Conflict of Interest Policy
The purpose of this policy is to better assist the members of the Surveyors Board of Queensland to identify and manage conflicts of interest and to foster:
- Integrity and impartiality;
- Promoting the public good;
- Commitment to the system of government; and
- Accountability and transparency.
Surveyors Act 2003
Public Service Act 1996
Public Sector Ethics Act 1994
Crime and Misconduct Act 2001
Policies that should be read in conjunction with this policy are:
- The Department of Premier and Cabinet’s: Guidelines for Managing Conflicts of Interest for Statutory Officer Holders
- Code of Conduct for Board Members
The Executive Officer of the Board is responsible for:
- Maintaining a register of disclosed conflicts;
- Ensuring the conflicts of interest policy is kept current;
- Providing information to the Chairman of the Board as required; and
- Arranging investigations of possible conflicts of interest as required.
The Board is responsible for:
- Receiving complaints and grievances of possible breaches of the conflicts of interest policy and ensure that these are investigated;
- Ensuring that the policy is enforced.
Identifying Conflicts of Interest
As set out in the Guidelines for Managing Conflicts of Interest for Statutory Officer Holders, a conflict of interest is defined by the Public Sector Ethics Act 1994 as a conflict between a person’s private interests and the person’s official duties. It is there set out that: “The established test is an objective one, namely whether a reasonable member of the public, properly informed, would feel that the conflict was unacceptable. Essentially it means that such reasonable member of the public would conclude that inappropriate factors could influence an official action or decision.”
Conflicts of interest involve a link, be it actual, perceived or potential, between a public official’s duties and responsibilities and their private interests. In situations where the private interest actually motivates or influences the exercise of public duty, the conflict of interest can become corruption.
Perceived (or apparent) conflicts of interest arise where it could be perceived or appears that a public official’s private interests could improperly influence the performance of their public duties, whether or not this is in fact the case.
Potential conflicts of interest arise where a public official has private interests that could interfere with their official duties in the future.
Conflicts of interest may also be pecuniary and non-pecuniary interests, depending on whether there is a financial advantage involved.
Whether a conflict of interest arises is often a question of degree. When in doubt, the conflict, be it actual, perceived or potential should be disclosed and acted upon accordingly.
Extreme cases of conflict of interest may involve bribes or attempts to influence outcomes of decisions. Less obvious circumstances may involve, for example, attempts by a Board Member to privately assist a registrant with a complaint, offers of financial assistance from commercial entities in relation to conferences, meetings and the like.
Board Members are directed to the “Checklist for identifying a conflict of interest” set out in the CMC’s “Managing Conflicts of Interest in the Public Sector” which may be found at: http://www.cmc.qld.gov.au/
Areas of Board Activity Where Conflicts May Arise
A conflict of interest may arise as a result of the Board’s involvement in any of the following matters:
- Appointing and managing staff.
- Providing sponsorships.
- The use of resources or assets that could be used for private gain.
- Collecting, retaining, accessing or using confidential information.
- Entering into contracts to procure goods or services from the private sector or engaging in projects with the private sector.
- Providing financial assistance and concessions.
- Performing its:
- Regulatory role in relation to the monitoring of standards.
- Disciplinary role.
- Registration role.
- Providing advice to members.
- Sharing information.
- Assessing competency.
When Conflicts of Interest Arise
Primarily a conflict of interest will arise when there is a possibility or a perception that a Board Member could be influenced by a personal (private) interest when carrying out their duties as a Board Member. For example, the following are some of the matters that may lead to a conflict of interest:
- Financial interests of a Board Member. A financial interest of a Board Member’s spouse may also be relevant.
- Personal bias in relation to a particular topic.
- Memberships of other organisations held by the Board Member or affiliations with political, trade union or professional organisations.
- Personal or business relationships.
- A Board Member’s private employment and future employment prospects
- A decision that may benefit the Board Member directly or a member of his or her family or a relative or friend.
- Gifts and hospitality.
- Improper use of confidential information.
A conflict of interest may also arise:
- During investigations;
- When recruiting staff;
- In the course of tender evaluation;
- During inspections or audits.
Formal Obligations of Board Members
The Department of Premier and Cabinet publishes: Guidelines for Managing Conflicts of Interest for Statutory Officer Holders. Board members fall within the definition of “statutory office holders” and are obliged to follow the guidelines.
Each Board Member must:
- Be aware of their obligation to avoid, where possible, conflicts of interest and manage those conflicts of interest that cannot be avoided.
- Assess their private and personal interests and whether they conflict, or have the potential to conflict, with their official duties.
- Formally disclose all conflicts of interest they may have according to the procedures established by the policy.
- Comply with any other requirements of the policy.
Duties of Board Members in Relation to Conflicts of Interest
A Board Member should take all steps possible to avoid conflicts of interest however, sometimes conflicts arise and they simply can’t be avoided. If a Board Member is aware of a possible conflict of interest it must be handled in a transparent and accountable way. A Board Member must:
- Disclose the nature and extent of the conflict of interest as soon as they become aware of it; and/or
- Excuse themselves from a decision making process.
The disclosure may be made orally during the course of any Board Meeting or otherwise in writing to the Chairman of the Board.
If a Board Member discloses a conflict of interest the fact of that disclosure and the action taken in response to such disclosure (such as withdrawing from a meeting) should be disclosed in Board Minutes.
Managing Conflicts of Interest
A conflict of interest must be reported promptly.
If a possible conflict of interest is identified but not the subject of a notification, the Board may authorise an investigation to ascertain whether the conflict of interest exists.
Conflicts of interest must be reviewed and a determination made as to whether action is required.
The following options are available for managing the conflict of interest:
- The Board Member is restricted from any involvement with the issue to which the conflict relates;
- The Board Member relinquishes the interest that gives rise to the conflict;
- In an extreme case, the Board Member resigns.
All conflicts of interest must be recorded on the conflicts of interest register so that it is kept confidential but also accessible by those responsible for managing the conflict.
Breaches of the Policy.
If there is a breach of this policy then the Members of the Board not involved in the conflict of interest must consider the conflict of interest at a Board Meeting in the absence of the Members involved in the conflict of interest and decide whether any steps need to be taken to manage the conflict of interest.
This policy is effective from the date of approval set out below.
New Board Policy – Approved by the Board on 1 September 2011