Written by: Brett Lyndon – Pro Leaders Academy Pty Ltd
In the first part of this article, published in August we looked at what a Conflict of interest is. In this, Part Two of our series on Conflict of Interest, we will examine why a Conflict of Interest (COI) is bad.
A Conflict of Interest, as previously discussed, is a conflict between an individual’s personal interests and their professional interests. It may be seen to prejudice the required impartiality required of their position or function.
In today’s highly governed and more heavily scrutinised public service there is an ever-increasing focus and magnified attention on public servants ‘doing the right thing.’
This in turn results is an increasing requirement for Government Officials and decision makers to both display and abide by a Code of Ethics. The Values that prescribe how they conduct themselves in the workplace. This includes demonstrated fair and impartial treatment in all their business dealings.
It becomes obvious that a public servant with a COI might be tempted to favour their personal interest over their professional impartiality and potentially receive some form of personal gain or favour.
Therein lies the heart of the problem.
If an employee who hasn’t declared a COI, shows favouritism towards one business over another, to receive personal gain or favour, then our business dealings could all end up in the hands of those with the most money or able to pay the highest bribe, leading to the corruption of our public offices. Done just once could lead us to rival the corruption levels of other countries. Naturally not a situation we would like to see ourselves having to manage or be answering to.
On the flip side, where an interest is a matter of public record (documented or declared), we see less favouritism. Fairness and impartiality are generally restored because the official is aware of the increased scrutiny because of their disclosed conflict. In fact, I might even suggest that, where an official has disclosed a COI, they may be slightly biased against their personal interests to ensure a transparent and demonstrable process managing perceptions and process together.
COIs are not bad or negative, in fact I would go as far to say that the only negative COI is an undeclared COI, because you cannot manage what you do not know.
Join us next month when we consider the methods of managing conflicts of interest.