Written by: Brett Lyndon – Pro Leaders Academy Pty Ltd
Pro Leaders Academy Facilitator, Brett Lyndon will take you through a 3-part series looking deeper into the area of Conflict of Interest, its implications and what steps you can take in order to do the right thing.
Part 1 – What does Conflict of interest mean?
The more I talk to people regarding Conflict of Interest (COI) the more I realise just how many people do not fully understand it. Within a Government context, Conflict of Interest is a significant factor and individuals are expected to understand COI and declare any conflicts they have.
Yet, many people are not able to describe what COI is or the potential impacts or ramifications. Generally, most people I speak with believe that a COI can end careers and they are certainly correct in that belief.
The challenge lies in the detail – we know we must ‘declare a conflict of interest’ but what are we declaring and why?
Let me take you through the detail and throw some light over this challenging area.
Simply stated a Conflict of Interests is exactly that. It is a conflict between your interest. Typically, this will be a conflict between your professional interests and your personal interest.
The Australian Department of Finance provides the following description contained within their published guidance document ‘Ethics and Probity in Procurement’:
“A conflict of interest arises where an official, an adviser or a supplier has an affiliation or interest that might prejudice, or be seen to prejudice, his or her impartiality.”
Most people see this as a family or private business concern that conflict with your professional life.
- A family or close friend applying for a position at your company with you conducting interviews of all potential recruits.
- A company that you hold shares in attempting to win work with the company you work for and you have decision making power in relation to the contract award.
- Perhaps a company that you left on bad terms is now seeking to engage with your current employer in a matter that you have sway over.
- Receiving sponsorship/hospitality/gifts from a company that you are, or may at some future date be, in contract with – note that is not a misspelling of the word contact– in CONTRACT with….
When considering if COI exists, we also need to keep in mind that there are three types of COI:
- Real, where the COI is clear cut and obviously exists,
- Potential, where the COI does not currently exist but could if the right circumstance occurs, &
- Perceived, where no real COI exists but others see it differently.
As can be seen from the examples above, COI may not be straight forward, and you might have additional questions or seek advice to help identify and manage the issue.
That’s COI – and whilst this is often only seriously discussed in the public sector, it is to be noted that COI is an area that relates to all businesses and organisations, public or private sectors – we all need to do the right thing!
Join this thread next month as Brett explores Part 2 – Why is a Conflict of Interest perceived as a negative?