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Conduct and Compliance Procedure – Conflict of Interest (including Conflict of Interest in Research)

Parent policy

Conduct and Compliance Policy

Preamble

The Monash University Ethics Statement outlines the University’s commitment to assisting staff to identify and resolve ethical issues and to build and maintain a sound ethical culture. This includes acknowledging responsibility for decisions and actions, as individuals and as an organisation, exercising power responsibly and acting with transparency, integrity and professionalism.

This procedure is designed to encourage staff to engage with ethical questions of conflict of interest as they arise and to be conscious of the impacts of decisions with respect to any actual, perceived or potential conflict of interest, as well as ensuring that any such conflict is managed appropriately. Staff are encouraged to be transparent about any actual, perceived or potential conflict of interest and to report these at an early stage. Where there is doubt, staff are encouraged to report the potential conflict of interest to be managed under this procedure.

This procedure applies to all University staff including joint appointments and adjunct/honorary appointees.

Definitions

Adjunct Appointee: a person who is not a staff member but who is appointed to contribute his or her professional standing and specialist expertise to the teaching and/or research activities of a particular department or research centre in the University. Adjunct appointees can be teaching and research or research-only adjunct appointees.

Close personal relationship: A relationship between a staff member and a relative, a financially dependent person, a close friend, a de facto partner or any person with whom there is currently, or has been, an intimate relationship. This does not include a working relationship which exists due to ordinary collegiate academic collaboration, where the colleagues are not relatives, financially dependent, or de facto or intimate partners.

Conflict of commitment: This occurs when one interest of a staff member, which may or may not be a private interest or non-University interest, may harm or interfere with the productivity or involvement of that staff member in aspects of their University responsibilities. It may concern the staff member’s distribution of efforts between employment obligations to the University and to outside activities. Conflicts of commitment can occur in research where the staff member’s non-University activities harm or interfere with the staff member's research obligations.

Conflict of interest: The term ‘conflict of interest’ refers to a situation where a conflict arises for an individual between two competing interests, which are often, but not exclusively, interests of public duty versus private interests. Conflicts of interest may be reasonably perceived, potential or actual. Conflicts of interest can involve financial or non-financial interests of the staff member and the interests of a business partner or associate, family member, friend or person in, or has had a close personal relationship with the staff member. Refer to Examples of Conflicts of Interest and Guidelines for Action for further information.

Conflict of Interest Advisory Officer (CIAO): For the purpose of this procedure, the Executive Director, Monash HR (or in the case of Sunway Campus Malaysia, Registrar) acts as a CIAO for all instances of general conflicts of interest and the Vice-Provost (Research) (or in the case of Sunway Campus Malaysia, President (Strategy)) acts as the CIAO for conflicts of interest in research. The CIAOs provide advice and assistance in the resolution of potential conflicts of interest that are unable to be resolved between the relevant parties.

Conflicts of interest in research: This includes an actual, perceived or potential conflict of interest which may compromise, or have the appearance of compromising, a person's ethical behaviour and professional judgment in the conduct and reporting of that research. It is critical that such conflicts are appropriately managed as they can compromise the validity and integrity of the research process and undermine public confidence in the institution.

Dean or Executive Director: The Dean (or in the case of Sunway Campus Malaysia, Head of School) or Executive Director (or in the case of Sunway Campus Malaysia, the Deputy President or Registrar as relevant to the portfolio) or, where applicable, a person acting as his or her nominee.

Financial interest: Any employment, business activity or other right, claim, title or legal share in something that has a monetary, or equivalent value. Examples of financial interest include, but are not limited to, distributions from trusts, directorships of trusts, significant shareholding (more than 5% of issued capital) in a public or private company, shares, share options, dividends, and the right to receive remuneration or other benefits such as salaries, fees from company directorship or board membership, consulting fees, allowances and discounts. For the purpose of this procedure, this includes any substantial sources of income (more than $10,000 per annum) other than from paid employment with the University.

Joint appointee: Means a staff member, usually in the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences who is also engaged in clinical practice in a hospital, and who is employed and wholly paid by the hospital on hospital employment conditions, but by virtue of his/her engagement/appointment with Monash has the status of a member of academic staff of the University.   A staff member who receives any remuneration from the University is not a conjoint appointee or clinical academic staff member engaged by hospitals, as defined.

Head of Unit: Head of an academic or organisational work unit, for example Head of School, Head of Department or where applicable, a person acting as his or her nominee.

HR Business Partner: Is a key member of the Monash HR business partnering community and provides strategic advice, guidance and solutions that underpin key client goals, HR strategy and organisational vision to a particular client group.

Non-financial interest: Any community or other voluntary activity or involvement including with a sporting club, church, political party or other formal or informal association or group including voluntary directorships/board memberships for which the staff member receives no monetary benefit.

Paid Outside Work: is remunerated work or a professional development activity that a staff member undertakes for an external party which is outside his or her normal university duties and may create a conflict of commitment and in certain circumstances an actual, perceived or potential conflict of interest.

Staff member: for the purposes of this procedure, means all University staff and adjunct and joint appointments.

University: The term University includes Monash controlled entities.

1. Disclosure, management and avoidance of conflicts of interest

Staff are encouraged to be transparent about any actual, perceived or potential conflict of interest and to report these at an early stage. Where there is doubt, staff are encouraged to report the potential conflict of interest to be managed under this procedure.
Staff members must avoid being placed in a situation where they are taking action, making a decision or have the ability to influence any action or decision of the University when they have a conflict of interest or there may be a reasonable perception that they have a conflict of interest. Likewise, staff members must not take on commitments that will impair their ability to fulfil their duties at the University. Further guidance on the types of activities that might be actual, perceived or potential conflicts of interest are available at Examples of Conflicts of Interest and Guidelines for Action.

If a staff member believes or suspects that he or she has an actual, perceived or potential conflict of interest he or she must immediately declare it and, unless a conflict of interest management plan is agreed, take no further part in any matter for which they are conflicted. A staff member’s primary obligation is to disclose any actual or potential conflict of interest in advance. Failing to disclose a potential conflict of interest could be regarded as misconduct.

Where a head of unit, dean or executive director becomes aware of an actual, perceived or potential conflict of interest within their area of responsibility, they have an obligation to report it.

Step 1:        The Staff member completes the Conflict of Interest Disclosure & Management Form (‘the Form’)

The Form includes the proposed conflict of interest management plan with details of:

  • the nature of the staff member’s personal interest;
  • the interest/s of the University with which the staff member’s personal interest does or could conflict;
  • the likelihood of the interests actually coming into conflict;
  • the decisions or actions which the staff member agrees to avoid participating in; and
  • the decisions or actions which it is agreed the staff member can participate.

Conflict of interest management plans must be reviewed annually and may form part of the annual performance development discussion. The staff member submits the completed form to the relevant head of unit.

Step 2:        The Head of Unit reviews the Form

The Head of Unit completes the relevant section of the Form and either confirms or amends, after discussion with the staff member, the conflict of interest management plan.

Where there is doubt as to whether an actual, perceived or potential conflict of interest exists, the relevant HR Business Partner will provide advice and, if required, will consult the University’s Conflict of Interest Advisory Officer (CIAO) for further advice.

The Head of Unit will forward the completed form to the relevant dean or executive director for endorsement.

Step 3:        The Dean or Executive Director reviews the Form

The dean or executive director will review and, once satisfied, endorse the conflict of management plan and will forward the completed Form to the Conflict of Interest Advisory Officer (CIAO).

Step 4:        The Conflict of Interest Advisory Officer (CIAO) considers the Form

The CIAO will approve the conflict of interest management plan or attempt to resolve the conflict of interest. The approved Form will be filed on the staff member’s personal file. Where the conflict of interest is unable to be resolved or where it relates to instances of institutional conflicts of interest, the matter will be referred in writing to the Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice-President.

The Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice-President will advise the CIAO on whether an actual, perceived or potential conflict of interest exists and if so, provide direction on how the conflict of interest should be managed.

2. Process for managing conflicts of interest for senior University staff

If a member of the Vice-Chancellor’s Group, a dean or executive director has a conflict of interest, he or she must disclose it in accordance with this procedure to the Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice-President. If the Chief Operating Officer or Senior Vice-President has a conflict of interest, he or she must disclose it to the Vice-Chancellor.

If the President, Academic Board or the Vice-Chancellor has a conflict of interest, he or she must disclose it to the Chancellor.

3. Conflicts of interest in education

Academic staff members are trusted to teach, guide and supervise students in their studies. Professional staff interact and engage with students at the University for other purposes. Most staff members are in a position of power relative to students and must be mindful of this in their interactions with students. Interaction between staff and students are governed by the Conduct Compliance Procedure - Staff/student relationships . Staff are required to be aware of the potential for conflict of interest in supervision of masters and doctoral students and to comply with the specific prohibitions, as set out in the Handbook for Doctoral Degrees.

Staff (as defined under the procedure) must also be aware that where a staff member or adjunct appointee is co-supervising a graduate research student with another staff member or adjunct appointee with whom they have, or have had, a close personal relationship, a serious if not irreconcilable conflict of interest will exist.

Further examples of conflict of interest can be found in the Examples of Conflicts of Interest and Guidelines for Action.

4. Conflicts of interest in research

Researchers have additional responsibilities under the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (the Code).
The Code recommends that researchers:

  • maintain records of activities that may lead to conflicts, for example consultancies, membership of committees, boards of directors, advisory groups, or selection committees, and where they hold financial delegation or are in receipt of cash services or equipment from outside bodies; and
  • when invited to join a committee or equivalent, review current activities for actual or apparent conflicts and bring possible conflicts of interest to the attention of those running the process.

Researchers should also be aware of and comply with any separate requirements for disclosure of conflicts of interest, from funding bodies such as the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) (or in the case of MSA the National Research Foundation (NRF)).
Researchers who are considering applying for a National Institute of Health (NIH) grant or Public Health Institute (PHS) funding must comply with the separate requirements as outlined in the Guidelines for NIH/PHS financial conflict of interest compliance.

Biomedical and, in particular, clinical research are inherently sensitive areas of research. Given the potential impact on human lives, the University's position is that as a general rule, researchers should not receive any direct benefit and must disclose any indirect benefit from the outcome of clinical trials.

Commercialisation of research is increasingly important to the University and it is recognised that substantial benefits can arise from collaborations and relationships with industry in the licensing and marketing of research discoveries and in the creation of spin-off companies. These activities may also be a source of potential conflicts of interest which need to be appropriately managed.

5. Paid Outside Work

Prior approval from the dean or executive director is required to undertake Paid Outside Work (POW) in accordance with the Conduct and Compliance Procedure – Paid Outside Work. This procedure requires the Private Paid Outside Work Disclosure and Approval Form to be completed by a staff member undertaking POW where the staff member wishes to contract directly with a third party. The staff member must disclose any actual, perceived or potential conflict of interest or conflict of commitment and devise a conflict management plan in consultation with his or her head of unit to resolve or manage the conflict of interest.

6. Acceptance of Gifts, Benefits and Hospitality

Staff members must not accept any gift, benefit or hospitality that could reasonably be interpreted by others as a real, perceived or potential conflict of interest.  The acceptance of gifts is dealt with in more detail in the Conduct and Compliance Procedure - Acceptance of Gifts, Benefits and Hospitality Procedure.

7. Strategic Procurement Procedures

The University acknowledges that actual, perceived or potential conflicts of interest may arise during procurement processes. Therefore, all staff involved in procurement for the University must also comply with the Strategic Procurement Procedures (Australia and South Africa only) under the Procurement Policy.

8. Annual Declaration Processes

The University administers annual declaration processes for particular issues that may give rise to actual or perceived conflicts of interest. These processes include the annual Declaration of Private Interests and the annual Declaration Regarding Student Admissions.

8.1     Declaration of Private Interests

In order for the University to ensure that it is, and is seen to be, managing its business in a fair, ethical and transparent manner, free of bias and in accordance with legislative requirements under the Financial Management Act 1994, the following procedure is to be followed in respect of the disclosure of pecuniary or other private interests or benefits.

The University will issue an annual request via email in July/August each year to staff holding a University financial delegation in excess of $50,000.
Staff members must

  • complete a Declaration of Private Interests Form on an annual basis; and
  • submit completed forms electronically as directed in the email.

If the staff member has declared any private interests, details of their declaration will be provided to their performance development supervisor for noting and will be reviewed annually. This review may take place as part of the performance development discussion.
The financial year/period of the declaration is the 12 months ending 30 June in the current year. Staff members are required to provide details of their situation during that 12 month period even if their situation changes within this time period. If staff members cease to hold a delegation at some stage during this period, they will still be required to complete a declaration.

Any staff member holding a university financial delegation in excess of $50,000, who fails to disclose all private interests, may face disciplinary action from the University.

8.2     Declaration Regarding Student Admissions

The Declaration Regarding Student Admissions must be completed by the following staff in approximately August each year:

  • all designated selection officers,
  • the University’s Senior Management Team, and
  • Faculty/General Managers.

If a person declares that someone with whom the person has a close personal relationship is or may be seeking admission to the University during the forthcoming academic year, s/he will be required to disclose and manage this potential conflict of interest in accordance with section 2 of this procedure.

9. Failure to comply with conflict of interest procedure

Failure to comply with this procedure or the directions of the head of unit, CIAO or the Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice-President may result in disciplinary action in accordance with the provisions of the relevant enterprise agreement and contract of employment, including possible dismissal in cases of serious conflict of interest or other serious misconduct.

Failure of researchers to comply with this procedure may also result in loss of funding for the University.

Responsibilities

Individual staff members

Individual staff members adjunct/honorary appointees of the University and staff of Monash controlled entities are responsible for:

  • understanding and complying with this procedure;
  • assessing their own private and personal interests and whether they conflict or have the potential to conflict with the University’s interests, including their own duties as staff members or other appointee;
  • declaring and managing any actual or potential conflicts of interest in accordance with this procedure; and
  • where appropriate, being aware of additional, current requirements linked to research.

Heads of Unit

Heads of Unit are responsible for:

  • understanding this procedure and ensuring staff and others are aware of the procedure;
  • being aware of potential areas of conflict of interest within their area of responsibility (including potential for conflicts of risk in research and education), assessing risks and advising the Dean or Executive Director;
  • reporting an actual, perceived or potential conflict of interest within their area of responsibility, where they become aware of one;
  • disclosing any conflicts of interest;
  • assisting staff and others who have queries about potential or actual conflicts of interest;
  • supporting staff and others within their unit to manage any actual or potential conflicts of interest; and
  • seeking advice or support from the Dean or Executivel Director, or the relevant CIAO where necessary.

Deans and Executive Directors

Deans and Executive Directors are responsible for:

  • understanding procedure and ensuring Heads of Unit are aware of this procedure;
  • being aware of potential areas of conflict of interest within their area of responsibility (including potential for conflicts of risk in research and education) and advising CIAO of risk areas;
  • reporting an actual, perceived or potential conflict of interest within their area of responsibility, where they become aware of one;
  • disclosing any potential or actual conflicts of interest;
  • providing advice to their staff on the management of conflicts of interest;
  • supporting staff within their faculty/division to manage any conflicts of interest;
  • reviewing and endorsing plans to manage any conflicts of interest; and
  • seeking advice or support from the relevant Human Resources Business Partner or CIAO where necessary.

HR Business Partners

HR Business Partners are responsible for:

  • Providing advice to individual staff members, heads of unit, deans and executive directors on the policies and procedures that apply with respect to actual, perceived or potential conflicts of interest in the workplace;
  • providing advice to the parties on the management of the conflict of interest;
  • assisting in the resolution of conflicts of interest; and
  • consulting with the CIAO for advice and guidance in circumstances where it is unclear as to whether a conflict of interest exists.

Conflict of Interest Advisory Officers (CIAO)

Conflict of Interest Advisory Officers (CIAO) are responsible for:

  • alerting the Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice-President to any instances of institutional conflicts of interest;
  • receiving queries in relation to conflicts of interest;
  • providing advice to the parties on the management of the conflict of interest;
  • assisting in the resolution of conflicts of interest that are unable to be resolved between the relevant parties;
  • referring matters which cannot be immediately resolved to the Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice-President;
  • maintaining a conflict of interest register to monitor the annual review and management of conflict of interest disclosures and ensure they placed on the staff member’s personal file;
  • annually reviewing the application of this Conflict of Interest Procedure and reporting to the Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice-President; and
  • ensuring provision of appropriate training including induction training for staff.

Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice-President

Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice-President is responsible for:

  • receiving reports from the CIAO in relation to conflicts of interest (including institutional conflicts of interest);
  • reporting to the CIAO within fourteen days of a written request being received, or such further time as agreed with the CIAO;
  • advising the CIAO on whether a conflict of interest exists;
  • providing direction in relation to the way in which the conflict of interest is to be managed;
  • building an organisational culture that supports implementation of the policy and procedures with guidance, training and fair enforcement of the procedure; and
  • reporting annually to the University Council on the operations of the procedure.

Related Procedures

Related Documents

Related Forms

Version number: 2.0
Effective date: 28 June 2016
Procedure author: Director Workplace Relations
Procedure owner: Executive Director, Monash HR
Contact: