This is a three series of blogs that covers Compliance’s role in annual reviews of policies and procedures, employee appraisals, and conflict of interest forms. The third in the series discusses annual reviews of conflict of interest forms.
Conflict of interests are a part of any business and are actually a good thing for employees. Employees who are engaged in the community and in their employer will have some form of potential conflict of interest. This is okay and many conflicts of interests can be managed. The primary caveat is to disclose the potential conflict of interest as soon as it is identified prior to it being discovered by the organization after the fact.
Once the potential conflict of interest is disclosed and management makes their determination, what next? Does it get filed away to never be looked at again? Most certainly not! At least annually, depending on the conflict of interest, the conflict of interest file should be pulled out to review. Situations change, projects end, roles re-refined. When reviewing the conflicts Compliance should verify that the situation still exists, that the individuals involved have not changed to include more, that the appropriate management is involved in any management plan, and that full discloser has been made to appropriate parties.
Upon completion of the review Compliance may discover that the plan has to be updated due to changes in such things as impaired objectivity or unequal access to information, or the plan may be able to end because the conflict no longer exists; or maybe the plan stays exactly the same.
Remember that conflicts of interest don’t just exist for employees, they also exist with third parties like subcontractors and consultants. Annually your organization should be requiring employees and third parties to complete a Conflict of Interest Disclosure Form, which of course Compliance will review. For those who have completed a previous Conflict of Interest Disclosure Form, which should be everyone, the first question on the form could be a true/false:
“There has been no change related to a significant financial interest, intellectual property, reimbursement, or sponsored travel, business influence, acceptance of payment, gifts or favors, and government employment since completion of my previous conflict of interest form.”
If they answer true you allow them to skip the majority of the form bring them down to the “Are there any other interested or activities in which you are involved that you feel may be in conflict with the intent of this policy or that may raise an appearance of a conflict of interest,” and the signatures sections. If they answer false you bring them through the whole form.
Remember to make annual conflict of interest reviews employee friendly and easy for Compliance to run through as they will have a lot to work through.
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