Conflict of Interest
While the American
Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines conflict of interest
simply as “conflict between the private interests and the public obligations of a person in an official
position,” your CPG may wish to provide a more precise definition.
Conflict of interest occurs when:
- An appointed voting member of the CPG has a direct fiduciary interest (which includes
ownership; employment; contractual; creditor, or consultative relationship to; or Board or staff
membership) in an organization (including any such interest that existed at any time during the
twelve months preceding her/his appointment), with which the CPG has a direct, financial
and/or recognized relationship; and/or
- When a member of the CPG knowingly
takes action or makes a statement intended to influence the conduct of the
CPG in such a way as to confer any financial benefit on the member, family
member(s), or on any organization in which s/he is an employee or has a significant
Review or Develop Conflict Of Interest Statements
Conflicts of interest often occur
when CPG members who are advocates for particular groups take part in a process
intended to meet the needs of many groups. For example, the executive director
homeless youth organization is likely to push issues affecting homeless youth.
While that is understandable (and even desirable in many cases), a CPG requires
an objective process based on
data. Your CPG members must consider how priority setting will affect all populations
considered. Although the executive director’s job depends on a commitment to the interests of
homeless youth, this member must base his/her decisions on the epidemiologic profile and other data
characterizing the jurisdiction’s HIV epidemic.
Conflicts of interest must not rule
the group. They are not inherently bad, but if your group doesn’t deal
with these openly, they may bias your process. To ensure a fair outcome, your
group can take certain
key steps to lessen the conflict of interest problem.
Your CPG already may have established
some policies and mechanisms for addressing conflicts of interest. If so,
refer to those before beginning the priority setting process. If your CPG
developed such policies, you should do so before beginning the priority setting
process. The policies take time to develop, but these will save much time
later by limiting conflicts of interest.
State and local laws often define conflict of interest. Contact your county or
state attorney general’s
office for a specific legal definition.
By reviewing or developing your
CPG’s conflict of interest policies, your group can
assure a fair process that includes diverse participants.
Key Steps to Avoid Conflicts of Interest
a definition of conflict of interest that all members accept and agree
to abide by.
- Develop a policy
stating how the CPG will deal with apparent conflicts of interest.
varies greatly from group to group. It includes everything from barring
participation in any discussion and voting related to the conflict
to allowing participation in the discussions but not in the voting.
key is agreeing upon a procedure for addressing conflicts of interest
before any conflicts — real or perceived — arise.
- Create a process that
enables all community planning members to disclose conflicts of interest
to the CPG. It helps to have a process that includes a written form and
to keep these forms accessible to all members. It also helps to have
a specific group, committee, or individual be responsible for oversight
of the disclosure process.
- Clarify in writing
the consequences of not cooperating with the conflict of interest policy.
CPG members should be fully aware of the gravity of violating the policy.