Conflict of interest for engineers
Conflicts of interest are a part of practical professional practice. They are not something to hide from. and to avoid at all costs. A conflict of this nature is not like the Goonies character ... shamed and thrown in the basement. You simply need to handle them in a professional and ethical manner.
A DEEPER LOOK
A conflict of interest is when one is in a position to make a decision that affects two or more opposing interests, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation.
A conflict of interest is not always deemed a poor situation. All parties may be aware of the conflict (informed consent) and take measures to protect themselves or have placed enough trust in the decision maker. It can be handled professionally; however, these occasions are very rare and ripe for abuse.
The conflict of interest is particularly serious when it is not disclosed and also when the decision maker stands to gain. The result is simply termed compromised judgment.
Some examples of a conflict of interest are:
HOW TO MITAGE CONFLICTS
Mitigation means include:
These are great solutions and utilizing these mitigation means as early as possible is critical. You cannot attempt to implement one of these strategies as a defence to an accusation of a conflict. You as a professional must implement a measure as an avoidance of a conflict of interest.
Tricky Exam Material
APEGA PRESIDENT DR. JIM GILLILAND
The APEGA President Dr. Jim Gilliland, P. Eng., stepped down from his position in November 2014, due to a potential conflict of interest. Gilliland is an employee of Williams Engineering, a consulting firm which is recently named in a provincial court case involving breaches of the Alberta Building Code.
"Maintaining the integrity of APEGA as a self-regulating entity is critical to maintaining our social licence. I have tremendous faith in the network of highly dedicated volunteers and employees that discharge the association's regulatory functions on a daily basis. I believe that by stepping down, APEGA's integrity can't be questioned as they move forward," - Gilliland.
At first you might ask .... how is this a conflict? It seems as though it is more of a question of maintaining the integrity of the profession. Or perhaps APEGA pushed Gilliland out in the same way that Police forces often suspend an officer under investigation.
However, APEGA will undoubtably be involved in the legal process in some way, shape or form. APEGA will also be involved in any sort of disciple review process as Gilliland's employer is a member. Gilliland's position has significant influence within APEGA and it is very easy to see a situation in which a party could claim a conflict of interest.
BLACK & WHITE
It is unlikely you will not encounter a conflict of interest in your practice. They are not black and white situations with easy answers. The best solution is to remain very proactive and foresee such situations.
Very often the best measure is to simply announce the conflict of interest and remove yourself from the situation.