How to avoid conflict of interest
What is conflict of interest? Conflict of interest means that you have got two interests on either side. You are going to be undecided of whom to give or which decision to take because you are conflicted. For example, if Iam working in government say in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and in charge of procurement, and people who have bided there is a firm of my brother, my wife or anybody whom I’m interested in.
so I have two interests: one interest is with my employer which requires doing so that my employer gets value for money; economy, efficiency and effectiveness.
I should give the job to the best evaluated bidder who is going to give the most valuable work at the lowest cost.
On the other hand, I want my brother to win the contract and also make a profit on this job. I have interest that probably when he gets the job, our family will become rich and also he may give a kick-back or thank you. In that case, there is an interest on the either side.
In circumstances like this we say there is conflict of interest, it means that Iam with moral authority to make a decision of whom to recruit because I’m interested in both sides. The main important thing in Uganda if you look at where we have come from, the biggest challenges in governance arises where people who have got to take decision have got conflicts of interest. You see it in politics, procurement, governance and homes. Once you have a conflict of interest you really in a bad position.
The question is “how do you fix this problem?”
In Uganda even globally, conflict of interest is the biggest cause of corruption, poor service delivery and suffering. That is why drugs are not in hospitals.
Why? Because when I take a decision not based on merit, I run a risk of giving somebody who is not competent. That’s why in Uganda when they make roads they do not last long yet the expected life of a road is 20 years. So I give a contract to a company which is going to give me a bribe. It means that I have two conflicts of interest I’m benefiting both sides.
What is that problem? The problem is the other person is going to make the road, instead of lasting 20 years, it lasts 5 years. Every time you see potholes are emerging and cars are breaking down yet this is a huge cost to the economy.
This is why in Uganda procurement is a very critical area because government is all about spending. The arm of government which collects revenue is Uganda Revenue Authority. It collects it from people who pay taxes like our selves. When government gets such money, it gives it to different departments. That is why you find that the biggest thing with government is spending. So how do you spend? For you to spend, you must spend in what we call ‘value for money.’
But because of the corrupt tendencies of these officials, they are going to spend not based on value for money but on what is neat for them. When a public officer takes decisions on how I’m going to benefit, he is not looking on how the government is benefiting.
The whole thing is when you look at the way things go on; poor service delivery is because somebody was not supposed to get that job.
Governance requires us; avoid instances that bring conflicts of interest. How do you conflicts of interest be solved? The best way is to declare?
Fixing conflicts of interest is declaration. However, in Uganda and globally declaring conflict of interest is not possible. When I declare interest, they will say the boss is also interested. Instead of the people saying this guy declared interest they use this as an opportunity.
Because of conflict of interest, corruption and poor service delivery will always continue. Why? Because the solution which was working is no longer working. Unless the person who has conflict of interest is a junior staff, may be declares interest, that’s okay. If I’m the CEO of the company and I declare interest I will influence. It remains a big problem.
As professionals, you need to avoid chances which put on the point of conflict of interest. Avoid small bribes, going out of your way but also being satisfied with the little money you are earning.