WOMEN’S BUDGET GROUP: CONFLICT OF INTEREST PROCEDURES
WHAT IS CONFLICT OF INTEREST AND WHERE DOES IT ARISE?
“Conflict of Interest” is a shortened way of describing a conflict between a personal interest (financial or other) and an official position held through election to the Management Committee or an employment contract with the WBG. It may also arise where work is carried out by members on behalf of the WBG or where WBG policy is being decided and members hold a role with another organisation that promotes a particular view of the topic in question.
The WBG is a non-profit making company limited by guarantee under the Companies Act. We have some paid employees and a voluntary management committee, and rely on members giving their time and expertise on a pro bono basis to carry out much of our work. We recognise that individual members will be involved in a range of other organisations and activities and we value this as a way of ensuring that diverse points of view are brought to the WBG.
In certain circumstances however, an individual may be in a position to derive a personal, professional or financial benefit from their involvement with the WBG. This policy is intended to highlight when this may arise and the correct procedures to adopt in such circumstances.
The procedures apply particularly to:
- Employees of the WBG
- Members of the WBG Management Committee (Company Directors)
- Members carrying out work for or speaking on behalf of the WBG.
Additional guidance for employees is given at the end of this document.
Examples of situations where a conflict of interest may arise
The following are examples of situations which could cause a conflict of interest.
- You are a MC member or employee and deal with job application from a friend, family member or associate
- You are an MC member or employee and you assess a project involving an organisation of which you are a member
- You are commissioning goods and services and those goods and services are supplied by a supplier owned by you, your friend, family or business associate
- You are employing agency staff on behalf of the WBG and you have a connection to a particular agency
- You are asked to carry out paid work on behalf of the WBG
- You hold an official position or are an elected representative of a political party, public body or organisation whose policies the WBG wishes to influence
In all these examples you have a duty to apply WBG policy and procedures rigorously but there may be a risk that your personal interest could influence your judgement in doing so.
PROCESSES FOR DECLARING AND RESOLVING CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
The WBG does not hold a register of interests, but, as part of good governance, we expect that where a conflict of interest does arise the individual(s) concerned will declare their interest and co-operate with the Director, Chair and Treasurer to find an acceptable course of action. Such action may simply be to note or formally record the situation, or to withdraw from participation in a specific decision.
Where an interest is declared the MC will decide whether the individual may or may not take part in dealing with the matter concerned. This responsibility may be delegated in specific circumstances to the Director, Chair or Treasurer. This decision will be reported to the management committee and recorded in the minutes of the next management committee meeting.
MC members and employees should always discuss potential conflicts of interest with the Director, Chair or Treasurer as appropriate. Any conflict of interest affecting the Director or other senior employees must be referred to the Chair, who will if necessary consult the MC in making a decision.
The confidence that our members and funders have in the WBG is based on demonstrating that we have structures and processes which show openness, sensitivity, challenge and accountability and comply with our legal and financial responsibilities.
All MC members and employees are required to implement and comply with these structures and procedures.
FINANCIAL INTERESTS AND PROCEDURES
Financial interests: commissioning and contracts
WBG is a not-for-profit company. Article 52 of our Articles of Association states:
“It shall be the duty of a director to make a declaration in advance if they have a financial interest, direct or indirect, in any matter to be considered by the directors and they shall not vote on any issue arising in that connection nor shall they be counted in the quorum present for that vote”.
A financial interest exists if:
- You or any friend or relation of yours is a member of a company, or other body, with which the contract is made, or is proposed to be made, or which has a direct financial interest in the matter under consideration; or
- If you are a partner, or in the employment, of a person with whom the contract is made or is proposed to be made or who has a direct financial interest in the matter under consideration.
If you are in a relationship, civil partnership or married and living with your spouse / partner, the interest of one is seen to be the interest of both.
Members and employees must declare an interest where they as an individual or their spouse, or partner, or other family member, has an interest (direct or indirect) which may result in them being commissioned to undertake a contract under consideration by the Director or Management Committee.
The Director (or Chair if the conflict of interest involves the Director) is responsible for registering any declaration given by an employee or a Management Committee member of a financial/monetary interest in a contract. Such declarations will be reported to the Management Committee and made available for inspection in accordance with agreed procedures by any member of the WBG.
Financial interests: carrying out work on behalf of WBG
We operate as a network of experts and members may on occasion carry out work on behalf of the Women’s Budget Group as part of specific projects or campaigns. This may be done on a pro bono basis or may be charged for and costed as part of a funding allocation. Sometimes members are paid directly for work by an external body and then donate that payment to the WBG. Work might also be part-funded or subsidised by a university or other body where the person carrying out the work is employed. We will be clear at the start of a project what arrangements will apply, how individual contributions will be accounted for and what tax liabilities the arrangement will incur for individuals and for WBG. Similarly, we will set out clearly any new arrangements if they change in the course of the project.
MC members are not paid for the performance of their regular duties as Board members. These duties include, but are not limited to, attendance at meetings, participation in Board subcommittees, review of documents and representing WBG externally. MC members are permitted to claim expenses for such duties in line with standard procedures – see below.MC members may receive payment where they contribute to the delivery of projects that are additional to their Board duties, for example a research project or delivery of workshops, where a project requires their specific professional expertise. These projects are referred to as “special projects” to distinguish them from the ordinary duties of Board members.
Process for Payments to MC members
The following process is followed to ensure a transparent process for compensating MC members for their roles in special projects:
- Budget for the special project must be circulated to the Management Committee indicating that delivery will involve an MC member, who will receive payment for their time. The MC must be given the opportunity to review the budget and raise objections, if there are any. This must occur prior to the submission of the funding proposal.
- If there are no objections from other MC members, the funding proposal can be submitted.
- If there is any objection to payment of the MC member, the MC will consider what action should be taken. This could include, but is not limited to, modifications to the proposal, a decision not to submit the proposal, or proceeding with the original proposal.
- If the application is submitted to the funder with payments to MC members, the MC is informed of the outcome of the application once it is known. Where funding is approved, the Treasurer will maintain oversight of any payments to the MC member, who will invoice for these payments on a self-employed basis. The MC member will be asked by the Treasurer to acknowledge that any liability for income tax is their own responsibility. The MC will receive updates on payments to MC members as part of the Treasurer’s financial report at the bi-monthly MC meeting.
- At the conclusion of the project, the Treasurer will submit a final project report outlining any payments to MC members.
- Any payments to MC members will be declared in the Annual Accounts in the section entitled ‘Transactions with Directors’.
Financial procedures: making payments on behalf of WBG
Any legitimate expenses incurred in carrying out WBG business may be claimed through the Expenses procedure. Expenses claims should be submitted to the Director using the appropriate claim form with receipts attached. Payment is subject to authorisation by the Director or Chair, in consultation with the Treasurer. Expenses claims from the Director must be authorised by the Chair.
The Director and Treasurer are authorised to agree spending on behalf of the WBG, and payments from our bank account require further authorisation by another bank account signatory. If any member is approached to make payments on behalf of WBG they should immediately refer the request to the Director.
Representing the WBG
The WBG benefits from members of the Management Committee and the wider membership who promote our work through public speaking, writing and media interviews.
This may be as an official representative of the WBG. For example, we receive regular requests to provide speakers for conferences, meetings and workshops or to provide interviewees for the media which may be passed on to an individual with specific expertise when this is required or circulated to a wider group for a more general request. It is generally the responsibility of the Director to pass on these requests.
In these situations, the member concerned is representing the WBG and should ensure that she or he is speaking in line with WBG policy. If issues arise during questions and discussion after a talk, which are outside WBG policy then the member should be clear that WBG does not have policy in this area and should avoid presenting their personal views in a way that might be understood to reflect WBG policy. This is particularly important where issues are controversial within the WBG. While representing the WBG in a media interview members should not present their personal views as representing the views of the WBG.
If the request is for a speaker or spokesperson on an area that is outside WBG policy the Director would normally refer it to a more appropriate organisation or individual. This might include a referral to someone who is a member of WBG but who would be speaking in a personal capacity or as a representative of another organisation. In such cases the member concerned should be careful to avoid giving the impression that they represent the WBG.
The WBG also benefits from members promoting our work when they are not officially representing WBG. For example, a member might be asked to speak at a conference or give an interview in a personal capacity or representing another organisation on an issue where WBG has policy or has carried out research and refer to this research or policy in their presentation. In these situations, WBG welcomes members using this opportunity to promote our work. Members may refer to the fact that they are members of WBG or of the management committee while using their judgement to avoid giving the impression that their comments on issues which are outside WBG policy represent the views of WGB
If members of the Management Committee are asked directly to give talks or interviews on behalf of the WBG they should inform the Director.
The WBG is a non party organisation. Our membership (including the membership of the management committee) includes people from a range of political parties and without any party affiliation. The WBG does not affiliate to or support any political party. We seek to influence all parties to adopt policies that promote women’s equality, gender budgeting and feminist economic principles.
The WBG analyses Government policy and policies proposed by all political parties. Our comments on party policies have to be (and be seen to be) based on this analysis not support for or opposition to the party that is proposing this policy.
Where management committee members or staff represent the WBG on a public platform or to the media this may involve commenting on specific policies of political parties. However, they should be careful not to give the impression that WBG supports or opposes any political party in general.
Where management committee members or staff represent a political party, they should not do anything that would give the impression that the WBG supports that party.
Members of the management committee may face a conflict of interest between their role within the WBG and their role within a political party. This might occur for example during an election campaign where the WBG is analysing the manifestos of all political parties and a member works for or is standing for elected office on behalf of a political party. In these circumstances the member concerned should declare this potential conflict of interest and may be asked to withdraw from this discussion.
The Director is responsible for all social media comments on behalf of the WBG and may delegate this responsibility to another staff member. Social media channels should only be used to represent the views of the WBG. Care should be taken to avoid making comments on controversial or sensitive issues outside WBG’s policy areas.
Management Committee members use of social media in an individual capacity is a private matter. However, if members of the management committee chose to refer to their membership of WBG in social media comments or on their profile they should be aware that they may be assumed to be speaking on behalf of WBG. This means commenting in line with WBG policy and avoiding comments that might bring the organisation into disrepute.
FURTHER GUIDANCE FOR WBG EMPLOYEES
Employees: employment outside of the WBG
WBG supports the rights of staff to work flexibly around care and other responsibilities. Staff who need to alter their scheduled hours of work should discuss this with the Director who will aim to meet requests for flexible working where feasible.
WBG employees are free to undertake other paid work or voluntary positions so long as these do not create a conflict of interest with their work at WBG or take place within their scheduled hours of work for WBG. In case of doubt they should discuss the issue with the Director.
Any private work undertaken for any person, company or contractor who has a contractual relationship with the WBG must be clearly separate from the employee’s work for the WBG and not undertaken during WBG scheduled working hours.
If an employee has their own business or is considering setting up their own business, they must consult the Director about any potential conflict of interest. Employees should not work in those businesses during scheduled WBG working hours.
Employees: political activity
Employees are free to join any political party or none as they see fit. Employees who canvass at any election or poll on behalf of a political party must do so only in a private capacity and not give the impression of support for that candidate by the WBG.
Employees who wish to stand as a candidate for election to a local or national government position, or write on matters of political controversy, should do so only in accordance with their contract of employment and having discussed the matter with the Director.
The Director or other senior employees who have a public role in representing the WBG should seek permission from the Chair before undertaking political activity where they may be in the public eye. The Chair will consult the Management Committee in making a decision.
Employees: Involvement with voluntary organisations
The WBG actively supports unpaid service to voluntary, or other, organisations. However, it is important that such unpaid service does not affect an employee’s job, or the reputation of the WBG.
You may join or stand for election to the management committee of another organisation, but you must make it clear that you are standing in a personal capacity and not on behalf of the WBG.
If you are approached to represent the WBG on a management committee or other committee or project you must seek permission to do so from the Director and Chair, and act in line with WBG policy in carrying out your role with that organisation.
If you have any concerns about potential conflicts of interest you should discuss these with the Director.