Diabetes Action Canada – Conflict of Interest Policy
Members of the Steering Council and its Standing Committees, the Co-Scientific Leads, and ex-officio members on the Steering Council and its Standing Committees are requested to sign a Confidentiality Agreement annually.
Confidentiality Policy and Agreement
As a member of the Steering Council or one of its Standing Committees, I recognize that I owe a duty of confidentiality to Diabetes Action Canada. All information and documentation pertaining to research activities, public and private sector relationships and emerging intellectual property of investigators or institutions that I receive from Diabetes Action Canada and others in connection with my service on the Steering Council or one of its Standing Committees will be treated with strict confidentiality. This information may include personal information related to people living with diabetes who serve on the Steering Council, its Standing Committees or the Patient Councils of Diabetes Action Canada. Neither the contents nor the existence of this information or documentation will be shared with anyone other than the Scientific Officers, Members of the Steering Council, employees and authorized agents of Diabetes Action Canada.
It is, however, understood that our corporate partners have a duty to report on the exchanges taking place at the stakeholders table. This Confidentiality Agreement therefore would not limit their ability to do so with a restricted number of people in the respective organization, so that key internal stakeholders can appreciate the efforts and progression of the Diabetes Action Canada project and justify the continued financial investments. Notwithstanding the above, there may be instances when information must remain strictly confidential and should not be disclosed to anyone outside of the Diabetes Action Canada Committee or Council. I will direct any questions regarding confidentiality obligations to the Chair of the Diabetes Action Canada Steering Council or the Executive Director.
I agree that my selection to serve on the Steering Council or one of its Standing Committees constitutes good and valuable consideration for entering into this agreement, the receipt and sufficiency of which I hereby acknowledge. I agree that this agreement continues to apply for a period of 12 months from the effective date of cessation of my participation on the Steering Council or Standing Committee.
Diabetes Action Canada – Conflict of Interest Policy
Diabetes Action Canada must meet high ethical standards in order to merit the trust of partners and volunteers, as well as sponsors, donors, governments and the public. The integrity of Diabetes Action Canada depends on ethical behaviour throughout the organization, and in particular on fair, well-informed decision-making. The ability to make a decision is sometimes affected by other interests (personal or professional) of individuals in the organization. Such conflict of interest situations are a regular part of organizational and personal life and cannot simply be eliminated. The objective of this policy is to permit Diabetes Action Canada to manage real or perceived conflict of interest situations successfully and resolve them fairly.
This policy applies to all members of the Steering Council, Investigators, Students and Trainees and all staff of Diabetes Action Canada. It also applies to volunteers, but formal procedures should take into account their particular circumstances. Collectively, these groups are called “affected persons” below. Partner organizations are encouraged to establish similar policies, if not already in place, for themselves.
Definition of Conflict of Interest:
A Conflict of interest is a situation in which a person has a private or personal interest sufficient to appear to influence the objective exercise of his or her official duties at Diabetes Action Canada.
“Private or Personal Interest” refers to an individual’s self-interest (e.g., to achieve financial profit or avoid loss, or to gain another special advantage or avoid disadvantages); the interests of the individual’s immediate family or business partners or their interests of another organization in which the individual holds a position (voluntary or paid).
“Objective exercise of duties” refers to an individual’s ability to carry out her or his responsibilities in the best interest of Diabetes Action Canada.
Types of Conflict:
A Steering Council member, employee or volunteer of Diabetes Action Canada may be in a conflict of interest situation that is:
- Actual or real, where official duties are or will be influenced by private interests;
- Perceived or apparent, where official duties appear to be influenced by private interests; and,
- Foreseeable or potential, where official duties may be influenced in the future by private interests.
Examples of Conflict of Interest:
[See Appendix 1 for some categories of conflict situations, as well as Appendix 2 for some longer scenarios.]
Members of the Steering Council, Investigators, Students and Trainees, and volunteers are responsible for managing conflict of interest situations in order to ensure that workplace behaviour and decision-making throughout are not influenced by conflicting interests.
Responsibility for Prevention
Diabetes Action Canada supports an organizational culture in which people freely take responsibility for both “self-declaring” possible conflicts of interest, and respectfully raising possible conflicts faced by others in the organization. This culture makes it possible to avoid many such situations from arising in the first place. Staff, volunteers and Steering Council members have the responsibility to implement practical preventive measures, such as:
- Providing education about what to do when gifts and hospitality are offered;
- Providing meeting agendas in advance to enable participants to foresee possible conflicts;
- Ensuring that people are clearly told when information must be protected from improper use;
- Declining involvement in action (such as supporting a questionable outside activity)
Responsibility for Managing
Where prevention is not the solution, conflict of interest situations must be managed. Here are the steps to be taken by those involved in such situations, working together and supporting one another’s ethical responsibilities.
- Declare it. Ensure transparency by self-declaration, and by making sure that a record of the declaration is made.
- Discuss it. In a doubtful situation, take a moment for a quick word with the chair of your meeting, or undertake a full dialogue with the group, if the situation warrants it.
- Deal with it. Measures to mitigate or eliminate a conflict of interest will depend on what is appropriate to the severity of the situation. Options include:
- Restrict the involvement of the individuals. For example, withdraw from decision-making. This would not be appropriate if the conflict of interest arises frequently, or if the individual cannot be separated from parts of the activity.
- Recruit a third part to assist. For example, ask a disinterested party to sit on a hiring board. There will be situations where no appropriate third party is available.
- Remove the individual from affected duties. When restrict and recruit are not suitable options, the individual with the conflict may be removed from duties related to the conflict. The individual could transfer to other duties.
- Relinquish the private interest. In cases of serious conflict, the individual may choose to drop the private interest, such as membership on the Board of another organization, which is causing the conflict.
- Resign from the official duties. In serious cases where other solutions are not possible, the individual may have to resign from the position creating the conflict.
- Document what has been done. Steering Council minutes, correspondence to interested parties, or other documentation will provide a record of steps taken.
This policy must be explained to all new Steering Council members, Investigators, Students and Trainees, and volunteers. All such affected persons must agree in writing, at the outset of taking a position or volunteering with Diabetes Action Canada, that they will abide by this policy.
- Investigators, Students and Trainees are expected to adhere to the Codes of Conduct and Conflict of Interest Policies of their institutions.
- At that time, Steering Council members and staff must disclose possible conflict situations to the Executive Director (or Steering Council Chair if appropriate) in confidence. Subsequent material changes must be disclosed when they first emerge. Volunteers must inform their coordinator of possible conflict situations.
- The Executive Director (or Steering Council Chair if appropriate) will indicate to each individual whether any further action is necessary to manage the possible conflicts of interest disclosed. Actions might include the following, depending on the severity of the conflict:
- Declaring the conflict to all concerned before discussion or decision-making;
- Withdrawing from final decision-making only;
- Withdrawing from all aspects of discussion and decision-making.
- The Executive Director (or Steering Council Chair if appropriate) is also the final authority on resolving disputes for example when an individual does not agree with the perception that he or she is facing a conflict of interest.
- The Executive Director (or Steering Council Chair if appropriate) is the authority on dealing with real conflicts of interest which are discovered “after the fact”. A variety of serious measures, such as cancelling a contract or hiring decision, may have to be considered, case by case, in such situations.
For the purposes of this policy, the Steering Council Chair is the appropriate authority in all matters related to the affairs of the Steering Council, and to any issues involving the Executive Director’s own affairs. Any issues involving the Steering Council Chair’s own affairs will be dealt with by the Steering Council Vice-Chair and the Steering Council. The Executive Director is the authority in all other matters.
The application of this policy involves two types of transparency:
- Confidential Disclosure: Affected persons must provide information on possible conflicts of interest and related matters to the Executive Director (or Steering Council Chair if appropriate). This information will be kept strictly confidential.
- Declaration to Concerned Parties: If the Executive Director (or Steering Council Chair if appropriate) deems that a particular element of information on a possible conflict of interest must be provided to a wider audience of concerned parties (such as the members of a committee or the Steering Council, or the public at large), then a declaration of the conflict of interest situation will be made and recorded. The person involved should be consulted prior to the wider declaration.
The application of this policy relies heavily on the good judgment and common sense of those affected, following the ethical principles outline in the CIHR Code of Conduct
www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca/e/41722.html, and the University of Toronto Policy on Conflict of Interest Academic Staff
Every member of staff is responsible for his or her own conflict of interest situation:
- Awareness of the policy;
- Self-declaring potential problems to superior;
- Respectfully identifying potential problems of other staff members;
- Undertaking follow-up action determined by the Executive Director; and,
- Making disclosures when circumstances change significantly.
Volunteers are responsible for respecting this policy. They should take any questions in this regard to their coordinator. Coordinators of volunteers will apply the policy to them under the general direction of the Executive Director.
The Executive Director is responsible for the ongoing application of the policy and procedures to staff. The Executive Director will:
- Provide a point of contact for advice about conflict of interest matters;
- Determine the actions required as a result of confidential disclosures by staff;
- Receive complaints about possible breaches of the policy;
- Determine the actions required by breaches of the policy; and,
- Make annual reports on the overall situation of conflict of interest of staff and volunteers to the Steering Council.
The Executive Director’s own conflict of interest situation is the responsibility of the Steering Council Chair.
The Steering Council Chair is the key person to establish the ethical climate for Diabetes Action Canada and its Steering Council, and for ongoing attention to conflict of interest issues on the Steering Council. The Chair is also responsible for resolution of conflict of interest situation, and related disputes, among members of the Steering Council.
The Steering Council Vice-Chair will, together with the Steering Council, deal with the Steering Council Chair’s own conflict of interest situation.
The Steering Council bears great responsibility for the good name of the organization and as such has a special responsibility for ethical matters. The Steering Council is also ultimately responsible for policy and should review of the conflict of interest policy every 5 years, or when the nature of the organization changes significantly.
Appendix 1: Some Categories of Conflict of Interest Situations
- Self-interested funding, contracting or hiring: when an affected person uses a position in Diabetes Action Canada to influence a decision to provide function or contracts to another organization in which he or she has an interest, or to go outside normal hiring processes to give a job to a friend or family member
- Improper influence: when an affected person solicits or accepts some form of benefit in return for influencing Diabetes Action Canada activities or promoting someone else’s interests in Diabetes Action Canada
- Misuse of information or property: when an affect person uses information or property to which the person has access at work, and to which others would not have access, for some personal benefit
- Inappropriate outside activity: when an affected person’s activities outside Diabetes Action Canada are in conflict with the interests of Diabetes Action Canada
- Accepting undue benefits: such as significant gifts which place an affected person under obligation to the donor
Appendix 2: Some Possible Scenarios
The scenarios below illustrate the application of the policy, showing the kinds of judgments, values and measure involved.
- Gifts – People in partner organizations and communities frequently offer gifts that it would be impolite to refuse. It is important to distinguish gifts and favours that represent goodwill and friendship from those that are designed to create an indebtedness on the part of the recipient. A conflict of interest may also arise when gifts are larger than a normal token in a given situation. Key ethical principles in resolving the situation are integrity (i.e. action in line with our policy and values), transparency (including honesty in discussing the issue), and respect (for the gift giver). A possible action would be to explain that policy will only allow the gift to be accepted on behalf of the organization. If there is an appearance of indebtedness, it may be necessary to respectfully decline the gift.
- Network members involved in funding and decisions – The terms of reference for a coalition should state clearly that the first duty of the coalition’s Steering Council members is to the coalition. When the coalition members provide funding and are active in decisions about programs, there is a possibility of conflicts arising between the interests of the coalition and the members’ own organizations. Such conflict situations must be declared and discussed by the Steering Council. Then, depending on the extent of the possible conflict, the Steering Council will decide to what sort of restrictions should be placed on the concerned individual in discussions and decisions. The resolution of the issue should be documented in the minutes.
- Awards committees – Members of awards committees are in a similar situation to the coalition members described above, but the situation is even more serious because they are making decisions about the disbursement of funds. In addition to declaring conflicts, and removing themselves from the awards process as ti related to their home organization, members of such committees must remove themselves from the application process in their home organization. They may also have to recruit someone else to undertake some of the duties they cannot fulfill as a result.