The story of Royal Life Saving Queensland (RLSSQ) is a reminder to all persons involved in sport management of the risks associated with failing to maintain a strict policy on "Conflict of Interest".
In this story, a person who had occupied positions of high standing within RLSSQ over a period of 20 years became the centre of attention as a result of a confidential audit of the RLSSQ that revealed serious governance and management issues.
The full story created by the ABC television's 7:30 program titled "Leaked audit casts shadow over Royal Life Saving " can be found at:
In short, the confidential audit revealed significant irregularities of organisation governance regarding the involvement of companies with RLSSQ that were owned by a person who also held high office within Royal Life Saving Queensland for many years.
The situation was a classic "conflict of interest". It resulted in damage to the reputation of the organisation and the individual concerned.
A Conflict of Interest occurs when a person has a role or position within an organisation that requires them to make decisions in the best interest of the organisation, but they also have a competing private or personal interest which may affect their judgement.
The risk is that persons in such a situation will make decisions, sometimes unwittingly, in their own personal interest rather than the interests of the organisation.
Some of the more important causal factors that underly this risk include:
While it should not be construed that anyone who has held office for several years is bound to have made decisions in self-interest, the risk does increase as time goes by. Persons with lesser experience on committees find it hard to question the actions of the long-standing and highly respected contributors to the organisation.
It is not uncommon for capable organisations administrators (e.g. President or Secretary) to be unopposed at the yearly election of office bearers during the Annual General Meeting. As a result, they may continue in their role for many years. Generally the membership of the organisation is grateful for the work done by office-bearers, especially when the role is voluntary. This relative security of tenure coupled with the trust and respect of fellow committee personnel and long-standing organisation members, induces a more relaxed approach towards dealing with conflicts of interest. It is a slow process, and as such situations where a conflict of interest exists, can creep up on everyone unnoticed.
The management committee should develop, publish and promote policy that:
Prevents the organisation from entering into a relationship with any business that is owned, partially owned or controlled by a member of the management committee unless there are the strictest provisions to emliminate a conflict of interest. Such provisions should be documented in case there is scrutiny at a later date.
Implements a merit-based selection process in the employment of staff. This should include ensuring that vacancies are advertised internally and externally within the limits imposed by the organisation's budgetary conditions. As far as possible, the organisation should refrain from circumventing good recruitment policy for mere convenience.
Restricts organisers of fundraising activities from participating as a contestant in the same draw they organise to win prizes or cash. This restriction should also apply to their immediate families.
Advises members of the management committee that they should not act as a broker, that is facilitate for personal gain, any business deal between the organisation and a third party.
Advises members of the management committee that they should only accept gifts if such gifts are directed through the management committee rather than to the individual directly.
Requires persons who have a responsibility to select athletes or players to extricate themselves from any selection process in which a person being considered for selection is a family relative, or has a close working relatOrganisation gioonship to the selector.
Prevents members of the management committee from participating in any committee discussion, or in any vote taking, on matters relating to the pay or conditions of employment of any person to whom they are related and who is employed by the organisation.