Conflict of Interest Policy

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This policy was approved by the Board on 10 February 2013 under Article 28. (approved revision, subsequent changes)
Changes to this policy are subject to board approval, and should be proposed either on the talk page or at Conflict_of_Interest_Policy/Proposed revision.

Approval history:

1 September 2009 - Initial adoption (approved revision)
17 November 2012 - Amendment covering consultancy services (approved revision, changes)
10 February 2013 - Amendment (approved revision, changes)

These rules have been drafted after having considered the Charity Commission guidance.

Background

Individual board members have personal responsibilities, as directors and trustees, to ensure that the decisions they take are in the interests of the chapter as a whole rather than their personal interest. Where there is a situation where there is a conflict of interest, board members are expected to follow appropriate procedures on disclosure, voting and decision making.

The Articles of Association sets out the over-arching rules on conflicts of interest in clauses M5.5-7. A requirement in those articles cannot be overridden by anything in these Rules. They provide that:

No board member may:

  • Buy from
  • Sell to
  • Be employed by, or
  • Receive financial benefit from the chapter unless:
    • The amount is reasonable
    • The transaction is of a type allowed under clause M5.5
    • A majority of board members does not receive a benefit

The restriction also applies to close family members and, in respect of remuneration, to companies which employ the board member.

No Trustee of Wikimedia UK will receive any financial benefit or consideration from offering or engaging in consultancy services related to Wikipedia or other Wikimedia projects. Trustees must not use their Wikimedia UK position or title to advance any private interests and must ensure a clear distinction between their role as Trustees and any other activity they engage in.

Likely situations

A conflict of interest may occur even where a board member does not have a personal financial interest in a third party, but has a historical connection or loyalty to them. This includes loyalty derived from being a volunteer committee member.

The following are examples of where board members may face a conflict of interest:

  • Claiming and authorising reimbursement of expenses
  • Purchasing goods and services from a connected organisation, such as hiring a room from your university
  • Partnership agreements for initiatives with a connected organisation, such as providing a Workplace Learning seminar at your place of work
  • Agreements with the Wikimedia Foundation or other chapters where a board member has previously served on one of their committees, including the English Wikipedia MedCom and ArbCom, unless they have been representing Wikimedia UK on the committee .

Activities as an ordinary Wikimedia project editor, including trusted editors like Administrators, are not considered to create a conflict of interest.

Disclosure

Given the likelihood of conflicts arising with regard to agreements with the Wikimedia Foundation, all members are required to list on the Register of interests all positions held or formerly held with the Foundation or on Foundation projects and to conclude whether a potential conflict exists. After each board election, members will be required to declare that they have registered all such positions.

Any board member's potential conflict of interest must be discussed with the Chair or the full board before any decision is made. The Secretary must ensure the matter is noted in the register of interests. Board members are expected to disclose the nature, extent, and potential value of any relevant interest and the identities of any other individuals involved. Where Wikimedia UK is engaged in a project involving other parties where there is any likelihood a Board member might benefit personally, this must to be disclosed to those parties.

The board must consider the privacy rights of individual board members when discussing conflicts of interest. Appropriate use must be made of in camera board meetings and private discussions with board officers.

When considering whether to authorise a conflict of interest, the Board must take due regard to the Charity Commission guidance "A Guide To Conflicts of Interest For Charity Trustees"

If, after discussion, it is concluded that a board member has a conflict of interest in a proposal, the decision must be considered by the Board. The conflicted member must leave the room to allow the rest of the Board to discuss the issue and vote on it. The point at which the conflicted trustee does so must be recorded in the minutes. The conflicted trustee will not be counted as part of the quorum for any votes taken in their absence.

Expenses

We seek to have a board that reflects the diversity of Wikimedia project users and recognise that not all potential board members are able to pay for their own out of pocket expenses. We will therefore normally reimburse expenses that are properly incurred for the benefit of the chapter. Advance payment of expenses will be considered where cost may be an obstacle to any board member carrying out their duties.

Expenses will only be reimbursed if they are approved in principle prior to the expense, are reasonable, are on the proper form and supported by receipts as appropriate and are properly authorised. Board members are expected to keep the expenses they incur to the lowest reasonable level.

Travel by private motor vehicle or bicycle will be reimbursed at the standard HMRC rates. Travel by train or aeroplane will be reimbursed for standard class only.

Expense claims must be accurate. Submitting a false or misleading claim, even if not paid, may damage public confidence in the chapter and will be considered a serious disciplinary matter.

Authorisers must only pay claims where they have been properly completed.

When considering whether to submit or authorise an expense payment, due regard must be paid to the Charity Commission guidance "CC11 - Trustee expenses and payments"

Benefits

Board members may not accept non-trivial gifts in connection with Wikimedia UK activities.

If, for example, a partner organisation offers to pay for a lunch to discuss joint activities then this may be acceptable, but a judgement should always be made as to whether the gift is appropriate. Where it could be perceived as impairing the ability of the board member to make independent decisions, at the time or in the future, in the interests of the chapter, then the gift must be declined.

Board members will not be eligible to receive any prizes in connection with chapter initiatives.

Employment related to the Charity

Trustees should not seek or accept any post or form of remuneration from organisations funded by Wikimedia UK or Wikimedia movement organisations for a period of six months after they have been a member of the board, without the express permission of the board. Permission will usually be granted in the case of a trustee applying for a Wikimedian in Residence post, provided that that the trustee has absented themselves from discussions that lead to the creation, funding or agreement of the post. It is likely that the Board will need to seek the permission of the Charity Commission in such circumstances.

If at any point a trustee wishes to apply for a central staff post, the trustee must stand down from the board in advance of applying and only apply with the permission of the Charity Commission if this is required. If unsuccessful, they will not be eligible to re-join the board for 12 months.

Disciplinary actions

When board members nominate themselves as candidates for election, they are informed of their duties as trustees, including their duty to avoid conflicts of interest.

If a Board member does not comply with these Rules with no reasonable excuse, the Board will consider disciplinary action against the board member. Board members will normally be required to pay back any amounts which have been improperly received.

In extreme cases, disciplinary matters may include removal of membership and hence directorship under Article 4.