CERF Conflict of Interest Policy
The Probity Plan for Assessment of Applications (October 2005) specifies how conflict of interest was addressed in the hub, fellowship and significant projects competitive funding rounds. It states:
Conflict of interest will arise where an officer in the Department's Assessment Team, the clearance process, or a member of the Reference Group has a direct involvement in a funding proposal.
Where a conflict of interest exists for an officer in the Department's Assessment Team, or in the clearance process, that officer is expected to self-identify, and withdraw from the assessment process.
Where a conflict of interest exists for a member of the Reference Group, that member will self-identify and withdraw from consideration of that funding proposal and any similar proposals in terms of research and research outputs.
Reference Group members will be required to sign a Code of Conduct Agreement.
The CERF Reference Group (CRG) terms of reference includes provision for conflict of interest. The terms of reference states that:
A Reference Group member who has a material personal interest in a proposal being considered by the Reference Group must disclose the nature of the interest at a meeting. Reference Group members will be required to abide by the Bowen Code of Conduct.
The Bowen Committee Report Code of Conduct states:
An officeholder should avoid situations in which his/her private interest, whether pecuniary or otherwise, conflicts or might reasonably be thought to conflict with his/her public duty.
When an officeholder possesses, directly or indirectly, an interest which conflicts or might reasonably be thought to conflict with his/her public duty, or improperly to influence his/her conduct in the discharge of his/her responsibilities in respect of some matter with which he/she is concerned, he/she should disclose that interest according to the prescribed procedures. Should circumstances change after an initial disclosure has been made, so that new or additional facts become material, the officeholder should disclose the further information.
When the interests of members of his/her immediate family are involved, the officeholder should disclose those interests to the extent that they are known to him/her. Members of the immediate family will ordinarily comprise only the officeholder's spouse and dependent children, but may include other members of his/her household or family when their interests are closely connected with his/her.
When an officeholder (other than a Member of Parliament) possesses an interest which conflicts or might reasonably be thought to conflict with the duties of his/her office and such interest is not prescribed as a qualification for that office, he/she should forthwith divest himself/herself of that interest, secure his/her removal from the duties in question, or obtain the authorisation of his/her superior or colleagues to continue to discharge the duties. Transfer to a trustee or to a member of the officeholder's family is not a sufficient divestment for the purpose. If immediate divestment would work significant hardship on the officeholder, possession of the interest should be disclosed to colleagues or superiors and authorisation obtained for temporary retention pending divestment.
A Conflict of Interest Register, established in January 2009, maintains a central record of declared conflicts of interest for the CRG for the CERF program. Earlier conflicts of interest for the CRG and subsequent actions taken to avoid conflicts of interest are recorded in the minutes of the CRG meetings.
Australian government officers involved in the CERF program are required to abide by the APS Code of Conduct which also includes provision for dealing with conflict of interest issues.