(a) Dealing with conflicting private interests1 – Public officials should be required to accept responsibility for identifying their relevant private interests. An organization’s policy statement should make it clear that the registration or declaration of a private interest does not in itself resolve a conflict. Additional measures to resolve or manage the conflict positively must be considered.
(b) Resolution and management options – Options for positive resolution or management of a continuing or pervasive conflict can include one or more of several strategies as appropriate, for example:
- Divestment or liquidation of the interest by the public official,
- Recusal of the public official from involvement in an affected decision-making process,
- Restriction of access by the affected public official to particular information,
- Transfer of the public official to duty in a non-conflicting function,
- Re-arrangement of the public official’s duties and responsibilities,
- Assignment of the conflicting interest in a genuinely “blind trust” arrangement,
- Resignation of the public official from the conflicting private-capacity function, and/or
- Resignation of the public official from their public office.
(c) Recusal and restriction – Where a particular conflict is not likely to recur frequently, it may be appropriate for the public official concerned to maintain their current position but not participate in decision-making on the affected matters, for example by having an affected decision made by an independent third party, or by abstaining from voting on decisions, or withdrawing from discussion of affected proposals and plans, or not receiving relevant documents and other information relating to their private interest. The option of re-assigning certain functions of the public official concerned should also be available, where a particular conflict is considered likely to continue, which would make ad hoc recusal inappropriate. Particular care must be exercised to ensure that all affected parties to the decision know of the measures taken to protect the integrity of the decision-making process where recusal is adopted.
(d) Resignation – Public officials should be required to remove the conflicting private interest if they wish to retain their public position and the conflict of interest cannot be resolved in any other way (for example by one or more of the measures suggested above). Where a serious conflict of interest cannot be resolved in any other way, public officials should be required to resign from their official position. The conflict of interest policy (together with the relevant employment law and/or employment contract provisions) should provide the possibility that their official position can be terminated in accordance with a defined procedure in such circumstances.
(e) Transparency and decision-making – Registrations and declarations of private interests, as well as the arrangements for resolving conflicts, should be clearly recorded in formal documents, to enable the organization concerned to demonstrate, if necessary, that a specific conflict has been appropriately identified and managed. Further disclosure of information about a conflict of interest may also be appropriate in supporting the overall policy objective, for example, by demonstrating how the disclosure of a specific conflict of interest was recorded and considered in the minutes of a relevant meeting.