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Conflict of Interest procedure

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Section 1 - Preamble

(1) This Procedure is effective from 5 September 2017.

(2) This Procedure includes the following schedule:

  1. Schedule A: Guidelines for developing a COI Management Plan.
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Section 2 - Purpose

(3) The Procedure sets out the processes for staff to identify, declare, manage and report conflicts of interest.

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Section 3 - Scope

(4) This Procedure applies to all staff and associates of the University.

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Section 4 - Policy

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

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Section 5 - Procedure

(6) The University promotes, through the Code of Conduct and other policies, an environment that is based on ethical behaviour, and founded on standards of honesty, responsibility, fairness and accountability, to maintain the integrity of its decision-making processes.

Ethical conduct: duty to avoid a conflict of interest

(7) The University's Code of Conduct requires staff to avoid conflicts of interest (COI) and where a COI arises, to manage the conflict appropriately in accordance with this Procedure.

(8) Staff must ensure they:

  1. do not deliberately or inadvertently create or facilitate an actual, potential or perceived COI between their financial, professional or personal interests and the interests of the University;
  2. attempt to avoid any situation that affects, or could affect, their independent, unbiased judgement in the discharge of their duties to the University;
  3. excuse themselves from making any decision relating to University business when they are aware of circumstances that might reasonably cause their impartiality to be questioned;
  4. advise their supervisor of any concerns they have in relation to an actual, potential or perceived COI that they have knowledge of that relates to another staff member or an associate; and
  5. seek advice from their supervisor about whether to declare an actual, potential or perceived COI, in circumstances where they are unclear, uncertain or there is doubt about whether a declaration is required.

Identifying a conflict of interest

(9) Staff are required to assess their financial, professional and personal interests and identify whether they conflict, have the potential to conflict or could be perceived to conflict with their University duties.

(10) In determining whether a COI exists staff should consider:

  1. whether the action or activity is consistent with the principles outlined in the University's Code of Conduct;
  2. whether the action or activity is consistent with community values, standards and behaviours;
  3. whether the action or activity has an effect on the ability to discharge an individual’s work duties;
  4. how the action might be viewed or perceived by a reasonable, disinterested person; and
  5. whether the relationship or interest might compromise an individual's ability to exercise sound leadership or judgment.

Areas where conflicts of interest can arise

(11) Situations where a real, potential or perceived COI could exist include, but are not limited to, the following activities:

  1. Outside employment and additional work
    1. A staff member engaging in outside employment, activities or practice, including as a member of a board or holding the office of a director in a company (other than those excluded in clause 32 of this Procedure).
  2. Relationships with students
    1. A staff member or associate supervising, assessing, or being accountable for any decision in relation to any matters for a student where they have, or have had a personal, financial or otherwise significant relationship with the student.
  3. Research
    1. Commercialisation of research.
    2. Clinical trials, including the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data, sharing of results, choice of protocol, and the use of statistical methods (Refer to the Research Conduct policy).
    3. Grant applications.
  4. Administration
    1. All student administration processes, including but not limited to awarding of scholarships, offers of enrolment, packing of examination papers, examination supervision and academic results.
    2. Control of or access to privileged University information or resources.
  5. Employment matters
    1. Recruitment and selection of staff (Refer to the Recruitment of Staff procedure).
    2. Supervision of staff.
    3. Additional appointments within the University.
    4. Academic promotion and study leave applications (Refer to the Academic Promotion policy and procedure and the Academic Study Program procedure).
    5. Provision of an employment or character reference (Refer to the Guidelines for Employment and Character References).
  6. Financial management
    1. Financial management, including the exercise of financial delegations.
    2. Travel (Refer to the Travel policy and procedure)
    3. Awarding of bonuses or contracts for services.
    4. Procurement (Refer to the Procurement policy and procedure).
  7. Dual interests
    1. Holding a position as a Company Director, CEO or Board Member of another organisation.
    2. Honorary appointments at other Universities.
  8. Gifts and benefits
    1. The receipt of gifts and/or benefits (Refer to the Gifts and Hospitality Acceptance policy).

Declaration of a conflict of interest (including Outside Employment)

(12) The University acknowledges staff may engage in a range of external activities that the University considers to be in the public interest and of benefit to the University and individuals involved. Staff must declare a COI to their supervisor as soon as practicable after becoming aware of it. In circumstances where a full time staff member is seeking approval to engage in outside employment, the COI must be declared prior to the commencement of the outside employment.

(13) If an actual, potential or perceived COI exists, the staff member must complete parts 1, 2 and 4 of the Conflict of Interest Declaration Form (the COI Form) and submit this to their supervisor providing sufficient detail to enable the supervisor to develop an effective COI Management Plan (part 3 of the COI Form).

(14) The staff member or supervisor may seek advice in relation to the COI and completing the COI Form from the Manager, Workplace Relations, Human Resources Division. The Manager, Workplace Relations, may liaise with the University Solicitor, Internal Audit or any other area of the University as appropriate to support the staff member or supervisor in relation to the disclosed COI.

(15) Where the staff member is unable or unwilling to declare the details of the COI due to professional requirements, a confidentiality agreement or for personal reasons, the existence of the conflict must be declared to their supervisor and may be managed by withdrawal from the situation.

(16) Staff undertaking research have additional responsibilities under the Research Conduct policy and the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (the Code). Staff should contact the Deakin Research Integrity for advice regarding disclosures relating to research. Staff must ensure that they act in accordance with the Research Conduct policy and the Code including incorporating any additional requirements in the COI Form where appropriate.

(17) Executive members are required to disclose any COI at the first executive meeting of each year by completing the COI Form and providing this to the Executive Director, Human Resources. This requirement does not detract from the Executive member's responsibility to disclose any new COI as they may arise.

(18) If a staff member is seeking to hold a position on a company board (excluding a board role in a company incorporated solely for the staff member's family affairs or a role in a local not for profit community based organisation such as a sporting club or school), they must follow the processes set out in clauses 32-36 of this Procedure.

(19) The supervisor will complete the COI Form, including the COI Management Plan, in consultation with the staff member. To assist with preparing the COI Management Plan, supervisors should refer to Schedule A - Guidelines for developing a COI Management Plan.

(20) Where a conflict arises in a matter before a University Body, the staff member who is a member of a University Body and who has an interest in the matter, must ensure that they follow the requirements set out in clauses 3-6 of Regulation 7.1(2) - Meetings for declaring the interest.

Endorsement of the COI Form (including the COI Management Plan)

(21) The supervisor must submit the COI Form with the completed COI Management Plan to the Head of Organisational Unit.

(22) The Head of Organisational Unit may seek advice on the proposed COI Management Plan from the Manager, Workplace Relations.

(23) If the Head of Organisational Unit is satisfied that the COI Form, including the COI Management Plan, adequately protects the interests of the University, the Head of Organisational Unit will endorse the proposal and provide it to the Executive Director, Human Resources for approval, as per the requirements of the COI Form.

(24) If the Head of Organisational Unit does not endorse the proposed COI Management Plan they will advise the supervisor and the staff member in writing and will provide the reason/s for their decision. The Head of Organisation Unit will advise the staff member and the supervisor of the action that the University requires the staff member to take to avoid any COI. Staff may request a review of the decision of the Head of Organisational Unit by the Executive Director, Human Resources.

Approval of the COI Form (including the COI Management Plan)

(25) The Executive Director, Human Resources will review the COI Form, including the COI Management Plan, and determine whether the plan adequately manages the COI. The Executive Director, Human Resources may require additional information or further changes to be made to the plan prior to its approval.

(26) If the Executive Director, Human Resources approves the COI Form, a signed copy will be emailed to the staff member, their supervisor and the Head of the Organisational Unit. The original record will be retained by Human Resources Division.

Implementation of the COI Management Plan

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

(28) 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.

Review of conflicts of interest

(29) For staff, new or existing COI’s will be reviewed and noted as part of the annual PPR process. Whilst noting a COI in the PPR is important, staff must still comply with the declaration requirements in this Procedure.

(30) Where the circumstances of the COI change, including where there is no longer a COI, the staff member must advise their supervisor. The supervisor will advise their staff member whether they are required to:

  1. confirm in writing that there is no longer a COI and provide this to the Head of Organisational Unit; or
  2. update their COI Form and submit this to the Head of Organisational Unit.

(31) The Head of Organisational Unit must advise the Executive Director, Human Resources of any amendments to the COI Form.

Membership of company boards and directorship

(32) Staff must seek the permission of the Vice-Chancellor where they intend to be a member of a board or hold the office of director in a company. This permission is not required 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 local not for profit community based organisation such as a sporting club or school.

(33) Staff who wish to apply to the Vice-Chancellor to become a member of a board or hold the office of Company Director must apply to the Executive Director, Human Resources requesting the Vice-Chancellor's approval. 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; and
  5. the potential for conflict of interest (including any financial interest they or their family members may have in the company).

(34) 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 require additional information from the staff member. Upon reviewing the application the Executive Director, Human Resources or nominee will make a recommendation to the Vice-Chancellor regarding whether the application should be approved or not.

(35) Where an application is approved by the Vice-Chancellor, the Executive Director, Human Resources or nominee will advise the staff member and their supervisor in writing and will include this on the COI register in accordance with clause 37 of this Procedure.

(36) If an application is not approved, the Executive Director, Human Resources or nominee will advise the staff member and their supervisor in writing, including reasons for the decision.

Conflicts of interest Register

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

(38) This register will be reviewed by the Executive Director, Human Resources on an annual basis and may be accessed and reviewed by Internal Audit as required. At any time, the Executive Director, Human Resources may review any COI Management Plans to assess compliance.

Failure to declare a conflict of interest

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

Conflicts of interest for associates of the University

(40) Where an associate of the University considers that they may have a COI, they may have the potential to have a COI or could be perceived to 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 conflict of interest in consultation with the Manager, Workplace Relations and will advise the associate of the action to be taken to resolve the COI.

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Section 6 - Definitions

(41) 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 a family member or friend of a staff member or associate) allows his or her 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, family member or friend is in a position to benefit personally, directly or indirectly as a result of the conflict.
  3. Executive: staff members who report directly to the Vice-Chancellor, other than staff whose functions support administrative and related functions of the Vice-Chancellor's office.
  4. family member: includes immediate family (as defined in the Deakin University Enterprise Agreement 2017 and anyone else who is known to have been or is related to the staff member or associate.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. staff member: a member of the Academic or Professional staff or an Honorary appointee.
  8. University Body: University Council, the Academic Board, Faculty Boards, Institute Boards and their committees, and such other boards and committees as the University may from time to time establish.