Policy

Conflict of Interest - Policy

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1. Purpose and Objectives

The Public Sector Ethics Act 1994 (Qld) (Public Sector Ethics Act) applies to the University.  Consistent with section 6(d) of the Public Sector Ethics Act, this Conflict of Interest Policy (Policy) requires staff to acknowledge the primacy of the public interest and ensure that any conflict of interest issue is avoided, resolved or appropriately managed in accordance with this Policy.

2. Definitions, Terms, Acronyms

Academic administration (including research administration) means any administrative aspect of a student’s enrolment in a program at the University including admission, enrolment and assessment.

Conflict of interest is a situation where an actual, perceived or potential conflict exists:

  • an actual conflict involves a direct conflict between a staff member’s duties and responsibilities to the University and a competing interest or obligation, whether personal or involving a third party.
  • a perceived conflict exists where it could reasonably be perceived, or give the appearance, that a competing interest could improperly influence the performance of a staff member’s duties and responsibilities to the University.
  • a potential conflict of interest arises where a staff member has an interest or obligation, whether personal or involving a third party, that could conflict with the staff member’s duties and responsibilities to the University.

Enterprise Agreement - The University of Queensland Enterprise Agreement 2014 - 2017

Pecuniary interest involves an actual or potential financial gain or loss.  It may, for example, result from the staff member owning property, holding shares or a position in a company bidding for University work, accepting gifts or hospitality or receiving an income from a second job.

Non-pecuniary interest does not involve a financial component but may, for example, arise from personal or family relationship or involvement in sporting, social or cultural activities.  It includes any favour or prejudice resulting from friendship, animosity or other personal involvement that could lead to bias in the exercise of judgment or a discretion or the making of a decision.

Reportable gift means:

  1. any money, property, travel, entertainment or hospitality with a value of more than $250 (or equivalent in any foreign currency) (or such different dollar value that is mentioned in the University’s Reportable Gifts Policy from time to time); or
  2. a series of such gifts received from a single donor or made to a single recipient within a calendar year, where the total value is more than $250 (or equivalent in any foreign currency) (or such different dollar value that is mentioned in the University’s Reportable Gifts Policy from time to time)) .

Staff means all officers and employees of the University, persons acting in an honorary or voluntary capacity for, or at, the University, and Senators of the University Senate.

Supervisor means the person to whom the staff member is principally responsible while working for the University or for Senators of the University Senate, the Chancellor or Deputy-Chancellor or a person elected to preside over a meeting of the University Senate under section 27(2) of the University of Queensland Act 1998 (Qld).

3. Policy Scope/Coverage

This Policy applies to all staff of the University.

It is an expectation of the University that contractors will also act in accordance with this Policy while undertaking work for or on behalf of the University.

Staff members are directed by the University to comply with this Policy.

4. Policy Statement

The University’s Code of Conduct requires staff members to avoid conflicts of interest (including perceived conflicts) and where conflicts of interest do arise, to manage those conflicts appropriately in accordance with this Policy. 

Without limiting the obligations set out in this Policy, staff are expected to:

  • restrict the extent to which a private interest could compromise, or be seen to compromise, their impartiality when carrying out their official duties;
  • abstain from involvement in official decisions and actions which could be compromised by other private interests and affiliations;
  • avoid private action in which they could be seen to have an improper advantage from confidential/privileged information they might have access to because of their official duties;
  • not use their official position or university resources for private personal gain or gain by others with whom the staff member has a relationship or personal association;
  • ensure that there can be no perception that they have received an improper benefit that may influence the performance of their official duties; and
  • not take improper advantage of their official position or confidential/privileged information gained in that position when seeking employment outside The University, or provide such advantage to others with whom they have an association.

5. Identifying a Conflict of Interest

Staff members must assess their private and personal interests and identify whether they conflict or have the potential to conflict with their official duties. 

A conflict of interest may include circumstances involving:

  • a conflict between the staff member’s obligations to the University and a competing interest, including conflicts between the duties to the University and obligations to other organisations;
  • favouring a personal financial interest over a duty to the University;
  • decisions based on personal relationships rather than the duty to act impartially; or
  • decisions based on the receipt of personal benefits.

The following table sets out a few examples of potential, perceived and actual conflicts of interest.

Private interest/ obligation

Potential conflict of interest

Perceived conflict of interest

Actual conflict of interest

A staff member has an interest in a business.

A staff member has an interest in a business that could compete with the University or provide goods and services to the University.

A staff member has an interest in a business that competes with the University or provides goods and services to the University.

A staff member assesses a tender submitted by a business in which the staff member has an interest.

A staff member has an interest in a business that sponsors research at the University.

A staff member has an interest in a business that sponsors research conducted by their department at the University.

A staff member negotiates the terms under which the intellectual property rights arising from research conducted by the University are to be sold, licensed or transferred to a business in which the staff member has an interest.

A staff member has outside work commitments.

A staff member has outside work commitments which may compromise their ability to perform their University duties.

A staff member has outside work commitments which involve frequent or prolonged absence from the University.

A staff member has outside work commitments which compromise the amount or quality of the staff member’s University activities.

A staff member has a personal relationship with a student or another employee of the University.

A staff member has a personal relationship with a student or employee or potential student or employee of the University who is within their Faculty, Institute, School, Centre or Division.

A staff member asks a person who is responsible for the academic administration or employment of a person with whom they have a personal relationship for information regarding that person.

A staff member is involved in a decision or tries to influence a decision regarding the academic administration or employment of a person with whom they have a personal relationship.

When considering whether a conflict of interest exists, a staff member should consider:

  • whether the action or activity is consistent with the principles outlined in the University’s Code of Conduct;
  • whether the action or activity is consistent with community values, standards and behaviours;
  • how the action might be viewed or perceived by other people; and
  • whether the relationship or interest might compromise an individual’s ability to exercise sound leadership or judgment.

6. Specific Obligations

6.1 Conflict of roles

Where individuals have more than one official role at the University or an official role in a different organisation, it may be difficult to keep their roles separate.

The University’s Outside Work and Business Interests for University Staff policy requires staff members to declare any conflicts of interest (including potential conflicts of interest) to their Head of the Faculty, Institute, School, Centre or Division.

Company directors and officers have particularly onerous obligations under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) which may affect a staff member’s ability to fulfil their duties to the University.  For this reason, the University’s Outside Work and Business Interests for University Staff policy requires staff members to obtain the prior written approval of the Vice-Chancellor before accepting a position as a director, secretary, public officer or executive officer of any company, whether or not the position is paid.

6.2 Private interests

A conflict of interest may be pecuniary or non-pecuniary and can arise from avoiding personal losses as well as gaining personal advantage.

The University’s Responsible Conduct of Research Policy requires researchers to make full disclosure of a conflict of interest or potential conflict of interest and the University’s Use of Required Text Books Written by Staff - Policy requires a staff member who is an author or co-author of a textbook to avoid a conflict of interest when choosing  the prescribed textbook for a course.

6.3 Personal relationships

Staff members should not be involved in decisions affecting the employment or academic administration of a person with whom the staff member has a current or previous personal relationship.

The University’s Code of Conduct requires staff members to notify their supervisor of any relevant conflict of interest or potential conflict of interest arising from a current or previous personal relationship and cease any decision making role in respect of the relevant student or staff member pending further direction from their supervisor.  The University’s Employment of Relatives and Other Close Associates Policy, Personal Relationships in the Workplace Policy and Assessment – Procedures contain similar obligations. 

6.4 Personal benefits

A conflict of interest may occur where a staff member receives a benefit which is, or may be perceived as, an incentive or inducement to perform or not to perform an official function or duty.

The University’s Reportable Gifts Policy requires staff members who receive a reportable gift to complete a Reportable Gift(s) Received Declaration within 14 days of the reportable gift being received or within 14 days of a series of gifts becoming a reportable gift.

7. Managing a Conflict of Interest

Effective management of conflicts of interest depends on the joint participation of staff, supervisors and the University. 

All conflicts of interest must be managed transparently.

7.1 Staff

Without limiting the specific obligations outlined above, where a staff member has a conflict of interest or a potential conflict of interest, the staff member should:

  • Declare the conflict of interest:
    1. in writing, to their supervisor using a Disclosure of a Conflict of Interest Form or
    2. where a conflict of interest arises during a meeting – verbally, which must be noted in the minutes of the meeting, and subsequently in writing to their supervisor using a Disclosure of a Conflict of Interest Form as soon as practicable after the meeting.
  • Withdraw from any deliberation or decision-making processes to which the conflict of interest may relate, unless otherwise directed by their supervisor, or in the case of a meeting the Chair.
  • If appropriate or required by their supervisor, develop a conflict of interest management strategy with their supervisor.

Where a staff member is unsure about whether they have a conflict of interest or a potential conflict of interest, they should seek advice from their supervisor in the first instance. If required the supervisor can seek further advice from the Custodian of this Policy, the Director Human Resources or the Director of the University’s Legal Office.

7.2 Supervisors

As well as complying with the policy themselves, supervisors are expected to facilitate compliance with the Policy by:

  • being aware of the risks of conflicts inherent in the work of the staff they manage;
  • making staff aware of this Policy and their responsibilities under this Policy;
  • recording any declared conflicts of interest on the conflict of interest register;
  • advising staff about appropriate ways to manage conflicts;
  • assisting staff who disclose conflicts to prepare management strategies and reviewing all conflict management strategies at regular intervals; and
  • take all reasonable steps to monitor the work of staff and the risks they are exposed to.

In consultation with the relevant staff member, a conflict of interest management strategy may require the supervisor to:

  • restrict a staff member’s involvement in the matter;
  • recruit a more senior employee or an independent third party to act as a probity adviser (to oversee and advise on any relevant decision-making processes) or as a probity auditor (to review any relevant decision-making processes);
  • remove a staff member from the matter;
  • request the staff member to relinquish any personal or private interests or to resign from any roles which are creating the conflict of interest;
  • where the conflict of interest cannot be mitigated or avoided in any other way – seek advice from the University’s Director of Human Resources  

Once a conflict of interest management strategy is developed, it must be:

  • signed by the staff member and their supervisor, added to the conflicts of interest register and stored on the staff member’s personnel file;
  • marked as confidential and restricted to those employees who need access for official purposes; and
  • reviewed annually at the time of the staff member’s performance review or on an as-needs basis.

7.3 The University

The University is responsible for:

  • building an organisational culture that supports supervisors and staff in the implementation of this Policy;
  • reviewing this Policy regularly;
  • receiving complaints regarding potential breaches of this Policy, investigating complaints and enforcing compliance with this Policy; and
  • reporting breaches to external agencies, where applicable.

In addition to discharging the above responsibilities, the Custodian of this Policy is responsible for:

  • providing a point of contact for any queries regarding the meaning or application of this Policy; and
  • ensuring that the communication strategy regarding this Policy is implemented and reviewed to assess effectiveness.

8. Conflict of Interest Register

It is the responsibility of the Head of the Faculty, Institute or member of the Vice Chancellor’s Committee to establish and maintain a conflict of interest register for all conflicts of interest within their portfolio area. 

The conflict of interest register will contain:

As the responsible owner of the register the Head of the Faculty, Institute or member of the Vice Chancellor's Committee can determine if the register is maintained at the Faculty, Institute or Portfolio level or at the School or Division level.

It remains the responsibility of the Head of the Faculty, Institute or member of the Vice Chancellor’s Committee that the register is maintained and that access to the register is restricted to those employees who need it for official purposes.

9. Privacy

Recording and reporting conflicts of interest or potential conflicts of interest may involve the collection, storage, use or disclosure of personal information.  Any personal information collected, stored, used or disclosed under this Policy will be handled according to the University’s Privacy Management Policy.

10. Failure to comply

A failure to comply with this Policy and the accompanying Procedures will constitute a breach of the University’s Code of Conduct and may be dealt with as misconduct or serious misconduct in accordance with the relevant clauses in the Enterprise Agreement.

A member of the University’s Senate who fails to disclose a conflict of interest in the exercise of their functions may be removed from office under provisions of the University of Queensland Act 1998 (Qld).

A breach of this Policy may be the subject of a report to external agencies such as the Queensland Audit Office or the Crime and Corruption Commission.

11. Conflicts of Interest in Research

Researchers have additional responsibilities under PPL policy 4.20.02 Responsible Conduct of Research. The policy outlines the underlying principles of the responsible conduct of research.

Custodians
Associate Director, Integrity and Investigations
Mr David Lavell

Procedures

Conflict of Interest - Procedures

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1.  Purpose and Objectives

These procedures outline the responsibilities of staff members with respect to conflicts of interest. These procedures outline the University’s processes for the identification and management of conflicts of interest.

2.  Definitions, Terms, Acronyms

Academic administration (including research administration) means any administrative aspect of a student’s enrolment in a program at the University including admission, enrolment and assessment.

Conflict of interest is a situation where an actual or a perceived conflict exists:

  • an actual conflict involves a direct conflict between a staff member’s duties and responsibilities to the University and a competing interest or obligation, whether personal or involving a third party.
  • a perceived conflict exists where it could reasonably be perceived, or give the appearance, that a competing interest could improperly influence the performance of a staff member’s duties and responsibilities to the University.
  • potential conflict of interest arises where a staff member has an interest or obligation, whether personal or involving a third party, that could conflict with the staff member’s duties and responsibilities to the University.

Staff means all officers and employees of the University, persons acting in an honorary or voluntary capacity for, or at, the University, and Senators of the University Senate.

Supervisor means the person to whom the staff member is principally responsible while working for the University or for Senators of the University Senate, the Chancellor or Deputy-Chancellor or a person elected to preside over a meeting of the University Senate under section 27(2) of the University of Queensland Act 1998 (Qld).

3.  Procedures Scope/Coverage

These procedures apply to all staff of the University.

It is an expectation of the University that contractors will also act in accordance with these procedures while undertaking work for or on behalf of the University.

Staff members are directed by the University to comply with the Conflict of Interest - Policy and these associated procedures.

4.  Procedures Statement

All staff members are responsible for considering, identifying, formally disclosing and managing conflicts of interest that apply to them.

5. Identifying a Conflict of Interest

Staff members must assess their private and personal interests and identify whether they conflict or have the potential to conflict with their official duties.

A conflict of interest may include circumstances involving:

  • a conflict between the staff member’s obligations to the University and a competing interest, including conflicts between the duties to the University and obligations to other organisations;
  • favouring a personal financial interest over a duty to the University;
  • decisions based on personal relationships rather than the duty to act impartially; or
  • decisions based on the receipt of personal benefits.

The following table sets out a few examples of potential, perceived and actual conflicts of interest.

Private interest/ obligation

Potential conflict of interest

Perceived conflict of interest

Actual conflict of interest

A staff member has an interest in a business.

A staff member has an interest in a business that could compete with the University or provide goods and services to the University.

A staff member has an interest in a business that competes with the University or provides goods and services to the University.

A staff member assesses a tender submitted by a business in which the staff member has an interest.

A staff member has an interest in a business that sponsors research at the University.

A staff member has an interest in a business that sponsors research conducted by their department at the University.

A staff member negotiates the terms under which the intellectual property rights arising from research conducted by the University are to be sold, licensed or transferred to a business in which the staff member has an interest.

A staff member has outside work commitments.

A staff member has outside work commitments which may compromise their ability to perform their University duties.

A staff member has outside work commitments which involve frequent or prolonged absence from the University.

A staff member has outside work commitments which compromise the amount or quality of the staff member’s University activities.

A staff member has a personal relationship with a student or another employee of the University.

A staff member has a personal relationship with a student or employee or potential student or employee of the University who is within their Faculty, Institute, School, Centre or Division.

A staff member asks a person who is responsible for the academic administration or employment of a person with whom they have a personal relationship for information regarding that person.

A staff member is involved in a decision or tries to influence a decision regarding the academic administration or employment of a person with whom they have a personal relationship.

When considering whether a conflict of interest exists, a staff member should consider:

  • whether the action or activity is consistent with the principles outlined in the University’s Code of Conduct;
  • whether the action or activity is consistent with community values, standards and behaviours;
  • how the action might be viewed or perceived by other people; and
  • whether the relationship or interest might compromise an individual’s ability to exercise sound leadership or judgment.

6.  Disclosing a Conflict of Interest

All staff members must complete and submit a Disclosure of a Conflict of Interest form to their relevant manager or supervisor, or other relevant person as soon as a Conflict of Interest is identified. Any conflicts that arise throughout the year must also be reported using the disclosure form.

Where circumstances prevent a written disclosure (e.g. conflict arising during a meeting), a verbal declaration should be made and, if possible, formally noted (e.g. in minutes of the meeting).

Where a manager or supervisor, or other relevant person or body becomes aware of a Conflict of Interest that has not been disclosed they should discuss the matter with the staff member and where relevant put in place a risk management strategy. The manager or supervisor may escalate as necessary.

Where circumstances affecting an existing or previously disclosed Conflict of Interest change, any formal disclosures should be amended accordingly or a fresh disclosure made, and the risk management strategy revised, as appropriate.

Where a Conflict of Interest relates to an ongoing matter, the strategy chosen for its management must be reviewed at regular intervals by the manager or supervisor who may escalate as necessary to ensure it remains appropriate.

7. Roles and Responsibilities

Effective management of conflicts of interest depends on the joint participation of staff, supervisors and the University. 

7.1 Staff

Without limiting the specific obligations outlined above, where a staff member has a conflict of interest or a potential conflict of interest, the staff member should:

  • Declare the conflict of interest:
    1. in writing, to their supervisor using a Disclosure of a Conflict of Interest Form or
    2. where a conflict of interest arises during a meeting – verbally, which must be noted in the minutes of the meeting, and subsequently in writing to their supervisor using a Disclosure of a Conflict of Interest Form as soon as practicable after the meeting.
  • Withdraw from any deliberation or decision-making processes to which the conflict of interest may relate, unless otherwise directed by their supervisor, or in the case of a meeting the Chair.
  • If appropriate or required by their supervisor, develop a conflict of interest management strategy with their supervisor.

Where a staff member is unsure about whether they have a conflict of interest or a potential conflict of interest, they should seek advice from their supervisor, the Custodian of this PPL entry or the University’s Legal Office.

7.2 Supervisors

As well as complying with the policy and procedures themselves, supervisors are expected to facilitate compliance with the Conflict of Interest policy and procedures by:

  • being aware of the risks of conflicts inherent in the work of the staff they manage;
  • making staff aware of this policy and procedures and their responsibilities under this policy and procedures;
  • recording any declared conflicts of interest on the conflict of interest register;
  • advising staff about appropriate ways to manage conflicts;
  • assisting staff who disclose conflicts to prepare management strategies and reviewing all conflict management strategies at regular intervals; and
  • take all reasonable steps to monitor the work of staff and the risks they are exposed to.

7.3 The University

The University is responsible for:

  • building an organisational culture that supports supervisors and staff in the implementation of this policy and procedures;
  • reviewing this policy and procedures regularly;
  • receiving complaints regarding potential breaches of the policy and procedures, investigating complaints and enforcing compliance with this policy and procedures; and
  • reporting breaches to external agencies, where applicable.

In addition to discharging the above responsibilities, the Custodian of this policy and procedures is responsible for:

  • providing a point of contact for any queries regarding the meaning or application of this policy and procedures; and
  • ensuring that the communication strategy regarding this policy and procedures is implemented and reviewed to assess effectiveness.

8. Risk Management Strategies for Dealing with Conflicts of Interest

Where it is not possible to avoid a Conflict of Interest, a risk management strategy should be adopted. Depending on the circumstance a range of risk management strategies can be implemented, including:

  1. appointing an independent third party as (i) probity advisor to oversee and provide advice on issues arising during the course of the activity or action; or (ii) as probity auditor to review the activity or action;
  2. replacing the individual by appointing another person or persons to a panel/committee/team;
  3. asking the individual to relinquish or quarantine the private interest;
  4. removing the individual from the decision making process or duties and leadership in regard to the matters to which the Conflict of Interest relates; or
  5. Individual abstention from debate and/or voting in committees/boards on matters relating to the Conflict of Interest.

9. Management of Conflicts of Interest

Once a Conflict of Interest is identified and the individual concerned has completed and submitted a Disclosure of a Conflict of Interest form, the manager/supervisor and staff member must devise an appropriate plan to resolve or manage the Conflict of Interest.

A Conflict of Interest management plan includes the following:

  • the nature of the staff member’s private interest;
  • the interest/s of the University with which the staff member’s private interest does or could conflict;
  • the likelihood of the interests actually coming into conflict; and
  • an outline of risk management strategies which will be implemented (reference Section 8).

Once a Conflict of Interest management plan is devised it must be:

  • signed by all parties and copies placed on the staff member's personnel file and on the Conflict of Interest Register;
  • reviewed annually at the time of the performance review or on an as needs basis.

10. Conflict of Interest Register

It is the responsibility of the Head of the Faculty, Institute or member of the Vice Chancellor’s Committee to establish and maintain a conflict of interest register for all conflicts of interest within their portfolio area. 

The conflict of interest register will contain:

As the responsible owner of the register the Head of the Faculty, Institute or member of the Vice Chancellor’s Committee can determine if the register is maintained at the School or Division level.

It remains the responsibility of the Head of the Faculty, Institute or member of the Vice Chancellor’s Committee that the register is maintained and that access to the register is restricted to those employees who need it for official purposes.

11. Privacy

Recording and reporting conflicts of interest or potential conflicts of interest may involve the collection, storage, use or disclosure of personal information. Any personal information collected, stored, used or disclosed under this Policy will be handled according to the University’s Privacy Management Policy.

Custodians
Associate Director, Integrity and Investigations
Mr David Lavell

Forms

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Conflict of Interest (Non-Research) Disclosure - Form

Conflict of Interest (Non-Research) Disclosure - Form

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Description: 

Staff should use this form as instructed in the Conflict of Interest policy and procedures.

Custodians
Associate Director, Integrity and Investigations
Mr David Lavell
Custodians
Associate Director, Integrity and Investigations
Mr David Lavell
Custodians
Associate Director, Integrity and Investigations
Mr David Lavell