Scenarios

Purchasing – purchases valued at less than $200,000

Duties performed for the University

Julie works for a foundation. She is the project manager who is responsible for assessing quotes for a laboratory equipment contract. She completes a Request for Quotations (RFQ) for the supply of testing equipment for a brand new state of the art laboratory. Respondents are required to submit bids which meet the specifications detailed in the RFQ in relation to price, capacity, expertise and experience.  Julie discusses the options with her colleagues and a decision is made to issue the RFQ to a small number of suppliers with the aim of obtaining three quotes to fulfill the requirements of the Procurement Policy. She re-reads the procurement guidelines as it has been some time since she has purchased goods on behalf of the University.

External interests

Julie mentions this project to her husband John and he tells her that they own a small number of shares in one of the companies that has submitted a bid. Julie is worried that if she tells Ron, her manager, about the shares she may lose her job because he would be concerned about the integrity of her decision-making. The shares are only worth half of what they were five years ago when Julie and John purchased them as the company is not doing well. Julie is a very diligent employee and takes extra care in preparing the specifications. She has been working at the foundation for nine years and is well respected by her colleagues. 

Identified conflict

Julie’s interest is not substantial in dollar value. However, the project is worth more than $100,000 and will have a direct impact on the future value of the shares and the financial health of the company. The company in which Julie owns shares is publicly listed. It is feasible that other respondents who miss out on the bid are looking closely at their competitors’ business affairs and have noted who is on their share register. If the decision goes against them, they may complain that Julie was biased. Even if Julie is completely objective in assessing the suppliers and follows the correct procedures, and the University can disclose details of why the winning bid was chosen, there is a perceived conflict of interests as Julie has a financial interest in one of the bidding companies. 

Management option

Julie considers saying nothing as the chances of anyone in her workplace finding out about her share portfolio are negligible. However, she changes her mind. Julie discusses her concerns with Ron and formally declares her conflict of interests. She is not at all keen to be removed from the project which she sees as an important step in her career. She discusses her situation with Ron and they agree that Julie would excuse herself from reviewing the response from the company that she owns shares in. This way she would have no influence in the assessment of this company in the evaluation process. She can then continue to manage the project once the outcomes have been decided.

Information on Requests for Quotations

Tendering and purchasing purchases valued at more than $200,000

Duties performed for the University

John works for Procurement Services at the University. He has been allocated the task of project managing the market engagement for a high-end scanner to be used in medical research. Suppliers are required to submit tenders to respond to specifications identified in the Request for Tender (RFT) document, such as price, capacity, expertise and experience.  John discusses the options with the evaluation team, who are representative stakeholders from across the University. A decision is made to go to the open market for the services. 

External interests

John is a very diligent employee and takes extra care in preparing the specifications for the tender to ensure it is independent and cannot be seen to favour any potential respondent. He has been working in procurement for many years and is well regarded for his attention to detail and thorough knowledge of procedures. John mentions this project to his brother Carl, knowing that Carl’s company specialises in this field and would be a perfect fit for the contract. John encourages his brother to submit a bid, but declines to discuss it with him or give him any additional information other than what is available in the RFT. Carl subsequently submits a bid. John is unsure if this relationship is considered a conflict and is unsure about telling his boss Eve, in case Eve decides to take him off the project because of concerns over the integrity of his decision-making.   

Identified conflict

John’s interest is not direct and/or financial. However, the tender is worth more than $200,000 and there are strict protocols for the tendering process. Also, public disclosure may be requested under the Government Information (Public Access) Act. The company Carl runs has an online presence; it is feasible that other tenderers could uncover the relationship and suspect an unfair advantage to Carl’s company. Or John’s peers may suspect bias in the tender preparation, evaluation and weighting phases. Even if John declines to evaluate Carl’s bid there is a perceived conflict of interests as John has a personal interest in one of the bidding companies and could prepare specifications in favour of Carl’s company, or provide Carl (whether intentionally or not)  with information that may give his company an unfair advantage. 

Management option

John decides to formally declare his conflict of interests. He is not at all keen to be removed from the project, as he believes he is best placed from a technical and process perspective to deliver a value solution for the University. He discusses his situation with Eve and the conflict is seen to be real. Eve decides that an independent technical expert be engaged to review the specifications John has written to ensure they are independent, and does not allow John to evaluate any of the responses. Eve does allow John to act as an advisor to the evaluation panel and to run all other aspects of the project once the selection has been made.

Information on tenders
Staff recruitment

Duties performed for the University

David is an honorary teaching associate at a clinical school. He gets on well with Anne, the head of school. They went to university together and are collaborating on a major research project. Anne invites him to be a member of a selection panel recruiting for a level D academic position.

External interests

Late one night, when David is going through the short list of applicants he notices a familiar name. He suspects it’s the youngest son of one of his neighbours. David rings Kevin and finds out that it is indeed his son; the promising young academic is keen to come back to Australia as he is about to become a father and his wife wants to be close to her family. Kevin is pleased to hear that David is on the panel and suggests they can all go out for a meal at a local restaurant if his son gets the job. “My shout,” he adds.

Identified conflict

David rings Anne and tells her that he knows one of the applicants; he is not familiar with University processes and wonders whether he should step down. Anne checks the selection procedures and says that the composition of the panel has already been approved by the Delegated Officer. Anne also says that she has reviewed the selection criteria and they are very thorough and specific. There hasn’t been a lot of interest in the position although there is one strong internal candidate who is eligible for a promotion.

Management option

Even though the candidate is not related to David, there is a potential conflict of interests as they have known each other for a long time. David removes himself from any involvement in the appointment. He doesn’t want to damage the reputation of the University or his own standing in the academic community, and he wants to ensure that the successful applicant is not perceived as having received preferential treatment.

Information on selection and recruitment
Gifts, benefits and hospitality

Duties performed for the University

Sung is investigating a synthetic version of carotenoids bixin, a compound found in the annatto tree which has natural UV protection properties.

Gift / benefit

After meeting him at a conference, the business development manager of a pharmaceutical company emails Sung to invite him to visit the Peruvian rainforest where the tree grows in the wild. Sung’s supervisor is on sabbatical. Sung discusses the offer of a return ticket and accommodation with one of his senior colleagues.

Identified conflict

Sung’s school has just experienced 10% budget cuts. The benefit is important as Sung will not be able to travel to South America on the current funding and a closer look at this plant in its natural environment would benefit his research. He has a lot of leave and could take a week off to go trekking in Machu Picchu while he is there. Sung’s research is very promising and has the potential to create a lot of interest in annatto tree supplies. Although the development manager has issued an informal and friendly, “no strings” attached invitation, Sung realises that he wouldn’t be able to refer to any of the findings from his field trip without disclosing sponsorship of his travel. The pharmaceutical company stands to benefit from the research which could mark a breakthrough in sunscreen technology.  

Management option

Sung discusses the offer with one of the University’s research integrity advisers. He makes a decision to reject the offer of a travel sponsorship as it is important to avoid any situation where a company may exert or be perceived to exert a covert influence on research outcomes. It would undermine the credibility of his research long term. He finds out more about commercialisation and intellectual property, and looks for alternate sources of funding so he can travel to Peru with one of his team members in order to complete the research.

Information on research support
Students

Duties performed for the University

Lee is a senior lecturer on a temporary residence visa and is on the committee which advises the dean on the award of post doctoral research engineering fellowships. These are highly prestigious fellowships which are advertised internationally and attract large numbers of candidates.

External interests

Lee is dating one of the applicants.  

Identified conflict of interests

In Lee’s country of origin, only financial interests of more than $5,000 that can create conflicts of interests need to be declared. He reads the External Interests Policy and finds out that personal relationships can cause a conflict of interests with his professional functions. The dollar value is not relevant and you are required to take action if a “reasonable person” could suspect bias.

Management option

Lee declares his conflict of interests and in consultation with his supervisor or reviewer prepares a management plan. He advises the dean and the committee of the conflict of interests. While still contributing to the first phase in the assessment of the applicants, he is not involved in making up the short list and restricts himself from any critical decision-making role in the selection of the final recipients. In addition, the divisional board recruits an external industry representative to oversee the probity process for the award of the fellowships. This person independently reviews each application and the committee’s final selection.