Conflict of interest: The case of a non-decision-making committee at a South African public higher education institution
Wessels, Jacobus S.
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The avoidance of a conflict of interest within private and public institutions is closely associated with good corporate governance. This study departed from the question of whether a conflict of interest is possible within a non-decision-making institutional committee. For this purpose, a high-level non-decision-making committee within a South African public higher education institution was selected as a case study. This article reports on an exploratory qualitative study consisting of qualitative content analysis of the constituting and operational documents of this committee, as well as on a study of the perceptions and lived experiences of the selected committee. It was found that the selected committee was established to be a high-level consultative body for the executive management committee of the university on decisions of strategic operational nature. This committee does not have any decision-making duties. Conflict of interest is perceived by committee members in terms of either the explicit or the hidden agenda metaphor. According to the explicit agenda metaphor, a conflict of interest within a non-decision-making committee is not possible, whilst the hidden agenda metaphor holds that a conflict of interest is the reality of members’ lived experiences. This article provides a comparison of the two perspectives according to three defining attributes of the concept and shows a need for a logical and principled definition of the concept ‘conflict of interest’ within the context of higher education and the public sector at large.
- TD: 2021 Volume 17