Human Resources

University Policy on Conflicts of Interest

Policy No.
UP12/32
Function
Human Resources
Authoring Organisational Unit
HR Services - Human Resources
Date Approved
03/12/2012 Revised 14/03/2017
Next Review Date
14/03/2019
Approving Body
Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor And Registrar

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The University of Western Australia

University Policy on: Conflicts of Interest

Purpose of the policy and summary of issues it addresses:

This policy defines the responsibilities of all employees to disclose personal or financial interests which may from time to time conflict with the interests of the University and/or other employees, and of supervisors to properly manage any disclosure made. This policy also outlines the requirement for:

1. Required staff of the University to complete an Annual Declaration of Interests form;

2. Relevant research staff to comply with the US Department of Health and Human Services Financial Conflicts of Interests Policy.

While it is not wrong or unethical to have a conflict of interest, failure to identify or appropriately manage any actual or perceived conflict of interest may be determined as misconduct or serious misconduct, resulting in possible disciplinary action or termination of employment.

Employees need to be aware of the various University policies, guidelines and codes of conduct referred to in this Policy which are relevant to conflicts of interest.

Where there is an inconsistency between the terms of this Policy and the US Department of Health and Human Services Financial Conflicts of Interests Policy the requirements of the latter prevails.

Definitions:

"CCM Act" means the Corruption Crime and Misconduct Act (WA) 2003.

" Centre" means a University Centre with transparent governance arrangements, business plans and an allocated budget as a Business Unit (BU).

"Close personal relationship" means a relationship between an employee and a relative, a financially dependent person, a close friend, a de facto partner or any person with whom there is currently, or has been, an intimate relationship. This does not include a working relationship which exists due to ordinary collegiate academic collaboration, where colleagues are not relatives, financially dependent, de facto or intimate partners.

"Direct or indirect supervisory role" means any manager who exercises an authorised delegation as prescribed in the University Delegations to influence or approve any decision making process regarding an employee.

"Employee" means a person employed by the University. For the purposes of this policy this will include Honorary and Adjunct appointments and contractors providing fees for service.

"Required staff" includes positions assessed by the Vice-Chancellor as warranting a declaration on the basis of potential conflict of interest, these positions include:

- All staff with a HEW Classification Level 10 or greater

- All Level E Academics

- All Financial Services Staff

- All HR Payroll staff

- Staff members nominated by the Faculty as warranting a declaration on the basis of actual, perceived or potential conflict of interest.

"Supervisor or manager" means the University person who is responsible for day-to-day supervision of the employee.

"University" means The University of Western Australia.

"US Department of Health and Human Services Financial Conflicts of Interest Policy" means the US Department of Health and Human Services, 42 CFR Part 50 & 45 CFR Part 94, Responsibility of Applicants for Promoting Objectivity in Research for which Public Health Service Funding is Sought and Responsible Prospective Contractors, Subpart F Promoting Objectivity in Research.

Policy statement:

1 Purpose of this Policy

The University Executive has a responsibility to provide a management framework which minimises and prevents the occurrence of fraud and corruption. This policy ensures that when conflicts of interest do arise, they will be identified and managed in an appropriate manner.

2 Conflict of Interest

2.1 A conflict of interest can be:

  • Actual, where a conflict actually exists;
  • Perceived, when a conflict is only believed to exist; and/or
  • Potential, when a conflict is a future possibility.

2.2 A conflict of interest is when there is, or appears to be, a conflict between performance as an employee and private or personal interests. The test is whether an independent observer may reasonably question the factors affecting decisions or actions of an employee, and not whether they have in fact affected the decision or action.

2.3 A conflict may also adversely affect an employee's ability to carry out their duties and responsibilities to the University because there is a perception that the employee is receiving more benefits than another due to the disparity of interests.

2.4 Employees are to actively avoid being placed in situations of actual or perceived conflict between the interests of the University and their own, or their family and friends', private or personal or interests.

2.5 At the time employees identify an actual or perceived conflict of interest, they must immediately declare the conflict to their supervisor as per the procedure outlined below.

2.6 All employees have a duty to immediately raise any concerns regarding a conflict of interest affecting another employee with their supervisor, or their supervisor's manager.

2.7 The Procedure Box below provides examples of conflicts of interest.

Actual or perceived conflicts of interest include but are not limited to:

* Acceptance of gifts of value, gratuities, grants or favours from individuals or organisations (such as students, prospective employees or suppliers);

* Use of confidential University information or assets for personal gain, or for the benefit of a person or organisation with whom the employee has a close personal, financial or non-financial relationship;

Employment

* Participation in any recruitment, promotion, reclassification, disciplinary action, performance management or grievance process with prospective or current employees (or has a direct or indirect supervisory role) with respect to another employee with whom they have, or had, a close personal relationship;

* Having paid or unpaid work that affects their ability to fulfil their duties and obligations as an employee of the University;

Assessments and Supervision

* Participation in the admission, supervision, assessment or examination of students with whom they have, or had, a close personal relationship;

Consultancy, Outside Employment and Appointments

*Consultancy or other employment arrangements for work other than with UWA which conflict with an employee's academic or administrative responsibilities or their duties or responsibilities as an employee of the University.

* Appointment to incorporated or unincorporated boards representing other interests to the University. Tensions can exist between acting in the interests for which the board exists and the interests of the University;

* The holding of directorships, being a partner or principal in any company which is not a charitable organisation, or business or entity dealing with their private affairs.

Research

* Holding an equity interest or executive position in a start-up company that has a contractual arrangement with the University to conduct further research;

* Chairing a committee, or participating in the decision making process responsible for allocating University funding or giving ethical approval for research at School, Faculty or University level;

*Conducting research or clinical trials sponsored by a company in which the employee (or an associate of the employee) has a financial interest or holds an executive position;

Business Transactions

* Participation in an invitation to tender or assessment of a tender where they have, or had, a close personal relationship with a person (or a financial or non-financial interest in an organisation) which has tendered to the University;

* Situations where an employee approves, or influences approval for, the purchase of goods or engagement of services from a firm, company or other business entity which the employee (or an individual with a close personal relationship with the employee) has an interest.

3 Disclosure

3.1 Unless identified and managed appropriately, any conflict may compromise or appear to compromise an employee's ability to make impartial business decisions, resulting in the benefit or disadvantage of an individual due to undisclosed influence. Disclosure and management of any conflict of interest forms part of the University's internal control systems to prevent allegations of corruption under the CCM Act.

3.2 The primary obligations of all employees are to disclose the potential conflict of interest in advance and to remove themselves from any discussion or activity involving the conflict.

3.3 Failure to disclose a conflict of interest is identified in the University Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct and may be determined as misconduct or serious misconduct as defined under relevant employment arrangements, resulting in possible disciplinary action or termination of employment. The failure may also constitute serious misconduct as defined in the CCM Act (refer to the Fraud and Corruption Policy). The University is bound by the CCM Act.

3.4 Required Staff

3.4.1 For the purposes of this policy, required staff includes positions assessed by the Vice-Chancellor as warranting an annual declaration on the basis of potential conflict of interest, these positions include:

  • All staff with a HEW Classification Level 10 or greater
  • All Level E Academics
  • All Financial Services Staff
  • All HR Payroll staff
  • Staff members nominated by the Faculty as warranting a declaration on the basis of actual, perceived or potential conflict of interest will still be required to complete an annual declaration.

3.4.2 An Annual Declaration of Interests form is to be completed on appointment, at the beginning of each calendar year and with any changes to that information over time.

3.4.3 The purpose of the Annual Declaration of Interests form is to establish a Record of Significant Interests held by relevant employees of the University and for effective management of the declared conflicts.

Required staff will be contacted on an annual basis and reminded of their obligation to complete an Annual Declaration of Interests form.

Staff members nominated by the Faculty as warranting a declaration on the basis of actual, perceived or potential conflict of interest will still be required to complete an annual declaration and this can be done by completing the link here.

Once the Annual Declaration of Interests has been completed and submitted by an employee, the form will be automatically sent to their direct supervisor for review. If any changes are required, the form will need to be amended and resubmitted.

Supervisors are able to seek technical advice from Risk and Legal on how to manage potential conflicts of interest.

All completed Annual Declaration of Interests forms and associated management plans, will be maintained electronically by Human Resources in TRIM as a record of significant interests. On an annual basis this will be collated and reported back to faculty senior management.

3.5 All Other Employees

3.5.1 Employees can be placed in a difficult position if they are aware of a conflict of interest affecting another employee which has not been declared or properly managed.

3.5.2 All employees have a duty to report any concerns regarding a conflict of interest affecting another employee. Any concerns would ordinarily be raised with their supervisor or supervisor's manager or, when appropriate, Director Human Resources or directly with the Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor. Guidelines on reporting concerns, including whistleblower protection by reporting to the University Public Interest Disclosure Officers, are included in the Fraud and Corruption Policy and associated Appendices.

4 Management of Disclosures

4.1 Management of any actual or perceived conflict disclosed by any employee (including within the Annual Declaration of Interests) is the responsibility of the supervisor or manager notified of the conflict, and will include consideration of whether it is appropriate for the employee to resume any discussions or activities that involve the conflict.

4.2 Supervisors or Managers who support a breach of this policy , or who have knowledge of a conflict and do not act promptly to correct it, may constitute misconduct or serious misconduct, resulting in possible disciplinary action or termination of employment.

4.3 If it is determined that a conflict of interest (actual or perceived) exists, the Pro Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean or Director (and the Vice-Chancellor in some cases) may transfer either party to a different work area to alleviate the situation.

4.4 Management Plans

4.4.1 When an actual or perceived conflict of interest has been identified within an Annual Declaration of Interests form or by disclosure of an employee to their supervisor, a management plan should be documented and agreed between the parties to resolve or manage the conflict of interest. If agreement is unable to be reached, the supervisor will determine the approach.

4.4.2 Any employee who is uncertain of the agreed management plan or whether any action on their part would contravene this policy should seek the advice of the Pro Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean, or the Director, Risk and Legal for required staff.

4.4.3 Following resolution or management of any conflicts disclosed in an Annual Declaration of Interests form, the management plan will be included on a confidential TRIM File in Human Resources accessible only to the submitting required staff member and their supervisor.

A management plan must include:

* Detail of the employee's personal interest

* Detail of the University's interest which could or does conflict with the employee's interests

* Potential of the interest becoming a conflict

* Actions agreed by the employee or supervisor's decision to avoid the conflict

* Discussions or activity the employee may continue to participate in, with approval of the supervisor.

5 Guidance for Managers and Supervisors

Further advice is available from various areas of the University, including:

5.1 Frequently Asked Questions

5.2 Governance

University Secretary

5.3 Directorships, partnerships and other business involvement

Risk and Legal

Business Compliance and Performance

5.4 Research activity, including researchers who are engaged in research funded by US agencies that require compliance with the US Department of Health and Human Services Financial Conflicts of Interest Policy

Director, Research Services

5.5 Business transactions including procurement and tenders

Financial Services

5.6 Employment

Human Resources

Related forms:

Annual Declaration of Interests Form

Frequently Asked Questions

TRIM File No:

F48880

Contact position:

Associate Director, Business Compliance and Performance

Related Policies or legislation:

Academic Staff Agreement

Professional & General Staff Agreement

UWA Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct

Professional and Consultative Work Policy

Professional and Personal Relationships in the Workplace Policy

Fraud and Corruption Policy

Fraud and Corruption Appendices

Legal Services: Directorships, Partnerships and Business Involvement

Guidelines on Research Ethics and Research Conduct

Guidelines on Public Comment by University Staff

Finance Manual : Conflicts of Interest in University Business Transactions

US Department of Health and Human Services Financial Conflicts of Interest Policy

Public sector resources on conflicts of interest and scenarios


Public sector resources on conflicts of interest

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