A conflict of interest is where a person has a personal interest which conflicts with her/his employment or other duties. Having a conflict of interest is not a criminal offence in itself. It can be quite common to have conflicts of interest where you work for your employer in the same sector in which you or your friends or family have business interests. However, unless the conflict is removed or dealt with appropriately, it may lead to a decision or action which is itself a criminal offence (such as a fraud or abuse of power).
You are a site supervisor responsible for procuring site supplies for a contractor. Your sister is the sales manager for a supplier which provides supplies to the contractor. You therefore have a potential conflict of interest because you may want to help your sister by ordering more supplies than necessary or by ignoring any deficiencies in quantity or quality in the supplies made. However, you also have a duty to act in your employer’s interests and so should order only necessary supplies and should also ensure that they are of proper quality and quantity. The conflict itself is not a criminal offence. However, if the conflict leads you to act in favour of your sister and against the interests of your employer, then you will be in breach of your employment duties and may also be committing a criminal offence.
Avoiding conflicts of interest:
There may be a conflict of interest in any case where you, or a friend, family member or relative has some interest in or connection with an organisation which is doing or may do business with your employer, and where you may have a decision-making function for your employer in this regard. If this is the case, you should declare this interest or connection to your employer, and decline to take part in any decision affecting that other organisation until your employer has made a decision on the situation.
Do not wait until the conflict actually occurs. As soon as you become aware that there may be a conflict, declare the interest or connection so as to avoid the conflict actually occurring, and so as to give your employer time to consider the situation, and, if necessary, to make alternative arrangements. Your employer may decide to appoint another manager to supervise the contract with the other organisation. Alternatively, if the consequences of the conflict are minor, you may be permitted by your employer to continue in your role subject to specified safeguards.
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