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Conflict of Interest procedure

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Section 1 - Preamble

(1) This Procedure is effective from 15 August 2019.

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Section 2 - Purpose

(2) The Procedure sets out the processes for staff to identifying, declaring, managing and recording conflicts of interest (COI).

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Section 3 - Scope

(3) This Procedure applies to all staff and associates.

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Section 4 - Policy

(4) This Procedure is pursuant to the Code of Conduct.

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Section 5 - Procedure

University expectations

(5) The University is committed to fostering a culture of honesty, responsibility, fairness and accountability and ethical behavior.

(6) The University must maintain integrity in decision-making and ensure the decision-making is free of influences, interests or relationships that conflict or give rise to the potential for or perception of a COI.

(7) As part of upholding these standards all staff and associates have a responsibility to identify and declare any COI at any time prior to or during their employment at or service to the University.

Types of conflicts of interest

(8) There are three categories of COI:

  1. Actual COI: An actual COI involves a direct or real 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;
  2. Potential COI: A potential COI arises where a staff member has an interest or obligation, whether personal or involving a third party, that has the capacity to develop into conflict with the staff member’s duties and responsibilities to the University;
  3. Perceived COI: A perceived COI exists where it could reasonably be perceived, or give the appearance, that a competing interest could improperly influence the staff member’s duties and responsibilities to the University.

Areas where conflicts of interest can arise

(9) Clause 12 provides examples of common situations and activities where a COI may arise or exist and the risk level associated with the COI. The risk level determines the way in which the University will assess and consider the COI identified and declared by the staff member.

(10) It is the responsibility of the staff member to identify any other situations not described in the table below which may constitute a COI and discuss this with their supervisor and/or HR Partner.

(11) Where a staff member is unsure as to whether they have a COI at any time prior to or during their employment, they should seek advice from their supervisor and/or HR Partner.

(12) Common examples of COI are:

Activities Description COI risk level
Personal relationship involving current or potential staff member
Where a personal relationship exists staff must not be involved in:
- the recruitment and appointment of a staff member (Refer to the Recruitment of Staff procedure)
- the supervision of the staff member
- the assessment in any other University process such as job evaluation, salary review, bonus awards, leave approvals, academic promotion, academic study leave etc.
Where a personal relationship exists the University will not permit staff to be employed in the same work area (other than in exceptional circumstances and as authorised under a COI Management Plan).
High
Personal relationships involving students (including higher degree by research (HDR) students)
Where a personal relationship exists staff must not be involved in:
- the supervision, teaching, assessment or being accountable for any decision in relation to any matter for a student
- accessing records of the students.
High
Outside employment (full time staff) A full time staff member may engage in outside employment where it is related to or required for professional accreditation.

Other than in exceptional circumstances, a full time staff member may not engage in any other type of outside work (other than approved memberships of Board or Directorships).
High
Membership of a Board, Directorships and Shareholdings
Holding a position as a Company Director, CEO or Board Member of another organisation.
There is no requirement to declare of COI where the involvement of the staff member is in a company incorporated solely for the staff member’s family affairs or where the staff member is undertaking a role in a coal not for profit community based organisation such as a sporting club or school
High
Research and/or commercial activity
Commercialisation of research and/or start-up companies relating to a staff member’s research.
Clinical trials, including the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data, sharing of results, choice or protocol, and the use of statistical methods (Refer to the Research Conduct policy).
Grant applications/funding.
High
Financial Management
Financial management, including the exercise of financial delegations.
Travel (Refer to the Travel policy and procedure).
Awarding of bonuses or contracts for services.
Procurement (Refer to the Procurement policy and procedure).
High
Administration
All student administration processes, including but not limited to awarding of scholarships, offers of enrolment, packing of examination papers, examination supervision and academic results.
Control of or access to privileged University information or resources.
High
Outside employment (casual or part-time staff) A casual or part-time staff member engaging in outside work where it does not impact their ability to perform their duties for the University. Low
Gifts and Benefits The receipt of gifts and/or benefits (Refer to the Gifts and Hospitality Acceptance policy). Low/High (depending on the quantum of the gift)
Honorary Appointments Honorary Appointments at other Universities. Low
Conjoint Appointments Conjoint Appointments with the University. Low

Identify and disclosure obligations

Staff

(13) As soon as a staff member becomes aware that they have a COI they should:

  1. remove themselves from the COI; and/or
  2. manage the COI in accordance with another University procedure, for example the Gifts and Hospitality Acceptance policy and/or
  3. advise their supervisor who will determine the required action to manage the COI (a Conflict of Interest Declaration is mandatory for all COIs identified in this Procedure as High Risk).

Universities Committees

(14) Members of University Committees must comply with Regulation 7.1(2) - Meetings.

Members of the Executive

(15) Executive members are annually required to disclose to the Vice-Chancellor any COI via the Key Management Person Declaration of Private Interest form, and to advise the Vice-Chancellor directly of any COI as they may arise.

Associates

(16) Where an associate of the University considers that they may have a COI with the duties they are undertaking for the University, they must immediately raise this with the person within the University who has engaged their services. The University contact will determine whether there is any COI in consultation with the University Solicitor and will advise the associate of the action to be taken to resolve the COI.

Declaration and recording of a conflict of interest

(17) Staff must declare a COI to their supervisor, where possible, prior to the COI arising and in all other circumstances as soon as practicable after becoming aware of it.

(18) Where the declared COI is identified as low risk in accordance with this Procedure, the COI should be recorded in the staff member’s annual DeakinAchieve Performance Plan and remain actively managed by the supervisor and the staff member.

(19) Where the declared COI is identified as high risk in accordance with this Procedure or COI not listed in this Procedure (other than in accordance with clause 20 below) the staff member must complete the online Conflict of Interest Declaration and submit this to their supervisor for endorsement. The COI Management Plan must be developed by the staff member in consultation with and agreed to by the supervisor of the staff member.

(20) Where the declared COI relates to the staff member’s existing or a potential position as a Company Director, CEO or Board Member of another organisation the staff member must complete the online Membership of a Company Board or Directorship Declaration and submit this to Executive Director, Human Resources or nominee for consideration by the Vice-Chancellor.

(21) At any time the staff member, associate or supervisor may seek advice in relation to the COI from their HR Partner. The HR Partner, may liaise with the University Solicitor, Internal Audit or any other area of the University as appropriate in relation to the disclosed COI.

(22) Staff undertaking research have additional responsibilities under the Research Conduct policy and the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, 2018 (the Code). Staff should contact the Deakin Research Integrity Office for advice regarding disclosures relating the research. Staff must ensure that they act in accordance with the Research Conduct policy and the Code including incorporating any additional requirements in the Conflict of Interest Declaration where appropriate.

Developing a COI Management Plan

(23) The COI Management Plan should identify actions to remove the existence of the COI or the staff member/s from situations where the COI exists. Examples of actions may include but are not limited to:

  1. rearranging the staff member and/or colleague’s work;
  2. having the staff member leave a meeting when the matter is to be discussed and/or decided;
  3. requesting or directing the staff member to take actions to remove the COI, such as relinquish a financial interest or cease outside employment.

(24) The management strategy must take into account a number of actors, including:

  1. the interests of the University, acknowledging that there are occasions where a COI will be mutually beneficial for the staff member and the University
  2. the nature of the conflict of interest
  3. the nature of the staff member’s engagement with the University (e.g. full time employee)
  4. the operating environment
  5. legal requirements and
  6. general practicality.

(25) Where the COI cannot be removed, appropriate actions need to be included in the COI Management Plan to ensure the impartiality of decisions or actions by the staff member.  Examples of checks and balances may include but are not limited to:

  1. counter-signing for approvals;
  2. scrutiny of decisions by a third party;
  3. additional levels of approval or authorisation required;
  4. decision-making authority is reduced;
  5. self-reporting by the staff member with the COI of steps taken to ensure impartiality;
  6. criterial set for decision making; and/or
  7. document of decisions against criteria set by a third party.

(26) The COI Management Plan should include how the COI Management Plan will be reviewed and the regularity of the reviews. At a minimum, this must be recorded and discussed as part of the staff member’s DeakinAchieve Plan.

Endorsement of the Conflict of Interest Declaration (non-Board appointments)

(27) The supervisor must submit via the online portal and endorsed Conflict of Interest Declaration with the completed COI Management Plan to the Executive Director, Human Resources or nominee.

(28) The Executive Director, Human Resources or nominee will review the Conflict of Interest Declaration and COI Management Plan and may do any of the following:

  1. request additional information from the staff member or the supervisor;
  2. consult with other areas of the University including the University Solicitor or Director Internal Audit;
  3. request amendments to the proposed COI Management Plan;
  4. determine whether this COI requires consideration and review by the Head of Organisational Area or relevant member of the Executive.

(29) Following further consultation in accordance with clause 28, if satisfied that the COI Management Plan adequately protects the interest of the University, endorse the proposal or not endorse the proposed COI Management Plan and advise the supervisor and the staff member in writing of the reason’s for their decision.

(30) If the Executive Director, Human Resources or nominee does not endorse the proposed COI Management Plan staff may request a review of the decision by the Vice-Chancellor or nominee.

(31) If the Executive Director, Human Resources or nominee approves the Conflict of Interest Declaration, an approval notification will be emailed to the staff member and their supervisor. The original record will be retained by the HRD.

Implementation of the COI Management Plan

(32) Staff are responsible for ensuring the COI Management Plan is implemented.

(33) The supervisor will assist with the implementation and is required to manage and monitor the COI Management Plan, unless otherwise noted in the COI Management Plan.

Endorsement of membership of company boards and directorship

(34) Staff must obtain the approval of the Vice-Chancellor where they intend to be a member of a board or hold the office of director in a company (other than board positions identified in clause 12).

(35) Staff must submit a Membership of a Company Board or Directorship Declaration to the Executive Director, Human Resources or nominee via the online portal. The application must contain the following details:

  1. the Legal name, ABN/ACN (if an Australian company), and trading address of the company;
  2. the country in which the company is incorporated;
  3. the business of the company;
  4. the potential benefit or risk to the University;
  5. membership of any other boards and whether they have been approved by the Vice-Chancellor; and
  6. the potential for conflict of interest (including any financial interest they or their family members may have in the company).

(36) The Executive Director, Human Resources or nominee will review the application and assess it in terms of the interests of the University. The Executive Director, Human Resources or nominee may required additional information from the staff member or other relevant sources. Upon reviewing the application the Executive Director, Human Resources or nominee will make a recommendation to the Vice-Chancellor regarding whether the application.

(37) The Vice-Chancellor will consider the application and the recommendation of the Executive Director, Human Resources and will:

  1. approve the Membership of a Company Board or Directorship; or
  2. approve the Membership of a Company Board or Directorship subject to certain conditions; or
  3. reject the application; or
  4. seek additional information.

(38) The Executive Director, Human Resources or nominee will advise the staff member and their supervisor in writing, including reasons for the decisions.

Conflicts of interest Register

(39) The Executive Director, Human Resources or nominee will establish and maintain a register of declared and approved COI for reporting purposes.

(40) This register may be accessed and reviewed by relevant University functions such as Internal Audit, Risk and Compliance, the University Solicitor or the Human Resources Division as required. At any time, the Executive Director, Human Resources may review any COI Management Plans to assess compliance.

Review on conflicts of interest

(41) New or existing COI’s must be recorded, reviewed and discussed as part of the staff member’s DeakinAchieve discussions. Whilst noting a COI in the DeakinAchieve is important, staff must still comply with the declaration requirements in this Procedure.

(42) Where the circumstances of the COI change, including where there is no longer of COI, the staff member must advise their supervisor. Changes to an existing COI require the staff member to submit a new Conflict of Interest Declaration for endorsement to their supervisor and obtain the relevant approvals. If the COI no longer exists, the staff member must request removal of the COI from the register via email.

Failure to declare a conflict of interest

(43) Staff who fail to declare a COI or breach the requirement of a COI Management Plan may be subject to disciplinary action in accordance with the Staff Discipline policy.

(44) All staff and associates of the University must report to their supervisor any concerns they have in relation to a COI that they have knowledge of that relates to another staff member or associate.

(45) Protected disclosures will be managed in accordance with the Protection of Persons from Detrimental Action procedure.

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Section 6 - Definitions

(46) For the purpose of this Procedure:

  1. associate: Contractors, consultants, volunteers, visiting appointees and visitors to the University.
  2. conflict of interest (COI): A conflict of interest exists when a staff member or associate (or anyone with a personal relationship with the staff member or associate) allows their financial, professional or personal interest, including any duty owed to another entity, to come into actual, potential or perceived conflict with the staff member or associate’s duties to the University. This includes but is not limited to a situation where the staff member, associate, or anyone with a personal relationship with the staff member is in a position to benefit personally, directly or indirectly as a results or conflict.
  3. Executive: staff members who report directly to the Vice-Chancellor, other than staff whose functions support administrative and related functions fo the Vice-chancellor’s office.
  4. Head of Organisational Unit: means the Vice-Chancellor, an Executive Dean, a member of the Executive, a Pro Vice-Chancellor, an Executive Director, a Director (including a Director of an Institute), University Librarian and University Solicitor.
  5. outside employment: work undertaken by a staff member for a person or organisation other than the University, for which the staff member receives some form of payment, recompense or other consideration from the person or other organisation. Outside work includes being a director of an external organisation.
  6. Personal relationship: includes immediate family (as defined in the Deakin University Enterprise Agreement 2017) and anyone else who is known to the staff member by reason or relations of similar status to marriage, sexual relationships, civil partners, business or financial relationships.
  7. staff member: a member of the Academic or Professional staff, Executive or Honorary staff member.
  8. University Body: University Council, the Academic Board, Faculty Boards, Institute Boards and their committees, and the University may from time to time establish.