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Western Australia's association for gifted support, advocacy and resources

CONFLICT OF INTEREST POLICY 

POLICY STATEMENT

It is recognised that almost all functions performed at Gifted WA potentially lead to a conflict of interest situation.

It is Gifted WA’s policy to be proactive in identifying potential conflicts of interest situations and to manage them in an ethical, transparent manner, capable of review.

DEFINITION

In the volunteer association context as Gifted WA is, a conflict of interest involves a conflict between a person’s duty as a committee member and their personal or private interests.

Conflicts of interest can be perceived or potential.

The perception that a committee member’s private interests could improperly influence their committee responsibility is as important to identify as an actual conflict of interest. This is because public confidence in the integrity of the Gifted WA is vital.

A potential conflict of interest arises when a committee member has private interests that could conflict with their official duties at Gifted WA.

Conflicts of interest can occur quite frequently and are not necessarily unethical or wrong. However, it is how they are identified and managed that is important. If conflict of interest situations are not properly identified and managed, they can endanger the integrity of Gifted WA

It is not misconduct to have a conflict of interest but when committee members use their official positions/authority for personal gain or benefit (or for the benefit of friends or relatives) then they have acted improperly and possibly corruptly.

TYPES OF CONFLICT OF INTEREST

Financial or material conflicts of interest arise where a committee member could generate a financial benefit from their official duties either for themselves or for someone with whom they are closely associated. If a family member, spouse or close associate is the one that receives the benefit then the committee member is considered to have a conflict of interest. The benefit does not need to be an immediate one but can involve a future financial gain.

Non-financial conflicts of interest arise where committee members have a tendency toward favour or prejudice arising from a personal involvement, relationship, obligation, value or attitude that could impact on how they carry out their role as a committee member.

MANAGING CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

  • Management of conflicts of interest is an ongoing process in three broad stages:

  1. identify and assess the situation and surrounding circumstances, including the private interests of the person affected to determine:
    a.     whether a conflict between an officer’s public and private interests exist
    b.     that it is significantly motivating to require further investigation
  2. manage the formal reporting or disclosing of the potential conflict, recording that disclosure and adopting an appropriate procedure to address the real or perceived conflict of interest, if required
  3. monitor the implementation, record progress/outcomes and review the effectiveness/appropriateness of the management plan.
  • Gifted WA has determined that in seeking to obtain the best possible balance of people for its committees and panels, it is essential to seek the services and advice of practising teachers, psychologists, researchers, occupational therapists and other expert educators. With this determination comes the need to avoid or reduce the likelihood that conflict of interest might be seen to interfere with a person’s work in these roles or that it may be used to prejudice the high public standing of their activities.

    An assessment of a conflict of interest situation includes a determination of: 

    • the nature of the matter that has given rise to a possible conflict e.g. potential partiality or role conflict in a selection process
    • compliance with Gifted WA, policies and codes of conduct
    • the level of conflict between the committee member’s responsibility and the private interests of those involved.

Individuals, in disclosing their conflict should reflect on the following questions:

 

Private interest – is there a private interest in this specific situation? Could I be influenced by this interest, or could I appear to be influenced by this interest?

Potential benefits – could the matter result in a benefit to me, or someone important to me – both immediately and in the future? Could that benefit throw doubt on my objectivity?

Perception – would a neutral person think that my private interests could conflict with my committee member responsibility? Are there perceived risks for me and/or Gifted WA?

Proportionality – does my involvement appear fair and reasonable? Does it enable me to act and be seen to act in a fair, impartial and objective manner? Is it consistent with policy?

Public scrutiny test – could I defend/justify my involvement if questioned publicly? What might the consequences of my involvement be for me, others, colleagues, Gifted WA and the public? 

Promises and obligations – have I made any promises or commitments in relation to the matter? Do I have affiliations past or present that place me under an obligation?

There is no one set response or right way to manage conflicts of interest and the choice of management strategy will depend very much on the nature and severity/seriousness of the conflict and the circumstances of the situation.

The following six responses are hierarchical in that they reflect a response to an increasing level of complexity and seriousness in a conflict of interest situation:

Register – involves a formal process of recording disclosures of a conflict of interest in a register or in some other manner, e.g. minutes, committee meeting decisions or records, etc.

Restrict – is where limits are placed on the extent of the committee member’s involvement. This strategy is useful for one-off situations where the conflict is not ongoing and in matters where it is possible to separate parts of the activity involved.

Recruit – refers to involving an objective third party who oversees part or all of the process. This strategy is useful where it is not possible to restrict the involvement because either the person is the only one available or the only one with skills and knowledge.

Remove – this strategy is used in more serious situations and involves the person withdrawing from all involvement in the matter.

Relinquish – it could be easier or preferable for the person to relinquish the personal interest that is impacting on their capacity to carry out their role on the committee but as a volunteer its more likely they would give up their committee member role. Relinquishment will not always be appropriate or even feasible and the rights of the individual need to be respected.

Resign – resigning from one’s committee member role is clearly a very extreme intervention but may be the only option in serious situations that are likely to be ongoing and when the person cannot or will not relinquish the private interest involved.

IMPLICATIONS OF NOT MANAGING CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

Poorly managed conflicts of interest can undermine stakeholder and public confidence in individuals. Loss of confidence in the honesty of the elected committee can increase complaints, as people are more likely to think the worst and not trust the information that they are given. As stakeholders become more hostile, less cooperative and question more, valuable volunteer resources are taken up away from Gifted WA's core business whilst dealing with other issues

BREACH OF CONFLICT OF INTEREST

Where a potential breach has been identified, the matter is investigated. The role of the Chairperson is to ensure confidentiality and natural justice is observed and decisions are impartial, transparent, and capable of review.

If a breach has been proven, disciplinary action may be taken




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