Skip to content | Change text size
Policy areas: More information

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

Parent policy

Conduct and Compliance Policy

Preamble

The purpose of this procedure is to clarify the responsibilities of staff members with respect to conflicts of interest. The term ‘conflict of interest’ refers to a situation where a conflict arises for an individual between two competing interests. These are often, but not exclusively, interests of public duty versus private interests. This procedure will help to ensure that if an actual or reasonably perceived conflict exists between a staff member's interests and their University duties and responsibilities, the conflict of interest will be managed in an appropriate manner.

This procedure applies to all University staff.

Definitions

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. These are often, but not exclusively, interests of public duty versus private interests. This refers to a reasonably perceived, potential or actual conflict of interest. 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 conflict 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 (Registrar, Sunway Campus Malaysia) acts as a CIAO for all instances of general conflicts of interest and the Vice-Provost (Research) (Deputy President (Strategy), Sunway Campus Malaysia) acts as the CIAO for conflicts of interest in research. The CIAO’s 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 staff member'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 Divisional 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, shares, share options, dividends, and the right to receive remuneration or other benefits such as salaries, director’s fees, consulting fees, allowances and discounts.

Head of Unit or Director: The Academic Head of Unit (department or school, or in the case of Sunway Campus Malaysia, Head of Discipline) or Director (head of administrative unit) or, where applicable, a person acting as his or her nominee.

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.

University: The term University includes Monash controlled entities.

1. Avoidance of conflicts of interest

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 that involves a conflict of interest, or the reasonable perception of a conflict of interest. Likewise staff members must avoid conflicts of commitment that impair their ability to fulfill their duties at the University. For example, this might arise where a staff member:

  • or a member of their immediate family has a direct or indirect financial interest, or holds a directorship, in a company which supplies goods and/or services to the University, or which operates in competition with the University;
  • accepts gifts of value, grants and/or favours from persons who would benefit from influencing staff, such as students, job applicants or suppliers;
  • who is not a designated selection officer, is involved, or perceived to be involved directly or indirectly in the admission of a student with whom he/she has, or has had, a close personal relationship;
  • seeks to influence admissions decision making for individual applicants, or seeks to influence a designated selection officer to deviate from the University’s admission legislation, policy and procedures;
  • is involved, or perceived to be involved directly or indirectly in the supervision, assessment or examination of a student with whom he/she has, or has had, a close personal relationship;
  • takes part in any recruitment, promotion, reclassification, evaluation or grievance process with prospective or current staff members or is in a supervisory role with respect to another staff member, with whom he/she has, or has had, a close personal relationship;
  • uses University assets or confidential University information for their personal gain, or for the benefit of a person with whom the staff member has a close personal relationship or organisation with whom the staff member has a non-financial or financial interest;
  • takes part in assessing a tender application where he or she has, or has had, a close personal relationship with a person, or organisation with whom the staff member has a non-financial or financial interest, that has submitted a tender application;
  • undertakes research/clinical trials which are sponsored by a company in which the researcher (or an associate of the researcher) has a financial interest or holds an executive position;
  • holds an equity interest or executive position in a start-up company that has contracted with the University to conduct further research;
  • chairs a committee responsible for allocating internal funding for research at a faculty or university level, takes part in the decision-making process that grants funding to the chair’s own school/department/faculty; and
  • undertakes paid or unpaid outside work that impacts on their ability to fulfil their duties and obligations at the University.

As soon as a staff member becomes aware that he or she has a conflict of interest or a potential conflict of interest in the process of negotiating or making a decision on a transaction or other action in his or her professional capacity, he or she must immediately declare it and, unless resolved, take no further part in any negotiation or decision on the subject.

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.

The Declaration Regarding Student Admissions must be completed by the following staff in approximately June or July 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 this potential conflict of interest in accordance with section 2 below. The matter will then be managed in accordance with section 3 of this procedure.

2. Disclosure of conflicts of interest

The primary obligation is to disclose the potential conflict of interest in advance. Failing to disclose a potential conflict of interest appropriately could be regarded as misconduct.

If a staff member believes or suspects that a conflict of interest exists or potentially exists, the following steps must be taken.

  • A staff member must immediately disclose any conflict of interest to his or her Head of Unit or Director using the Disclosure of Conflict of Interest Form provided for that purpose.
  • If a staff member is in doubt as to whether a conflict exists, he or she should seek advice from their respective Head of Unit or Director.
  • If the Head of Unit or Director believes a conflict of interest exists then he/she must direct the staff member to complete a Disclosure of Conflict of Interest Form.
  • If the Head of Unit or Director is in doubt as to whether a conflict of interest exists, he or she should seek advice from the respective Dean or Divisional Director to whom he or she reports. The Dean or Divisional Director will then determine whether the staff member is required to submit a Disclosure of Conflict of Interest Form.

If a Dean or Divisional Director has a conflict of interest he or she must seek advice from the officer to whom they report.

A member of the Vice-Provost's Group, a Dean, a Divisional Director or a Conflict of Interest Advisory Officer (CIAO) may refer a conflict of interest matter to the Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice-President for consideration and resolution.

The Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice-President may also request that a conflict of interest be brought to him or her for further consideration and resolution.

3. Management of conflicts of interest

Once a conflict of interest is identified and the individual concerned has completed and submitted the Disclosure of Conflict of Interest Form, the Head of Unit or Director and staff member must devise an appropriate plan to resolve or manage the conflict of interest.

A management plan states matters including:

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

In developing this plan any party to the conflict of interest may consult with the relevant CIAO for guidance and assistance.
Once a management plan is devised it must be:

  • signed by all parties and placed on the staff member's personal file; and
  • reviewed annually at the time of the performance review or on an as needs basis.

All documents should be marked “confidential” and access strictly limited to those employees who need access for official purposes.

4. Management of potential conflicts of interest

Requests for consideration of a potential or actual conflict should:

  • outline (in writing) all the relevant facts, including the parties concerned, the nature of the conflict of interest and the reason(s) for requesting advice; and
  • be forwarded to the relevant CIAO.

The CIAO may attempt to resolve the conflict or refer it to the Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice-President.

Where the conflict of interest matter is referred to the Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice-President, s/he should report to the CIAO, within fourteen days of a written request being received, or such further time as agreed with the CIAO.

The Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice-President should:

  • advise the CIAO on whether a conflict of interest exists; and
  • if so, provide direction on how the conflict of interest should be managed.

5. 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) or 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.

6. Failure to comply with conflict of interest procedure

Failure to comply with this procedure or the directions of the Head of Unit, Director 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 including 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;
  • 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 and Directors

Heads of Unit and Directors are responsible for:

  • understanding this procedure and ensuring staff are aware of the procedure;
  • being aware of areas of conflict of interest within their area of responsibility, assessing risks and advising the Dean or Divisional Director;
  • disclosing any conflicts of interest;
  • assisting staff who have queries about potential or actual conflicts of interest;
  • supporting staff within their unit to manage any actual or potential conflicts of interest; and
  • seeking advice or support from the Dean or Divisional 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 and Directors are aware of this procedure;
  • being aware of areas of conflict of interest within their area of responsibility and advising CIAO of risk areas;
  • 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 CIAO where necessary.

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;
  • 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: 1.9
Effective date: 25 September 2014
Procedure author: Director Workplace Relations
Procedure owner: Executive Director, Monash HR
Contact: