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Interest Disclosure Reporting


VCU-required disclosure

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The interest disclosure process begins when employees who are in a position of trust complete an online questionnaire in VCU's Interest Disclosure System. 

The data is saved in the system and then reviewed by the Integrity and Compliance Office for potential conflicts. 

Potential conflicts of interest/commitment are researched. Sometimes we ask for additional information to determine if a management plan is necessary to address the conflict. 

If a management plan is put in place, then management in the area is responsible for ensuring the plan is followed. At a minimum, plans should be reviewed for effectiveness on an annual basis. 

The university’s expectations on disclosure and management of conflicts are outlined in the VCU Code of Conduct on pages 30 through 35. Frequently Asked Questions are below.


 

State-required disclosure

Each year in January, university members who are required by the Commonwealth to complete Virginia's Statement of Economic Interest will be notified by our office. The Informal Guide to Completing the State and Local SoEI form is available here.

Additionally, every other year, state filers are required by the Commonwealth to complete a Conflict of Interests Orientation course. The purpose of the training is to ensure that employees required to file the annual Statement gain a greater knowledge of the Conflict of Interests Act, its provisions and prohibitions. This training is required for all employees in a position of trust upon hire and odd years thereafter (e.g., 2017, 2019, etc.).

Please contact us with questions about this process at ucompliance@vcu.edu.

 

Prohibited Conduct

For the most current legislation, click here. Also, see SCHEV's COI Act Presentation to Visitors of Virginia Public Universities and Colleges (October 2016) for more information.

No officer or employee of a state or local governmental or advisory agency shall:

No officer or employee of a state or local governmental or advisory agency shall:

1. Solicit or accept money or other thing of value for services performed within the scope of his official duties, except the compensation, expenses or other remuneration paid by the agency of which he is an officer or employee. This prohibition shall not apply to the acceptance of special benefits that may be authorized by law;

2. Offer or accept any money or other thing of value for or in consideration of obtaining employment, appointment, or promotion of any person with any governmental or advisory agency;

3. Offer or accept any money or other thing of value for or in consideration of the use of his public position to obtain a contract for any person or business with any governmental or advisory agency;

4. Use for his own economic benefit or that of another party confidential information that he has acquired by reason of his public position and which is not available to the public;

5. Accept any money, loan, gift, favor, service, or business or professional opportunity that reasonably tends to influence him in the performance of his official duties. This subdivision shall not apply to any political contribution actually used for a political campaign or constituent service purposes and reported as required by Chapter 9.3 (§ 24.2-945 et seq.) of Title 24.2;

6. Accept any business or professional opportunity when he knows that there is a reasonable likelihood that the opportunity is being afforded him to influence him in the performance of his official duties;

7. Accept any honoraria for any appearance, speech, or article in which the officer or employee provides expertise or opinions related to the performance of his official duties. The term "honoraria" shall not include any payment for or reimbursement to such person for his actual travel, lodging, or subsistence expenses incurred in connection with such appearance, speech, or article or in the alternative a payment of money or anything of value not in excess of the per diem deduction allowable under § 162 of the Internal Revenue Code, as amended from time to time. The prohibition in this subdivision shall apply only to the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Governor's Secretaries, and heads of departments of state government;

8. Accept a gift from a person who has interests that may be substantially affected by the performance of the officer's or employee's official duties under circumstances where the timing and nature of the gift would cause a reasonable person to question the officer's or employee's impartiality in the matter affecting the donor. Violations of this subdivision shall not be subject to criminal law penalties;

9. Accept gifts from sources on a basis so frequent as to raise an appearance of the use of his public office for private gain. Violations of this subdivision shall not be subject to criminal law penalties; or

10. Use his public position to retaliate or threaten to retaliate against any person for expressing views on matters of public concern or for exercising any right that is otherwise protected by law, provided, however, that this subdivision shall not restrict the authority of any public employer to govern conduct of its employees, and to take disciplinary action, in accordance with applicable law, and provided further that this subdivision shall not limit the authority of a constitutional officer to discipline or discharge an employee with or without cause.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a conflict?
A conflict exists when an employee has competing interests or divided loyalties that make it difficult to distinguish between actions that are in an employee's self-interest and actions that are in the best interests of the university.

Conflicts are normal and often result from good things. The key is disclosure to help ensure we are doing the right thing.

 

What is a conflict of commitment?
A conflict of commitment exists when activities outside of the workplace involve the significant use of university resources (including employee time). Employees are expected to satisfy all of the requirements of their jobs, and should not allow outside activities to interfere with their primary university responsibilities.

Your immediate supervisor, department head/chair or dean is your initial contact for discussing whether your outside activities pose a conflict of commitment. To assure potential conflicts are appropriately managed, the Integrity and Compliance Office is available for guidance.

 

Does having a conflict violate university policy?
Conflicts are normal and often result from good things. The key is disclosure to help ensure we are doing the right thing. NOT disclosing an interest is considered misconduct.

A conflict of interest is sometimes referred to as a “competing interest” to emphasize that a conflict can exist even if no misconduct results from it. In fact, for most employees, it is virtually impossible to avoid having a conflict at some point in their careers. As long as interests are disclosed and managed appropriately, having the conflict is not necessarily a bad thing. However, a conflict can become a problem if an individual tries to influence the outcome of a business decision for personal benefit or involves significant use of university resources for personal activities. This behavior is considered employee misconduct, which is prohibited by university policy and, in some cases, the law.

 

Is this email legit?
Emails from noreply@convercent.com are legit. They are generated by VCU's new disclosure tool to notify and remind you of the disclosure requirement before the due date. If your primary email is an @vcuhealth.org account, be sure to check your @vcu.edu account to ensure you are receiving these notices and they are forwarding as expected.

 

Is this the same as the Office of Research and Innovation's disclosure in AIRS? 
No. This is a separate disclosure tool, questionnaire and process.

 

Is this the same as the annual state disclosure?
No. About 130 employees are also required to disclose their interests through the Commonwealth's online interest reporting system. These individuals will be asked to complete this activity in January and will receive a separate notice. VCU's disclosure request applies to nearly 700 employees and reestablishes a similar process the university had in the past. See below.

 

Is this process new?
Yes and no. The VCU disclosure process was in place for many years in conjunction with the Commonwealth's disclosure requirement. We put the VCU process on hold for the last several years while the state revamped its process and requirements. We have now reinstituted the university disclosure and review process to better reflect the higher education environment and risks we face at VCU. We hope you find it much more streamlined, less intrusive and time-consuming. Our goal is efficiency!

 

Why must I disclose my interests?
Unmanaged conflicts can damage your reputation and erode trust. Even the appearance of a conflict can lead others into doubting your work and questioning your trustworthiness.

Living our core values means we all must consider ethical impacts when making decisions. For this reason, you are expected to fully disclose any interests (whether foreign or domestic) that could even be perceived as a conflict.

 

Who can see my disclosure?
Disclosures will be reviewed and assessed for any potential conflicts by my office. If a conflict is identified, managers will be looped in to determine how to best the conflict. An overview of this process is available on our website.

  

What will happen if an employee discloses information that suggests the existence of a conflict?
The Integrity and Compliance Office may speak with the employee, ask for additional relevant details and share the findings with management, if necessary, so that it may be resolved or managed.

 

I am certain I have no conflicts. Do I still have to disclose my interests?
Yes. If you asked to disclose, then you are expected to disclose your interests through the online form, even if the answer to all questions is “no.”

The same is true for employees required to disclose to the Commonwealth through their online disclosure system.

 

Why am I receiving overdue notices for my direct reports when the deadline is in December?
Each time a notice/reminder is sent from Convercent, managers receive a summary of who still needs to complete the disclosure. This is not an overdue notice. This feature was based on feedback and is designed to make it simple to see who on your team is on the disclosure list and has not completed the disclosure questionnaire to date. There are four scheduled summary emails before the due date to keep managers apprised of their team's progress.

 

What is a management plan? 
When a conflict is deemed material, a management plan may be developed to manage, reduce or eliminate any conflicts identified during the review process. When appropriate, the plan should be written in consultation with the employee having the perceived conflict and senior leadership in the employees’ school/division or department.

Plan considerations may include:

  • Training on conflicts of interest
  • Monitoring/oversight by an independent party
  • Separation of responsibilities for financial decisions
  • Appointment of another employee to oversee the project
  • Disqualifying employee from participating in activity posing a conflict
  • Divestiture of financial interest or severing relationship causing the conflict

The plan should include:

  • Written agreement of compliance with the plan
  • Biannual follow-up meetings to confirm compliance with the plan

Other employees in the department should be assured of their right to raise concerns if they believe the managed conflict is impacting decisions/actions inappropriately.