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Conflict of Interest / Commitment FAQ

These are hypothetical examples of “conflict of interest” and “conflict of commitment” offered to employees at the College to illustrate possible situations at a College in an effort to support prudent decision making on the part of employees in determining whether a real or perceived conflict of interest exists.

When assessing conflicts it is important to keep in mind that a perception of conflict is to be avoided as well as an actual conflict.

Questions

1. Is it a conflict of interest for an employee to hire or have direct supervision over a family member?

Yes. It would be a conflict of interest for an employee to be involved in any decision related to the hiring or supervision of a family member. Supervision is defined as having the authority to award or directly influence matters such as salary increases (or denials), promotions, discipline, formal evaluation/assessment, etc., or any other action which could have a positive or negative impact on an individual’s work or career.

2. Is it a conflict of interest for a faculty member, contract instructor, teaching assistant or lab instructor to have a family member as a student in their class?

Yes. It would be a conflict of interest for an employee to teach a family member as they would have decision-making authority in relation to their family member (e.g. assignment marks, final grades).

3. Is it a conflict of interest for a faculty member, contract instructor, teaching assistant or lab instructor, to engage in an intimate personal relationship with a student in their class or under their supervision?

Yes. A faculty member or other College employee who has decision-making power in a student’s educational career will be in a conflict of interest if they become involved in an intimate personal relationship with that student. It should also be noted that due to the power imbalance between faculty members/instructors and students, intimate personal relationships may constitute sexual harassment under the Manitoba Human Rights Code and the College’s Respectful Working and Learning Environment Policy, where one of the individuals exercised authority over the other.

4. Is it a conflict of interest for a faculty member to engage in an intimate personal relationship with a student of the College who is not in their class or under their direct supervision?

This will depend on the particular circumstances. By virtue of the nature of their role in the College, faculty members will almost always be in a conflict of interest or perceived to be in a conflict of interest if they engage in an intimate personal relationship with a student of the College even if the student is not in their class or under their direct supervision. Faculty members should immediately report the circumstances and the nature of their interest or involvement to their immediate Supervisor so that a determination may be made as to whether a conflict of interest exists and appropriate measures may be implemented, if necessary.

5. Is it a conflict of interest for a College employee to accept financial, travel or other gifts or discounts such as Box seats for Sports games (i.e. Jets/Bombers/Goldeyes), tickets to RRC Polytech fundraising events (i.e. Duff Roblin Dinner, etc…), golf games, or other items/gifts from vendors or potential suppliers who stand to benefit from the employee’s decisions?

The appropriateness of these likely relates to the value of the item and the authority of the person receiving them. Accepting financial, travel or other costly gifts from vendors who stand to benefit from an employee’s decisions can be considered a conflict of interest – either real or perceived. The College is a Public Sector entity and is held to a high standard on the stewardship of its resources. Employees must ensure that the objectivity of their decisions is not compromised, in fact or in appearance, by the acceptance of gifts, gratuities or hospitalities of any kind. Generally speaking, College employees should not accept gifts, discounts or personal service in excess of $200 from suppliers to the College.

When there is an active RFP or tender, it would be considered a conflict to accept any gift from a vendor or potential supplier who could be responding to the RFP.

6. Is it a conflict of interest for a College employee to accept an invitation to sit at a table that a vendor or potential supplier has purchased for a College fundraising dinner?

Tickets for fundraising dinners usually result in a tax receipt to the purchaser and are intended to support the College. Generally it would not be considered a conflict to accept an invitation to sit at a table for a College fundraising dinner.

7. Is it a conflict of interest for College employees to consider a donor or supplier’s donation to the College when awarding contracts?

Yes. The College’s Purchasing Policy and related procedures lay out expectations for due diligence in making purchases; the procedures explicitly prevent donations from suppliers from being considered as a basis for awarding purchases or contracts.

8. Is it a conflict of interest if a family member or related person is selling a product or service and the employee connects that person with the Purchasing Department of the College?

It depends; connecting a potential supplier to the Purchasing Department does not represent a conflict, however if the employee is in a position to make and/or influence the decision being made, this would normally be considered a conflict of interest.

9. Is it a conflict of interest or commitment to have employment outside of RRC Polytech?

It is a potential conflict of interest. Your outside employment must be disclosed to Management and Human Resource Services. The College needs to be aware of the outside employment, consider if it poses a conflict, and put a mitigation plan in place. It is prohibited to use College resources or your role, to benefit the other employment. College resources include, but are not limited to; College technology (such as internet, email, software, laptop, computer, printer, scanner, cellphone, other IT equipment), stationary/office supplies, facilities, and parking stalls. Employees with other employment must not disclose information from the College with their other employers.

10. Is it a conflict of interest or commitment for a College employee, or their spouse/legal partner, to own a business?

It is a potential conflict of interest. Your outside business interest must be disclosed to Management and Human Resource Services. The College needs to be aware of your outside business interests, consider whether it poses a conflict, and put a mitigation plan in place. It is prohibited to use College resources or your role, to benefit your personal business interest in any way. College resources include, but are not limited to; College technology (such as internet, email, software, laptop, computer, printer, scanner, cellphone, other IT equipment), stationary/office supplies, facilities, and parking stalls. You can not disclose or rely on any information that you gain in the course of your College employment during the operation of your personal business interest.

11. Is it a conflict of interest when an employee is in a position to make a decision that affects their own business, commercial or financial interests?

Yes, this is a clear conflict of interest. Employees have an obligation to make decisions in the best interests of the College and should not participate in decisions where their own personal interests conflict or could appear to conflict with those of the College.

12. Is it a conflict of interest when an employee uses confidential organizational information to their own advantage?

Yes, confidential organization information should never be used to an individual’s own personal gain or advantage. This is a clear conflict of interest between one’s personal interests and their obligations as an employee to the College.

13. What should an employee do if they have a conflict of interest with the College?

Employees should immediately report the circumstances and the nature of their interest or involvement to their immediate Supervisor so that a mitigation plan may be implemented to address the conflict. After discussion with their immediate supervisor, the employee must complete a Conflict of Interest/Commitment disclosure.

14. What should an employee do if they are not sure whether a conflict of interest exists?

Employees should immediately report potential conflicts of interest to their immediate Supervisor so that a determination may be made as to whether a conflict of interest exists and a mitigation plan may be implemented, if necessary. If any additional guidance is required, or the potential conflict might include the supervisor, the issue should be raised (by the employee or their supervisor) with their Human Resource Consultant for further guidance.

15. If, after making their conflict declaration, an employee is reassigned or promoted to another position, do they need to complete another conflict declaration?

Yes. A conflict declaration must be completed every time an employee changes their position at the College. This applies in all cases, ie. whether there is a perceived, actual or no conflict to declare.

16. Could varying an employees’ hours of work be as a perceived conflict?

All variations of hours of work must be approved by management and documented, with proper approval this is not a conflict. Depending on the nature of the variance, Union approval may be required.

17. Is working from home a conflict interest?

Working from home must be approved by management. Working from home does not, in and of itself, create a conflict of interest. If working from home facilitates a personal business interest, it can create a conflict of interest and the business must be declared.

18. Do casual, term and excluded staff need to declare conflicts?

Yes. All College employees must adhere to all College policies, including Conflict of Interest (P3) and Conflict of Commitment (P4). This includes declaring conflicts as they arise, and at minimum, on an annual basis.

19. If an employee has multiple conflicts, each with varying levels of complexity, should the employee do multiple declarations or can they all be handled on one declaration?

All conflicts may be included on one declaration. If the scope of each of the conflicts varies widely, or an employee needs extra assistance, please consult with your Human Resource Consultant for further direction.

20. If an employee is assigned by the College to participate on a board or committee external to the college, does this assignment need to declared?

No. If the College has assigned a staff member to sit on a board and this participation is an expectation of their position, this is not a conflict. If an employee has sought out a position on a board, outside of their duties at the College and/or for their own personal gain, this may be a conflict and should be declared.

21. Do employees need to make a conflict of interest declaration if a manager approves the employee to take vacation leave following the travel for work purposes?

No. If an employee is required to travel for work purposes, and the manager approves the employee taking leave following the work requirements, no conflict of interest declaration is required. Financial expenditures for the period of the approved vacation leave is the responsibility of the employee. No expense claims can be filed for the period of the vacation leave or other personal leave.

22. Is a conflict of interest declaration required if a spouse/friend/family member accompanies an employee on work required travel?

No. it is not a conflict of interest as long as the employee is not creating a situation in which the travel companion is getting a personal benefit. A conflict of interest declaration is not required. Please note that the personal accompanying an employee must pay for all their own meals, incidentals and travel expenses. The College must not incur any financial liability as a result of a person traveling with the employee. The travel companion is not to have any information or access to individuals as a result of traveling with the employee.

23. Can an employee take a trip or attend a conference paid for by a College vendor or supplier?

Careful consideration should be given to offers from a vendor or suppliers which pay for the expenses of an employee to attend seminars, conferences, plant visits and the like. A business trip sponsored by a vendor or supplier should be declared prior to any commitments being entered into.

24. Is using College resources for personal use a conflict, i.e. using software to make a poster?

Using College IT resources for outside business interests is a conflict. Using College resources for personal use may violate licensing agreements. Employees must declare use of any College resources that are not for a College purpose.