Conflicts of Interest Guidance


1.Purpose  

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Ltd (RACGP) is committed to good governance and the highest ethical standards. This guidance aims to assist Staff with the ongoing identification, declaration and management of actual potential or perceived conflicts of interest.

2.Application and scope  

Management of actual, potential or perceived, conflicts of interest is the responsibility of all employees, volunteers and contractors (Staff). Completing a declaration is only part of the responsibility. Always being alert to conflicts and not participating in decisions where you have a conflict or declaring potential conflicts and discussing with relevant managers is a continuing obligation.

3.Conflicts general principles  

It is not always possible to avoid a situation where a conflict of interest exists however it is important that these situations are correctly managed. Personal interests, whether these are financial, relate to family friends or associates, should not influence decision making.

  • Actual conflict of interest is where there is a real conflict between a duty to RACGP and a personal interest
  • Potential conflict of interest is one which may arise in the future, and
  • Perceived conflict of interest where the public could reasonably form the view that a conflict exists or could arise that may improperly influence a decision or performance of a function
Table 1 - Examples of conflicts of interest
A RACGP Senior HR Business Partner (SHRBP) works part time. The SHRBP is also an owner director of a cleaning company, the SHRBP ’s brother is the manager. SHRBP ’s cleaning company has tendered for the RACGP cleaning contract. The SHRBP has a potential conflict of interest and this will need to be managed.

A RACGP Medical Educator (part-time) is also part owner of a medical practice where she also works two days per week.  Whilst working at the practice she  also supervises GPs in training. If the Medical Educator is asked to review a complaint by a former supervisor about one of the registrar’s that she is supervising, a conflict of interest arises between their supervisor role and their RACGP employment. A potential conflict may also arise if a complaint is made about the practice or other supervisors in the practice.

A RACGP Policy Officer also works part-time at a University. In collaboration with University colleagues the Policy Officer undertakes research where they will be interviewing supervisors of international medical graduates in the Fellowship Support Program. There is a reasonable concern that interviewees may perceive that the Policy Officer is conducting the research on behalf of RACGP.

A RACGP senior manager works in the Education business unit. The spouse of the RACGP senior manager runs a business “Awesome MED Training” creating medical education content for CPD. RACGP contracts Awesome MED Training as a CPD provider. This situation could give rise to both an actual or perceived conflict of interest and must be disclosed and managed.

4.Management of conflicts of interest  

There are a range of options to manage conflicts of interest. Often a combination of strategies will be required. Recording the disclosure of a conflict of interest in a register is an important first step, however this does not necessarily resolve the conflict. Management of any potential conflict should seek to minimise its effects and be consistent with the best interests of the RACGP. It may be necessary to assess the situation and determine whether one or more of the following strategies is also required: remove, restrict, recruit and relinquish or resign (see in Table 2).

In some cases, multiple options can be combined depending on the circumstances. Where the conflict affects the CEO, the Chair of the Board will assess and approve the manner in which the conflict is to be managed.

Table 2

Management strategy When most suitable Example
Recording or disclosing the conflict RACGP requires a record of other business interests. This is a minimum first step.
  • RACGP employment agreement requirement.
  • Contractual requirement in Government contracts (e.g. funding agreements).
  • Entry in COI folio register
Remove The Staff member does not participate at all in any decisions involving the matter in which they have an interest, including attending meetings or receiving information about the decision Australian GP training Supervisor that also works at RACGP (as a Deputy Regional Director of Training  does not participate in decisions about their practice or that of their direct competitors.
 
Restrict
  • The Staff  member should have restricted access to information, involvement in discussion or in decision making on the matter.
  • The restriction should be to the extent that it minimises the conflict.
  • Monitoring occurs to check whether this remains the appropriate option
  • The RACGP staff member that part owns a cleaning business should not see the documentation for the cleaning contract and should not be able to see the tenders.
  • The RACGP staff member that has applied for an RACGP grant does not see other applications.
  • Board members cannot access information through application of restrictions in Diligent
Recruit Where it is not practical to restrict involvement, managers may direct that an impartial third party is engaged to provide advice. Where decisions can be made by a committee rather than one person this can manage some conflicts of interest
Relinquish or resign
  • Staff may be required to relinquish their personal or private interest. 
  • Resignation from a committee or a role may be required where the conflicting private interest cannot be relinquished. 
Mary is an RACGP data analyst and has shares in an IT company that provides software to RACGP. Mary sells her shares in the IT company.
Tran (an RACGP medical educator) resigns from a committee that will decide about the de-accreditation of practices including the practice that Tran owns.
Scott (a full-time RACGP CPD employee) is also a consultant on education strategy to competitor CPD home provider. Given  Scott has access to RACGP commercial in confidence material which could directly benefit the competitor his consulting engagement should be relinquished.

 

5.Relevant factors for managing conflicts of interest

In considering how a conflict of interest is to be managed, you must take into account:

  • the objectives and functions of the RACGP and the person’s role
  • the matter that is to be discussed and determined and its connection to their role or function
  • the type of the conflict (i.e. actual, potential, or perceived)
  • the materiality of the conflict, including:
    • the amount, scope, and likelihood of any expected benefit
    • for example, is it a large benefit primarily to the staff member or a small benefit that thousands of people including the staff member will receive?
  • any other relevant circumstances
    • for example, if the conflict relates to a staff member’s partner working at an organisation about which the RACGP is to make a decision
  • the potential effect of the conflict, including:
    • the extent to which the staff member’s ability to make an impartial decision could be compromised, or could reasonably be seen to be compromised; and
    • the overall likelihood that the conflict of interest may affect public or government confidence in the integrity of the RACGP and its decisions. 

6.Conflict of interest declarations

Conflict of Interest declarations must be kept up to date. New interests which may generate conflicts must be declared through the  online form on the website as soon as they occur.

7.Further information

If you are unsure how to assess or manage your particular situation, further advice can be directed to legal@racgp.org.au.

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