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Conflicts of Interest Policy

Category Administration and Management
Type Policy
Approved by Vice-Chancellor, 28 November 2006
Date Policy Took Effect 28 November 2006
Last Approved Revision 24 August 2020
Sponsor Chief Operating Officer
Responsible Officer Director of Risk Assurance and Compliance
Review Date 24 August 2025

Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to ensure staff members recognise, disclose, and manage any Conflict of Interest they may have, and act in a manner consistent with their responsibilities with the University.

Organisational Scope

This policy applies to:

  • all University of Otago staff members,
  • any independent contractors to the University, and
  • University Council members.

Definitions

Conflict of Interest
A Conflict of Interest is a perceived, potential, or actual conflict between the private or personal interests and the official responsibilities of someone in a position of trust.
A perceived or potential Conflict of Interest should be treated as a Conflict of Interest.
A Manager
means the appropriate manager of the relevant workplace including the head of school/department/service/teaching unit, a section head, a dean or a warden of a residential college.

Content

1. A Conflict of Interest (or potential Conflict of Interest) occurs when any of the following apply:

  1. A person is in a position to derive personal benefit from actions or decisions made in their official capacity.
  2. A person’s responsibilities are, or could be affected by some other personal, financial or academic interest or duty. This can include staff-staff or staff-student relationships as referenced in the Ethical Behaviour Policy, or family members or close friends benefiting from the official responsibilities undertaken by a person in their official capacity.
  3. A person’s activities outside their employment with the University lead, or could lead, to material benefit for the person concerned, either directly or indirectly, to the detriment, or potential detriment, of the University.
  4. A person’s activities interfere, or could interfere, with the fulfilment of their employment obligations.

2. The following principles guide how a Conflict of Interest should be identified and managed:

  1. At all times people acting on behalf of the University must behave and be seen to behave in an impartial and transparent manner.
  2. The existence of a perceived or potential Conflict of Interest does not necessarily imply wrongdoing on the part of any person. However, any interests which could give rise to a potential Conflict of Interest must be promptly disclosed and managed and documented, in accordance with this policy as though they were an actual Conflict of Interest.
  3. Members of the University community must consider how an impartial observer might reasonably perceive a potential Conflict of Interest situation or relationship, whether or not any wrongdoing is involved.
  4. Managers and supervisors need to be alert to situations in which they, or the people that they manage or supervise, may have a Conflict of Interest and ensure that the situation is recognised and handled appropriately.
  5. If a person has any doubt as to whether a potential Conflict of Interest exists, they must disclose the matter to their Manager.
  6. The Ethical Behaviour Policy applies in the event that a Conflict of Interest arises from a staff-staff or staff-student relationship (including a family relationship).
  7. Potential Conflict of Interest may raise complex issues. Staff members, and their Managers or supervisors must judge each situation that arises in a prudent manner.
  8. Disclosure of potential Conflict of Interest may involve disclosing personal information. This information must be handled with due regard to the privacy of all individuals concerned and in accordance with the Policy on Access to, and Use of, Personal Information.
  9. If a person has a potential Conflict of Interest in a matter under consideration, they must not take part in any discussion or decision on the matter giving rise to the conflict, unless the chair/relevant manager or supervisor decides otherwise.
  10. Where a person has a direct or indirect financial (excluding super funds managed by independent 3rd parties) interest in a matter being considered, they must not take part in any decision about the matter unless authorised to do so.
  11. Individuals who do not comply with the University requirements regarding the management of potential Conflict of Interest, as described in this policy, or other University policies or procedures, may be subject to disciplinary action.

3. Disclosure of Conflicts of Interest

  1. Conflict of Interest must be dealt with quickly and transparently.
  2. Council members and senior staff will be asked to disclose Conflict of Interest on a regular basis.
  3. Any person involved in a procurement process will be asked to disclose Conflict of Interest as part of the procurement process.
  4. Other Conflicts of Interest:
    1. Where a staff member considers a Conflict of Interest may exist, they must disclose this in writing to their manager.
    2. Where the manager determines that a Conflict of Interest exists, or is perceived to exist, the manager will acknowledge the Conflict of Interest and either:
      • Authorise the staff member in writing to continue in their current duties, or
      • Put in place additional processes to ensure the impartiality of the staff member in performing their duties and advise the staff member in writing of these processes, or
      • Re-organise the duties of the staff member to remove the Conflict of Interest and document the changes made, or
      • Report the matter to the Vice-Chancellor for determination of appropriate action.
  5. The record of the decision made in relation to a disclosed Conflict of Interest under this policy must be lodged in the Conflicts of Interest Register which is maintained by the Office of Risk Assurance and Compliance. The Manager is responsible for ensuring that the Conflict of Interest is recorded in the Conflicts of Interest Register and that the relevant divisional head is advised.

4. Common Forms of Conflict of Interest

The following tables outlines the most common forms of Conflict of Interest along with any additional approvals required (in the case of staff members only), or policies which should also be consulted.

Type Must be disclosed under this policy VC Approval Required Divisional Head Approval Required Additional Requirements Link to other policy
Ethical conflict with staff member’s professional code of conduct or code of professional ethics Yes No No Ethical Behaviour Policy
Commercial Appointments, i.e., Company Directorships, Partnerships or Advisory relationship to commercial organisations which do or could conduct business with the University Yes Yes Yes Must be reviewed every two years or whenever the commercial appointment is renewed.

Company Shareholding

An interest must be declared where a person (or close family member) has an interest in a company. This includes if they:

  • are the owner or controller of the company or business, or
  • have shares or other ownership in the company or business, or
  • their family trust has such shares in the company.
Yes No No Procurement Policy
Appointment to Public Boards, Professional Bodies or Professional Committees Yes No No
Appointment to Advisory Boards, Councils and Committees of other Tertiary Institutions Yes Yes Yes Outside Employment Policy (Academic Staff)

Provision of Teaching Services for other Institutions

Includes creation, delivery and/or examination of any paper taught at the University.

Yes Yes Yes Outside Employment Policy (Academic Staff)
Paid Outside Employment (Academic staff only) Yes Yes Yes Outside Employment Policy (Academic Staff)
Relationships with People or External Organisations Supplying Goods and Services to the University Yes No No Documentation relating to procurement of goods and services is maintained by the Procurement Office and conflicts of interest are permanently filed with the procurement files.

Acceptance of Gifts, Benefits and Gratuities Policy

Procurement Policy

Employment matters – Family Members (Relatives) and Personal Friends of Staff Members Yes No Yes Human Resource advisor must also be notified.

Disputes Procedure

In the event of a dispute relating to this policy arising between staff members and their Head of Department, either party may refer the matter to the Vice-Chancellor for review.

Related Policies, Procedures and Forms

Contact for Further Information

If you have any queries regarding the content of this policy or need further clarification, contact:

The Director of Risk
Assurance and Compliance
Email tracy.huntleigh-smith@otago.ac.nz