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Conflict of Interest Policy 2017

1 Introduction

1.1 The University of Sussex Students’ Union is a registered charity funded through public money and as such has a duty to ensure the highest standards of behaviour and to prevent, identify and act upon corruption, fraud and irregularity. Therefore Students’ Union expects its staff, elected officers, trustees and volunteers to commit to upholding and promoting these standards. The sabbatical officers and managers in particular are expected to lead by example in ensuring that the highest levels of behaviour are adopted.

1.2 The purpose of this policy is to detail how conflicts of interest are controlled.  The policy explains what is meant by the term conflict of interest, details measures and procedures that should be taken to prevent such conflicts occurring and outlines how any potential conflict of interest should be managed.

1.3 A conflict of interest is defined as:

1.3.1 Any financial or other personal interest that an individual may have in any relationship or proposed relationship between the Students’ Union or any of its subsidiary bodies and an external body, or between individuals or groups within the Students’ Union.

1.4 It is up to each individual to decide whether a conflict of interest could exist and, if so, to declare the conflict.  When deciding on such matters, consideration must be given to how things could appear to others and, in all cases, individuals should err on the side of caution, declaring an interest if there is any possibility that a conflict of interest may exist.

2 Personal Relationships

2.1 Relationships between members of staff or between members of staff and elected officers could lead to a conflict of interest.  For example, a personal relationship between an elected officer and a manager could lead to a suspicion of favouritism or preferential treatment when making decisions on promotion, pay-rises, access to training, etc.  Such relationships should be declared in the same way as relationships with external suppliers or similar.  Declarations of such relationships will need to be handled in a more sensitive manner and issues of confidentiality will need to be considered more carefully.  The Chief Executive Officer will advise on such matters.

2.2 The Students’ Union discourages sexual relationships between permanent staff and students; as staff, volunteers or as users of our services. Given the imbalance of power between staff and students, it is the expectation of the Students’ Union that its staff will not abuse their position in any way, including by making sexual advances, pressuring students into sexual relationships, or through any form of sexual harassment or coercive control.

2.3 Such a relationship could compromise the trust and confidence that underpins the supportive environment the Students’ Union offers and that may involve or lead to conflicts of interest, abuse of power or coercive control.

2.4 The Students’ Union also recognises, however, that people do become attracted to and involved with one another, and that as adults we have a right to sexual relationships of our own choosing.

2.5 If a consensual staff-student relationship becomes established, it is the responsibility of the member of staff to disclose a relationship with a student at the earliest possible opportunity. This protects staff by allowing them to demonstrate that the relationship does not entail a conflict of interest and confirm that the relationship has not resulted from coercive behaviour.

2.6 Such a disclosure should be made to the relevant Head of Department or the Chief Executive Officer and would be treated as confidential.

2.7 Failure by a member of staff to disclose a staff-student relationship could lead to disciplinary action being taken against the member of staff.

2.8 After disclosure, appropriate action will be taken by the Chief Executive Officer or Head of Department to ensure arrangements and protections are in place for staff and student to prevent conflicts of interest and abuse of power.

2.9 The Chief Executive Officer or HR department will be available to offer advice and information to individuals about this policy.

3 Gifts and Hospitality

3.1 Members of staff, elected officers and trustees must not use their office or employment for personal gain and should act at all times in good faith and in the interests of the Students’ Union.

3.2 As a general policy the Students’ Union does not believe that the receiving of gifts or extensive hospitality is appropriate to the efficient conduct of its business. There are however limited exceptions to this policy.

3.3 Any officer or member of staff who is given one or more gifts (actual or potential) with a total value over £10, including hospitality, by a business contact (e.g. customer or supplier actual or potential), must disclose the fact of the gift and its nature to the Chief Executive Officer, who in turn will inform the President. If a gift is offered to the Chief Executive Officer or President, they should declare it to the other and at the next available meeting of the Students’ Union trustees.

3.4 If the Chief Executive Officer and the President decide that the gift is excessive or could be construed as a bribe, it will be returned to the donor with a suitable covering letter.  Otherwise the recipient will be allowed to retain the gift. In the case of the Chief Executive Officer or President the trustees will make the decision.

3.5 Where stock or promotional materials are received from a supplier this shall at all times become the property of the Students’ Union.

3.6 Promotional gifts such as stationery, which are not of significant value are exempt from this policy and need not be disclosed. However recipients wilbe encouraged to distribute these to colleagues where appropriate.

3.7 In certain circumstances it may be appropriate to receive reasonable hospitality from the suppliers or business contacts and similarly for the Students’ Union to entertain contacts. The Chief Executive Officer will decide when it is appropriate.

3.8 A record of all gifts, hospitality received and hospitality given over the value of £10 will be kept by the Chief Executive Officer and shall be inspected by the appointed auditors annually.

3.9 Failure to disclose gifts may constitute a disciplinary offence, which will be dealt with in accordance with the appropriate procedures. If the undeclared gift was of significant value, and the recipient is in a position to influence business dealings with the donor, the offence may be treated as gross misconduct.

3.10 Declarations should be made providing as much detail as possible, via e-mail correspondence containing the information listed in points 3.10.1 - 3.10.5 between the Chief Executive Officer and the President and the individual making the declaration. As a minimum, all declarations should record:

3.10.1 The name of the individual making the declaration

3.10.2 The date that the declaration was made

3.10.3 The nature of the conflict of interest

3.10.4 Details of the external body or other individual concerned in the conflict

3.10.5 Details of any financial or other benefits received by the individual making the declaration.

 

4 Club, Society or Representative Group Funding Application

4.1 At the beginning of any application for funds from a club, society or representative group the Committee Chair should as if any of the committee members present have a conflict of interest regarding the application. A conflict of interest in this policy will be defined as:

4.1.1 Being a current members of the group making the application

4.1.2 Having ever been a member of the executive committee of the group making the application

4.1.3 In a relationship with a current member of the group making the application

4.1.4 Would benefit personally from the application being either granted or not granted

4.1.5 In a relationship with someone who would benefit personally from the application being either granted or not granted

4.1.6 Having been involved with any activity involved in the raising of funds for the group making the application

4.2 Any member having one or more conflicts of interests must declare the fact before the application proceeds.

4.3 Note: it is every committee member’s responsibility to make known any conflict of interest whether the Chair asks for them to be declared or not.

4.4 Once a conflict of interest has been declared the Chair must decide whether the member affected can take any further part of the decision. The Chair can request that any member who has declared a conflict of interest must:

4.4.1 Leave the meeting for the duration of the relevant item

4.4.2 Remain in the meeting as an observer only without speaking or voting rights

4.4.3 Remain in the meeting with speaking rights but with no vote

4.4.4 Take a full part in the discussion and vote

4.5 If a member declares a conflict of interest but does not wish to disclose the nature of the conflict they must leave the meeting for the duration of the relevant item.

4.6 If any member other than the affected member disagrees with the Chair’s decision then they can call for a vote to be taken. The member affected must leave the meeting for the duration of the vote.

4.7 If a member fails to disclose a conflict of interest then the Chair may rule the decision to be invalid. Where a Chair fails to to disclose a conflict of interest then the decision is automatically ruled to be invalid.

4.8 All declared conflicts of interest and subsequent action must be included within the minutes of the meeting.

5 Implementation and Monitoring of the Conflict of Interest Policy

5.1 The Chief Executive Officer and President will ensure that this policy is brought to the attention of staff, officer and volunteers on a regular basis and that individuals are encouraged to declare conflicts of interests

5.2 The Trustees will monitor the implementation of this policy and is responsible for advising the sabbatical trustee and Chief Executive Officer of any further measures required to control the risk of fraud, corruption and irregularity.

5.3 Breach of this policy may lead to disciplinary action against members of staff, officers or trustees. Other appropriate action may be taken against officers or volunteers by Union Council. Any disciplinary action against staff and officers will be dealt with in accordance with the appropriate procedures.

Appendix 1: Relationship Notification Grid

 

Student

Student Trustee

Part-Time Officer

Student Staff

Full-Time Officer

Non-

Student Staff

Non-
Student Staff

Must notify

Must notify

Must notify

Must notify

Must notify

Must notify

Full-Time Officer

No notification needed

Must notify

Must notify

Must notify

Must notify

Must notify

Student Trustee

No notification needed

No notification needed

No notification needed

Must notify

Must notify

Must notify