Identifying and managing conflicts of interest

Information to help authorities work with public officers to identify, declare and manage conflicts of interest

Identifying and appropriately managing conflicts of interest help protect the public interest and ensure impartiality and integrity in decision making.

Identifying and disclosing 

Primary responsibility for identifying conflicts of interest in a timely manner rests with the officer concerned. They have full knowledge of the interest and are best positioned to identify its connection to their work.

Seek advice, ensure transparency

Situations relating to conflicts of interest may not always be clear. Officers should be encouraged to discuss their personal interest with their manager/board chair or seek advice to help them identify whether a conflict of interest may exist.

Authorities can support disclosure by reinforcing an open and transparent approach in policy, as part of education and through managerial discussions. Conflicts of Interest Quick Reference Guide for Managers has more information about the role of managers in supporting their staff to identify, declare and manage conflicts of interest.

While there is no one right way to identify every situation, the 6Ps are a good starting point to help officers consider if a conflict exists.

Manage all conflicts

Once a conflict of interest is identified, it needs to be assessed and managed regardless of whether it is perceived, potential or actual. A perceived conflict of interest that is poorly managed can be just as damaging as an actual conflict of interest.

Assess the risks

The seriousness of a conflict of interest and the types of risks it gives rise to vary depending on the nature and extent of the conflict and the officer’s role and responsibilities.

Managing a conflict of interest involves identifying the risks it presents, assessing the likelihood and consequences of these risks, and taking appropriate and proportionate actions to minimise or remove the risks.

Strategies to manage the risks should be able to withstand public scrutiny.

Some public authorities may be subject to specific legal requirements applying to how conflicts are to be identified and managed.

Record how risks are managed

Management strategies should be documented (for example, in a management plan) and include the rationale for choosing a particular strategy to manage the risk.

Plans should be monitored to ensure strategies are being implemented. Monitoring is usually by the manager/board chair with the officer responsible for advising them of any changes in circumstances that impact the strategy, for example that a conflict has moved from potential to actual.

The 6Rs tool has examples of management strategies that could be considered. 

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