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Conflicts of Interest Guidelines

Category Administration and Management
Type Guideline
Approved by Vice Chancellor, 27 March 2017
Date Guideline Took Effect 27 March 2017
Last Approved Revision
Sponsor Chief Operating Officer
Responsible Officer Chief Operating Officer
Review Date 27 March 2019

Purpose

The purpose of this guideline is to provide clear guidelines to assist staff members to recognise and avoid conflicts of interest in their employment with the University.

Organisational Scope

This guideline applies to all staff of the University of Otago and all staff in controlled entities of the University of Otago.

Definitions

Relative

For the purposes of this policy relatives include one’s partner or spouse; siblings (including in-laws); children, stepchildren or grandchildren; parents, step-parents, parents-in-law or grandparents; and aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews. More distant family members may or may not fall within the definition depending on whether a significant relationship exists with the person in question and/or whether a conflict of interest might be perceived to exist on the basis of the familial relationship.

Personal Friend

For the purposes of this policy a person with whom a staff member has a significant and positive personal relationship, which normally, but not always, includes association outside of the University environment.

Policy Content

1. Discharge of Duties as a Professional
(a) If staff members are requested to undertake duties or are given instructions that could cause conflict with the code of conduct or code of ethics of their profession, then the staff member should make this conflict known to their supervisor.

(b) Company Directorships and Commercial Relationships

(i) Staff should seek approval from the Vice-Chancellor when they wish to accept directorships of any public or private companies including University spin-out companies, or to become partners or principals in commercial firms or partnerships, or to be retained as advisers to commercial organisations (that could or do conduct business with the University).

(ii) Approval will not be unreasonably withheld if the Vice-Chancellor is satisfied that the appointment will not conflict with the staff member’s employment commitments or the University’s wider interests.

(iii) Permission to hold such positions will be reviewed every two years or whenever the commercial appointment is renewed or reviewed, whichever comes first.

(c) Appointment to Public Boards, Professional Bodies or Professional Committees

(i) Staff accepting appointment, whether paid or unpaid, to any public board, professional body or professional committee should inform their Head of Department .

(ii) If it is possible that the appointment could impinge on their employment commitments, approval should be sought from the Head of Department in advance of acceptance.

(iii) If the duties of the appointment increase after approval is received, the appointment should be reviewed with the Head of Department. (Cost Centre Head or Divisional Head in the case of staff in non-academic divisions)

(d) Appointment to Advisory Boards, Councils and Committees of other Tertiary Institutions

(i) In the interests of maintaining close links between the University and other tertiary institutions, the Vice-Chancellor may grant permission for staff members to advise, become members of the Council of, or hold paid or unpaid positions in, other tertiary institutions.

(ii) Staff must seek the Vice-Chancellor’s approval before accepting such appointments.

(e) Teaching Services for other Institutions

(i) Staff who are responsible for the creation, delivery and/or examination of any paper taught at the University should not give tuition in the same subject for another education provider (excluding research supervision)

(ii) If an agreement has been entered into between the University and that education provider or the Vice-Chancellor has given approval this will provide an exception to this provision.

(iii) Examination and assessment duties, together with arrangements approved by the University in connection with university duties overseas, are exempt from this provision.

 

2. Paid Outside Employment (For more detailed information refer to the Outside Employment Policy (Academic Staff) for more details)

(i) As a general rule full-time members of staff should not undertake any outside paid employment except with the consent of the Vice-Chancellor, through the appropriate Divisional Head and Head of Department.

(ii) Such consent will not be unreasonably withheld.

(iii) The outside employment should not impact on the performance of the staff member’s duties or conflict with the aims and objectives of the University.

 

3. Relationships with External Organisations Supplying Goods and Services to the University

(a) (i) Staff who are in a position to influence any decision relating to the supply of goods and services to the University shall notify their Head of Department if they, directly or indirectly, hold any financial or other interest in an external organisation negotiating with the University for the supply of goods or services.

(ii) Similarly, staff shall not recommend to the University an external organisation as a potential supplier without disclosing any interest held.

(b) (i) Staff shall not personally accept inducements or gifts from actual or potential suppliers of goods and services to the University. (For more detailed information refer to the Policy entitled “Acceptance of Gifts, Benefits and Gratuities Policy”)

(ii) This should not preclude staff from attending relevant professional development / training opportunities provided by suppliers, contractors and consultants if the Head of Department deems it relevant and is not during a procurement process.

(iii) However, it is essential that any related costs such as travel to the event is borne by the University and other enticements to attend are not accepted.

(c) Staff shall not use confidential information relating to the University acquired during their employment to help any potential supplier of goods and services to the University achieve advantage over other potential suppliers.

 

4. Family Members (Relatives) and Personal Friends of Staff Members

(a) All applications for vacant positions in the University must be considered in accordance with the principle that all University appointments shall be made solely on merit.

(b) Where a relative or personal friend of a staff member applies for a position at the University and that staff member has recruitment authority or could influence the appointment, the staff member shall declare their interest and take no further part in the recruitment process.

(c) Reporting lines involving relatives or personal friends must be managed to eliminate or mitigate potential conflicts of interest.

(d) Staff members must not be involved in professional goal-setting, promotion, advancement, salary review or performance review processes associated with a relative or peronal friend.

(e) A staff member who is in a position to influence the management or promotion of another staff member who is a relative or personal friend must disclose this to their Head of Department, who will take steps to ensure that no conflict of interest arises.

(f) A staff member in a position to supervise or assess the academic performance of a student who is a relative or personal friend must disclose the situation to their Head of Department, who will take steps to ensure that no conflict of interest arises.

(g) Where a staff member is unsure if a person should be considered a relative or personal friend with regards to the restrictions in clauses 3(b)-(f), they must discuss this with their line manager.

(h) A line manager who is made aware of a conflict of interest relating to a relative or personal friend must determine, in consultation with their relevant PVC, DVC or the COO, and their Human Resource advisor, the appropriate response and the best means of managing the conflict.

 

5. Requirements of Disclosure
(a) Where a staff member considers a conflict of interest may exist, they should disclose this in writing to their Head of Department.

(b) Where the Head of Department determines that a conflict of interest exists, or is perceived to exist, the Head of Department will acknowledge the conflict of interest and either:
(i) authorise the staff member in writing to continue in their current duties; or
(ii) put in place additional processes to ensure the impartiality of the staff member in performing their duties; or
(iii) re-organise the duties of the staff member to remove the conflict of interest; or
(iv) report the matter to the Vice-Chancellor for determination of appropriate action.

(c) All documentation relating to disclosure under this policy should be filed in the personal file of the staff member held by Human Resources.



6. 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

Conflicts of Interest Policy
Ethical Behaviour Policy
Outside Employment Policy (Academic Staff)
Procurement Procedure
Acceptance of Gifts, Benefits and Gratuities Policy

Contact for Further Information

If you have any queries regarding the content of this policy or need further clarification, contact the Chief Operating Officer at coo@otago.ac.nz