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Conflict of Interest and Conflict of Commitment

Category: Governance
Number: GOV-022-010
Audience: All University employees
Issued: February 07, 2012
Revised: December 14, 2018
Owner(s): AVP (Human Resources), Executive Director (University Governance)
Approved by: Board of Governors
Contact: AVP (Human Resources) - 306-585-5155, Executive Director (University Governance) - 306-585-5545

Introduction

This policy applies to the following members of the University:

  • employees (faculty and staff, excluding sessional lecturers and student employees), and
  • all members of University committees (including the Senate and Board of Governors).

The University encourages members’ involvement in the community and in outside professional activities compatible with the University’s mission, values, and commitments. The University also respects members’ right to privacy in their personal activities. It has no interest in interfering with members’ activities as long as the activities do not conflict or interfere with their obligations to the University.

Occasionally, however, a member’s personal interests will conflict or will be perceived to conflict with the University’s interests. The conflict does not mean the member has done anything wrong, but to protect its reputation and the integrity of its programs and services, the University will assess the matter to determine if a conflict or potential conflict exists, and if so, how it may be eliminated or managed.

This document sets out the University’s policy on conflict of interest and conflict of commitment and its processes for addressing these conflicts when they occur. In conflict of interest and conflict of commitment situations, this policy will be used along with any applicable collective agreement and related University policies.

Policy

Conflict of Interest

Members may not be placed or place themselves in situations where they have a conflict of interest, i.e., they may not participate in University decisions and processes where they have a professional obligation to act in the best interests of the University, but have a personal interest that will interfere with that professional obligation.

When members find themselves in a conflict of interest, they are to disclose it to their supervisor and work with their supervisor to find a solution that eliminates or manages the conflict. Refer to Disclosing a Conflict of Interest or Conflict of Commitment.

Examples of conflict of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • Personal relationships
    Members may not participate in University decisions or activities that will affect or directly benefit them or a closely associated person. For example: 

    • Members may not evaluate the work of a student or an employee who is a closely associated person.

    • Members may not assess a project or a colleague if the outcome of the assessment could enhance their personal interests or a closely associated person’s interests.

    • Members may not direct students or employees to work for a business that the member or a closely associated person owns or has a financial interest in.

    • Members may not participate in a decision to bind the University to a contract that may advance their personal interests or a closely associated person’s interests.

    • Members may not participate in a decision to hire or contract a closely associated person.

  • Financial interests
    • Members may not participate in the University’s negotiations with an entity if they have a financial interest in the entity.
    • Members may not participate in the University’s negotiations with any entity that employs them or has a contract with them or a closely associated person.
  • Gifts and Gratuities
    • Members may not ask for personal gifts or favours from University vendors, contractors, donors, students, or parents.
    • Members may not accept gratuities or gifts of money, no matter what the amount.
    • Members may not accept a gift of undetermined value but perceived of significant value or a value greater than $500, and they may not accept any gift that an impartial observer could see as a bribe, pay off, or improper payment (a gift that could unduly influence a decision).
    • An exception or special consideration from any of the above can only be approved in writing by the President. In the case of the President, by the Chair of the Board.
  • Use of the University's name and reputation
    • Members may not use the University seal for other than its intended purpose.
    • Members may not use the University’s name for personal interest or gain or to advance the interests of a closely associated person.

Stipends and honoraria

Employees may accept stipends and honoraria for presenting at conferences, seminars, or trade shows. (They should, however, declare the stipends and honoraria to their supervisor.) They may also accept small promotional items that vendors routinely distribute to clients and common business courtesies (e.g., payment for a modest lunch or event or courtesy copies of professional printed matter).

Potential and Perceived Conflict of Interest

Occasionally members may find themselves in situations that have the potential to create a conflict of interest or that could be perceived as a conflict of interest. In these situations, members are to disclose the potential or perceived conflict to their supervisor and work with their supervisor to ensure the conflict is prevented or managed.

Members are not to participate in activities that have the potential to create a conflict or that could be perceived as a conflict until they have their supervisor’s written permission. If the University (through the supervisor) authorizes a member’s participation in the activity, the member is to comply with any terms or conditions the University sets.

Examples of potential or perceived conflict of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • Financial interests
    Members are to disclose to their supervisor a financial interest in any entity that does business with the University. This includes entities that may compete with the University.
  • Outside employment
    Members are to disclose to their supervisor any work they do for an outside entity that may give the entity a preferred position with respect to grants or contracts with the University.
  • Public Office
    Employees are to inform their supervisor when they decide to seek election or appointment to public office.

Reporting Conflicts of Interest

Supervisors who have reason to believe that an undisclosed conflict of interest exists must report it. Any other member who has reason to believe that an undisclosed conflict of interest exists is encouraged to report it. Refer to GOV-022-020 - Safe Disclosure for information on how to report it.

Conflict of Commitment

Members may not engage in external employment or professional activities that interfere with their responsibilities and obligations to the University. They are to discuss the employment or specific activity with their supervisor and work with their supervisor to eliminate or manage the conflict. If the University (through the supervisor) allows the member to engage in the external employment or activity, the member is to comply with any terms and conditions set by the University.

Examples of conflict of commitment include, but are not limited to:

  • Board and committee appointments
    Members must have their supervisor’s written permission before they accept an appointment to the board of directors or formal committee of any entity that does business with the University or an entity that competes with or conducts a business similar to that of the University.
  • Outside or additional professional activities
    Employees must have their supervisor’s written permission before they accept external or additional employment (e.g., consulting, research, and teaching) that has the potential to impact their University employment or compete with their obligations to the University.

Reporting Conflicts of Commitment

Supervisors who have reason to believe that an undisclosed conflict of commitment exists must report it. Any other member who has reason to believe that an undisclosed conflict of commitment exists is encouraged to report it. Refer to GOV-022-020 - Safe Disclosure for information on how to report it.

Confidentiality of Disclosures and Reports

The University handles all disclosures of conflict of interest and conflict of commitment with discretion. In some circumstances, however, the law or a policy may make it necessary to give people internal and/or external to the University access to information about a disclosure and the terms and conditions set by the University. The University will make reasonable efforts to advise the member in writing before giving information about a disclosure to anyone external to the University.

Appeals

Members may appeal the University’s decision regarding a conflict of interest or a conflict of commitment. The appeal must be registered within thirty days of receiving written notice of the decision. Refer to Appealing a Conflict of Interest or Conflict of Commitment Decision.

Declaration/Disclosure Forms

Members of the University’s Board of Governors and Senate are asked to complete the University’s Conflict of Interest, Conflict of Commitment, and Confidentiality Declaration annually.

Employees are asked to complete the University’s Conflict of Interest, Conflict of Commitment, and Confidentiality Declaration (a) when they are hired, (b) at the time of their annual performance review, and (c) whenever they are appointed to a new role or position with the University. They must also update the declaration when circumstances change and they become aware of a conflict.

Advice and Resources

Members may contact Human Resources for additional support, training, and information on how to avoid, eliminate, and/or manage conflict of interest and conflict of commitment situations.

Supervisors may request Human Resources’ assistance when handling conflict of interest and conflict of commitment situations.

Consequences for Noncompliance

The existence or the perception of a conflict of interest or conflict of commitment does not imply wrongdoing on anyone’s part. It means the conflict must be disclosed and eliminated or managed.

Failure to disclose a conflict of interest or conflict of commitment or otherwise comply with this policy could result in disciplinary action up to and including termination of the member’s position with the University.

Processes

Disclosing a Conflict of Interest or Conflict of Commitment

  1. The member discloses the potential, real, or perceived conflict in writing to his or her supervisor and removes him or herself from the activity. (A member of a committee may disclose a conflict in a meeting and excuse him or herself from the portion of the meeting that creates the conflict. The committee chair will consult the other committee members, determine if a conflict exists, and decide how to resolve the situation. The recording secretary will capture the disclosure and the committee’s decision in the minutes of the meeting.)
  2. The supervisor investigates the situation and decides if a conflict exists, if the activity will be permitted to continue, and if so, under what conditions.

    The supervisor will consult with the member, his or her own supervisor, and other people as necessary and will consider the following factors when making a decision:

    • If it is possible to arrange an alternative that does not involve a conflict,
    • If the activity/conflict is allowed to continue, the possible harm that could come to the University, students, research participants, and employees, or others acting on behalf of the University or served by the University,
    • If the activity/conflict is allowed to continue, the possible consequences to the University, its reputation, and future activities,
    • If the conflict is not allowed to continue, the possible consequences to the University, its reputation, and future activities,
    • The University’s educational, research, economic, and other interests,
    • The rights and interests of the member, and
    • Guidelines set out in all relevant policy.
  3. The supervisor communicates his or her decision in writing to the member. (If the member is an employee, the supervisor also provides a record of the investigation and decision to Human Resources for the employee’s official file.)

    The supervisor may set terms and conditions before permitting an activity to continue. The supervisor may also flag a decision for review at set intervals and may reverse or vary the original decision at any interval.
  4. The member accepts or appeals the supervisor’s decision. (Refer to Appealing a Conflict of Interest or Conflict of Commitment Decision).

Appealing a Conflict of Interest or Conflict of Commitment Decision

  1. Within 30 days of receiving the supervisor’s decision regarding a conflict of interest or conflict of commitment, the member submits a written statement outlining the grounds for the appeal and any relevant documentation to the Executive Director (University Governance) — or a designate.

    If the Executive Director (University Governance) is the member appealing the University’s decision, the appeal will be submitted to the President.
  2. The Executive Director (University Governance) or designate investigates the situation and makes a decision on the appeal. The Executive Director (University Governance) or designate may ask the member for more information and may consult with others as required to make the decision.
  3. The Executive Director (University Governance) or designate communicates the decision in writing to the member within thirty days of receiving the appeal.

    The Executive Director (University Governance) or designate may extend the thirty-day period. If so, the member will receive notice of and reasons for the delay.

    The decision of the Executive Director (University Governance) or designate is final and binding on the member, but may be subject to the grievance arbitration procedure of the relevant collective agreement.

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