Dealing with Conflict of Interest

Organisation governance problems

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.

What is "Conflict of Interest"?

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.

Policy on Conflict of Interest

The management committee should develop, publish and promote policy that:

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