A conflict of interest arises when a faculty or staff member is in a position to influence the business, research, or other decisions of the University in relationship to an outside organization in ways that could lead directly or indirectly to financial gain for the faculty or staff member; or the family of the faculty or staff member; or give improper advantage to others to the detriment of the University.
Per 30 Illinois Compiled Statutes (“ILCS”) 500/50-13 and -35, if any conflict of interest, whether actual, perceived or potential, exists between a proposed vendor and any University staff member that has any appearance of influence over award or assignment of business to said vendor, it is the requesting department’s responsibility to make Procurement Services and/or the Ethics Officer at NIU aware so that proper investigation of the conflict, at the State and/or campus level, can occur and a determination can be made as to whether the University will be allowed to engage with the proposed vendor. This procedure applies to all purchases at any dollar amount, not only those above the bid threshold.
There are two types of conflicts that may be encountered:
- On-campus conflicts: A conflict that arises because of a relationship (financial or personal) between a University employee or the immediate family of a University employee and a business that the University wants to utilize.
- State defined conflicts: These types of conflicts are set forth in the “Financial Disclosures and Conflicts of Interest” form that is collected from vendors that do business with the State in the amount of $50,000 or greater in a fiscal year; these typically arise when a vendor has a relationship with a State employee or appointee.
**It is possible to find both types of conflict with the same vendor.
When an employee encounters conflicts between the University and a vendor, he or she must make the appropriate parties on campus aware. A review is then conducted to determine whether business can proceed, or if an alternative vendor must be identified. A high level overview of the process follows:
The campus Ethics Officer or a University Procurement Officer must be advised of the conflict so that he or she may investigate the situation, advise the President’s office, and secure the President’s decision on whether or not the University will be allowed to utilize the vendor.
State defined conflict:
When a vendor has disclosed a conflict of interest via the “Disclosures” form or if the University is made aware of the conflict in any other way, the “Conflict of Interest Review and Determination” form must be completed by Procurement Services and forwarded to the State Procurement Officer (SPO) for his or her review. If the SPO is satisfied with the form, he or she will forward it to the Chief Procurement Officer (CPO) or the Procurement Policy Board (PPB), depending on how the form is completed, for final sign off on the utilization of the vendor. If the SPO, the CPO or the PPB believe the conflict to be actual, they will not sign off and the University will not be allowed to utilize the vendor.
If it is found that no actual conflict exists, depending on the type of conflict, the Chief Procurement Officer for Higher Education and/or the President of the University, will make that determination in writing and engagement with the vendor may proceed.
Any time that the University is made aware of a conflict of interest, a review must be conducted to determine whether the conflict is either:
- Actual, or real, and no business may proceed OR
- Potential, but not actual, and business may proceed
Examples of Actual and Potential Conflicts:
Actual Conflict: A manager in a department has a spouse that does interior design as a business and wants to use the spouse’s company to redesign multiple offices on campus. Since the person sourcing the redesign work is the spouse of the vendor, a true conflict exists.
Potential Conflict: A person works in the English Department and the spouse owns an electrical company that will be doing work for the Physical Plant. Since the English Department employee has no influence, directly or indirectly, on the hiring of the vendor, this is viewed as a potential conflict only based on the relationship of the two parties involved.
If there is any doubt about whether or not a conflict of any kind exists, please contact Procurement Services and/or the Ethics Officer to discuss specifics.