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Managing conflicts of interest and confidentiality​​

​It’s important that everyone in your agency behaves ethically. Conflicts of interest should be properly identified and transparently managed.

All agency staff, contractors, consultants and volunteers have a duty to put the public interest above their personal or private interests when carrying out their official duties.

What is a conflict of interest?

A conflict of interest is where someone is compromised when their personal interests or obligations conflict with the responsibilities of their job or position. It means that their independence, objectivity or impartiality can be called into question.

A conflict of interest can be:

  • actual: where the conflict already exists
  • potential: where the conflict is about to happen, or could happen
  • perceived: where other people might reasonably think that a person has been compromised.

How conflicts of interest can arise

A conflict of interest can arise through a relationship, an activity or strong personal views.

An employee has a conflict of interest if, as part of their work duties, they’re required to deal with:

  • a relative or close personal friend
  • an organisation, club, society or association they’re a member of
  • a person who is their community or church leader
  • a person or organisation they:
    • have a professional or legal obligation to
    • have a business interest or own property with
    • owe money to
    • previously worked for, or currently work for (secondary employment).

An agency employee could also have a conflict of interest if they’re given something from someone who could benefit from their decisions, eg:

  • a gift
  • an invitation to lunch, dinner or a sporting event
  • free or subsidised travel or accommodation
  • any other sort of benefit, including money.

A conflict can also arise if a person holds strong personal views on an issue their agency is considering, eg political views or religious beliefs.

The consequences of not managing conflicts of interest

The main goal of managing conflicts of interest is to ensure that decisions are made – and are seen to be made – on proper grounds, for legitimate reasons and without bias.

A poorly managed ‘perceived’ conflict of interest can be just as damaging as a poorly managed ‘actual’ conflict of interest. These conflicts can be positive or negative. You could be seen to favour or benefit someone, or be against them to disadvantage them.

While conflicts of interest should be avoided wherever possible, they often happen innocently. It is how they are managed that counts. A conflict of interest that has not been properly managed, could seriously undermine the integrity of our procurement processes and could lead to complaints, challenges and in some cases, the agency’s decision being overturned. When a conflict has been ignored, improperly acted on or influenced actions or decision-making, the conduct (not the conflict itself) can be seen as misconduct, abuse of office or even corruption

Conflicts that are identified must be reported to the manager in charge of the activity. The conflict and the process for managing it must be recorded in writing.

Conflicts of interest can be managed by:

  • restricting the person’s further involvement in the matter
  • engaging an independent third party to oversee all or part of the process and verify its integrity
  • removing the person with the conflict from working on the procurement
  • the person giving up the private interest that created the conflict
  • the person resigning from their position with the agency – this should only be considered if the conflict of interest can’t be resolved in any other workable way.

Managing Conflicts of Interest - Office of the Auditor-General New Zealand Tumuaki o te Mana Arotake

Standards of Integrity and Conduct - Public Service Commission Te Kawa Mataaho

How to declare a conflict of interest

All agency staff that are actively involved in a procurement activity, or could influence the process or the outcome of a procurement, must complete and sign a conflict of interest declaration and a confidentiality agreement as soon as they're appointed to an evaluation team.

People who should complete a conflict of interest declaration include:

  • the procurement team (staff, contractors and consultants)
  • the evaluation panel
  • consultants asked to advise the team
  • anyone involved in making a recommendation
  • anyone involved in approving a recommendation or making an important decision
  • anyone making a financial approval for the procurement.

This does not include:

  • senior leaders who provide sign-off but don't otherwise influence the process, unless your agency has a different policy.

You can complete these declarations online using the Conflict of Interest tool.

Conflict of interest management tool

Declarations need to be revisited regularly and checked once the supplier has been chosen.

Conflict of interest management tool

The conflict of interest (CoI) tool is available to all New Zealand public sector organisations to register and use as part of their procurement practice. The CoI tool makes it easy and fast to capture, assess, manage and record potential conflicts of interest of panel members evaluating a tender on a secure digital platform. It also helps agencies to transition from using, archiving paper based documents to a common digital platform and experience.

Features and benefits of the CoI tool include:

  • Free to register and use
  • Reduces administration time and risk
  • Guided declaration process for users
  • Draft, agree and curate conflict management plans online
  • Secure and reliable platform.

Accessing the conflict of interest tool

Access the conflict of interest management tool

To register or express interest, please contact your New Zealand Government Procurement Account Manager, or submit a request through our online contact form.

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