Disclosure of interests
A code of practice for declaring and dealing with competing interests
In the development of guidelines, policy or projects, a conflict of interest refers to a situation where the professional actions of a person are or may be influenced by personal and/or professional interests (NHMRC). There is nothing inherently unethical about conflicts of interests if they are openly declared and acknowledged.
Cancer Council Australia is committed to ensuring public confidence in the integrity of guidelines, projects and policies developed and overseen by Cancer Council Australia.
As such, Cancer Council Australia follows the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines on identifying and managing conflicts of interest. Cancer Council Australia’s Code of Practice for declaring and dealing with competing interests (The Code) ensures that our guidelines, policies and projects are developed and conducted in an ethical manner.
Disclosing conflicts of interest
Individuals appointed to Cancer Council Australia's Management Committees, Working Parties, Advisory Groups, Committees or Subcommittees are required to acknowledge and declare any possible or probable conflicts of interests. This is in accordance with NHMRC’s Standards for Guidelines.
At the time of accepting an invitation to participate in a guideline, committee or project, an individual must provide information of the financial, professional, organisational, private and familial interests which may represent an apparent or potential conflict of interest.
The obligation to disclose an apparent or potential conflict of interest is ongoing. Hence, after the initial disclosure, individuals are required to provide updates to Cancer Council Australia as soon as they are aware of any changes to their interests.
The types of interests that should be disclosed can be found in NHMRC’s Disclosure of interests and management of conflicts of interest under Chapter 2.1 What interests should be disclosed?
However, some examples where potential conflicts of interests could arise include:
- Professional positions
- Membership in committees of other organisations
- Boards of Directors
- Advisory Groups
- Family and Personal relationships
- Financial interests (e.g. grants, consultancy fees, entertainment, gifts)
All private information provided by individuals will be managed with confidentiality requirements.
Please note, if an individual covered by the Code is uncertain whether an interest would be considered a conflict, then they should proceed as follows:
- Committee/Group members should seek guidance from the relevant Cancer Council Australia Director and/or CEO, and Chair of the Committee/Group
- For clinical guidelines, Working Party and subcommittee members should seek guidance from the Chair and/or the Management Committee
- Contractor employees should seek guidance from their head or department.
Managing conflicts of interest
If a conflict is identified, the appropriate decision maker such as the Director, CEO, Chair, Deputy Chair or Management Committee depending on the project or guideline development will determine what measures, if any, are most appropriate to manage the conflict of interest. In accordance with NHMRC guidelines under Section 6 Manage conflicts of interest, these measures should be tailored to individual circumstances.
The NHMRC and Public Governance, Performance Accountability (PGPA) Acts require that members with identified conflicts of interest is not present when matters that relate to the interest are considered, and does not take part in any decisions of the Committee or Group in relation to those matters, unless members of the Committee or Group determine otherwise (NHMRC Policy on the Disclosure of Interests Requirements for Prospective and Appointed HNMRC Committee Members, ACJP ).
The Committee or Group may consider the following points when determining whether a member with a conflict of interest may participate in discussions or voting:
- Whether the absence of the member would significantly impede decision-making processes (i.e., the loss of significant expertise or experience).
- The effect of the member’s presence on public confidence in the Committee/Group’s decision-making processes.
- Whether the member can be appropriately involved in certain discussions or decisions. For example, an individual may contribute their expertise to a discussion or be able to answer questions from other members, but not vote on the final outcomes or the crafting of a final recommendation.
- The decision-making context and whether the composition of the Committee/Group’s dilutes or mitigates any potential conflict of interest.
- Whether the member can take action to divest themselves of financial interests or resign from membership of entities whose interests could be affected by the Committee/Group’s consideration.
Where the Committee/Group meeting includes members attending via video conference, a member with the identified conflict of interest must no longer have access to the Committee meeting.
Appropriate record keeping is kept by Cancer Council Australia, including of:
- Names of individuals who have declared interests on appointment as the interest first arises, and through the annual declaration and the nature of the interest.
- Names of individuals who have declared interests at meetings . giving dates, names of relevant interventions and companies, details of the interest declared and whether the member took part in the proceedings.
When an individual is seeking appointment or has been invited to the Committee/Group, they are responsible for reading this document, reviewing their current activities for apparent or potential competing interests, and bringing any existing and future possible and probable conflict of interests to the attention of Cancer Council Australia.
Appendix 1: Summary of disclosing and managing conflict of interests
Adapted from NHMRC