Conflicts of interests 2018-07-18T14:58:26+00:00

CONFLICTS OF INTERESTS

Conflicts of interest have a particular relevance in the municipality context, because of the proximity of the local governments to the local community, making family and network ties a typical characteristic of the operational environment.

In reality, the conflicts of interest matters are not really simple to address, and often reveal complex and controversial dilemmas. Conflicts of interest can also happen anywhere and anytime without anyone being liable for it.

However, if people in public positions are not able to avoid or to resolve situations in which private interests can affect their public duties, it is vital for local governments to be able to effectively identify and resolve those situations in order to ensure transparency and integrity. For example, parallel employment is a specific case with high integrity risks as it may adversely affect the performance of duties of officials or give rise to conflicts of interest. Another example of conflicts of interest can be a situation where a public official who is responsible for licensing certain commercial activities is at the same time a family member or close relative of an applicant.

Conflicts of interest cases can vary depending on the country and local community context.

INTEGRITY RISKS

An integrity risk assessment in the area of conflicts of interest may identify some or all of the following risk factors (the list is not limited):

  • Officials do not disclose a private interest when making decisions and/or taking actions in public office and/or exercise public duties to benefit a party, family, business, parallel employer, financial or other group or private interest or prevent this interest to be adversely affected. Officials exercise public duties while exposed to negative assumptions: dislike of political opposition members; previous competitors, etc.

  • Officials are unaware of policy/rules on CoI (no access to rules, no awareness actions). Officials are not enabled to apply the rules due to insufficient knowledge and/or lack of adequate training (i.e. formalistic training, no practical focus). Officials are not enabled to solve ethical dilemmas due to the lack of ethics counselling or any relevant guidance.

  • Officials are not held accountable to the rules on conflicts of interest. Management does nothing about breaches to procedures. No investigation follows in case of breaches. No sanctions are imposed in case of breaches or sanction mechanisms are applied selectively

  • Abuse of parallel employment position (i.e. directing clients known from public office to a parallel employer; using public office to get a job by the parallel employer, preferential treatments of clients of parallel employer while exercising public duties). Officials misuse public resources to facilitate implementation of parallel employment tasks (i.e. using stationary, public office or public vehicles, sharing information before it is publicly released, etc.)Abuse of working time regulations. Taking sick leaves from public office to engage in a secondary employment. Using colleagues to implement tasks related to parallel employment.

RISK MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES

Following the risk assessment, the local government may consider the following risk management strategies as development points:

  • Adopt/commit to a policy/procedure regarding conflicts of interest. Communicate effectively to all staff, as well as to relevant stakeholders (through intranet, information leaflets, awareness events, periodic meetings, etc.)

  • Conduct a training needs assessment, and provide training in conflicts of interest, as appropriate (induction and continued). Make use of diverse training formats (participatory training, online trainings.). Evaluate training outcomes to ensure effectiveness of training.

  • Set up a system of ethics counselling to provide advice and ensure consistent interpretation. Through using various channels (i.e. internal communication, periodic meetings, information notice), make sure all staff is aware of how and to whom to report in case of integrity breaches. Test awareness levels, as appropriate (i.e. through questionnaires, interviews).

  • Institute a conflicts of interest registration system where staff is required to complete and submit a statement of interest (i.e. secondary employment, business dealings, etc) on commencement of a job, at regular intervals (i.e. annually), or as appropriate (i.e. if circumstances have changed). Provide for transparency, as appropriate. Ensure regular updating of the system.

  • Require submission of a statement on conflict of interest in specific cases (i.e. participation in selection and recruitment committees, tender evaluation committees etc.). Archive these records to ensure adequate audit trail. Audit declarations on a random basis to ensure they are up-to-date and complete.

  • Aligned with the relevant regulations, restrict or prohibit parallel employment for employees in high-risk positions (i.e. procurement, recruitment, audit etc).

  • Ensure the relevant rules/procedures include disciplinary rules that specify what constitutes misconduct and the sanctions that apply. Ensure adequate response to identified breaches by taking immediate corrective actions. Provide sufficient information on violations to all staff to raise awareness.

GUIDE TO CORRUPTION-FREE LOCAL GOVERNMENT