

4.2.1 if the conflict of interests arises at a meeting, then at the meeting;

4.2.2 otherwise, as soon as practicable after the member becomes aware of the conflict.  In the case of a meeting of Council notice should be given to the University Secretary.  In the case of a Committee meeting notice should be given to the Secretary of the meeting, or in the absence of the Secretary, the Chair.

4.3  A member who is excluded from a meeting under clause 4.1 must not be in the place where the meeting is being conducted, including any part of that place set aside for non-Council members attending the meeting as observers or in any other capacity.

4.4  A member who is excluded from a meeting under clause 4.1 must not seek, directly or indirectly, to influence the outcome of any deliberations by the Council, the Committee or any of the officers of the University in relation to the issue.

Example: a member excluded from a meeting because of a conflict of interests on an issue must not arrange for a third person to lobby another member on the issue.

4.5  If:

4.5.1 a member discloses circumstances which might (but in that member’s opinion do not) establish a conflict of interests; or

4.5.2 in the absence of any such disclosure, another member informs the meeting that it is that other member’s opinion that a member has a conflict of interests which has not been disclosed, the members may (after hearing from the member alleged to have the material personal interest) resolve by majority that a conflict of interests does exist.  A resolution to that effect imposes the same obligations on the affected member as would apply had that member disclosed a conflict of interests in relation to the issue.

Example: the business before a Human Resources Committee is a change to the remuneration of staff. Human Resources Committee includes a staff member. The Human Resources Committee may resolve that the staff member has a Conflict of Interests.

4.6  To avoid doubt, members are subject to a positive duty to inform the meeting when that member opines that another member has a conflict of interests which has not been disclosed.

4.7  A member who has declared a conflict of interests or been found, by resolution of the meeting, to have a conflict of interests in relation to an issue has no entitlement to information or materials about the other members’ deliberations on and determinations about that issue, except to the extent that the information is available generally to persons who are not members and who were not involved in reporting to the meeting or otherwise assisting the members in their deliberations on the issue.

4.8  A member who has a conflict of interests in an issue to be considered by Circulating Resolution or by delegated authority:-

4.8.1 must disclose the interest as soon as is practicably possible; and

4.8.2 must not take part in the consideration of the issue or the exercise of the delegated authority.

5. Non-Application of Policy Where Member’s Participation Approved by Council or the Committee Despite Conflict of Interests

5.1  The restrictions set out in this policy do not apply if the members present at the meeting have passed a resolution by a majority that:

5.1.1 specifies the member, the interest and the issue; and

5.1.2 states that the members voting for the resolution are satisfied that the conflict of interests should not disqualify the member from participating in the deliberations and voting on the issue.

5.2  For the purpose of clause 5.1, a member who has a conflict of interests may need to be absent from discussion and voting on the motion.

6. Monitoring Conflict of Interests

6.1  All declared conflicts of interests must be reviewed by the Council or Committee member on at least an annual basis to ensure that the information remains correct, and that any required responses continue to be appropriate and effective.

6.2  Any change in the arrangements (including when the conflict is no longer in place), must be notified immediately to the University and an updated Conflict of Interest Declaration Form provided to the Secretariat to update the conflicts of interests register.

7. Failure to Declare a Conflict of Interests

7.1  Failing to comply with the provisions of this Procedure, including refusal to take any reasonable action, to resolve a conflict of interests may constitute employment breach of a conduct obligation, which may result in removal from office.

7.2  Breaches of this procedure may also result in referral to, and action being taken by, an external statutory authority and/or agency including the Crime and Corruption Commission.

8. Privacy and Confidentiality

8.1  Information arising from conflict of interest declarations will be managed in accordance with the Information Privacy Policy.

8.2  Information held may be used for University purposes including audit, reporting, compliance monitoring and other purposes required by government or legislation.

9. Public Interest Disclosures

9.1  If a Council or Committee member has knowledge that a conflict of interests may exist for another member that may not have been declared, they should discuss the situation with the University Secretary or Chief of Staff or consider taking action under the Public Interest Disclosure Procedure.

Appendices

Appendix 1 – Examples of Conflict of Interest situations

Appendix 2 – Declaration of Conflicts of Interests Form

Related Policies and Procedures

Conflicts of Interests Policy – University Council and its Committees (new)

Declaration of Interest – Senior Management and Specified Staff Procedure (new)

Reportable Gifts and Benefits Procedure 

Staff Code of Conduct

Code of Conduct - University Council and Explanatory Statement

Conflict of Interests Policy

Risk Management Policy

Risk Management Framework

Information Privacy Policy

Public Interest Disclosure Procedure

Other related documents and legislation

Crime and Corruption Act 2001

Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Act 2018

Managing Conflicts in the Public Sector Guidelines

Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010

Public Sector Ethics Act 1994

Administration

Approval Details

Policy Sponsor/s

Vice Chancellor

Approval Authority

Vice Chancellor

Date for next review

12/01/2024

Revision History

Version

Approval date

Implementation date

Details

Author

21-1

12/01/2021

14/01/2021

Procedure established to support revised Conflicts of Interest Policy – Council and its Committees

Chief of Staff/University Secretary

Keywords:

Conflicts of Interests, conflict of commitment; actual; perceived; potential; material

Contact person:

Chief of Staff