Conflicts of interest

What is a conflict of interest? The Australian Public Service Commission’s website states that when your private interests affect the decisions you take as an employee, you have a conflict of interest. The impact a decision might have on you, your friends and your family should be absent from your motivation. Public sector agencies take conflicts of interest seriously, and rightly so. Having said that, I am often surprised at the low level of functional understanding staff have of Conflict of Interest policies, and the relevant sections of agency Codes of Conduct. It’s fine to not understand the minute detail of a policy, but what is not fine is for staff (and in too many cases, managers) not to seek to better understand how conflicts of interest might manifest in their everyday roles. It is essential that staff and managers understand how these conflicts can creep into their roles, and how to declare and manage them, rather than cave to the pressure to hide and obfuscate them.