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What’s Conflict of Interest And Is It a Threat To Democracy?

Conflict of interest is a state in which an individual with a vested interest in a particular institution becomes unreliable due to a clash between the individual’s interest and that of the profession. In particular relationships, persons or the general public have their trust in an individual to act in their best interest. When a person is given the responsibility to represent other people, whether as an administrator or a government official, a clash between the person’s interest and professional obligations arises as he or she attempts to carry out the duties diligently while at the same time satisfy personal interests.

In the context of the public office, conflict of interest involves a clash between the individual interest of a public official and the public obligation where the official’s personal interest could inappropriately influence the performance of his or her responsibilities. This is a common definition of the conflict of interest in this context. It has three dimensions. The first one is the individual interest. Second is the personal interest of the public official clashes with his or her official duties. The third is the interference of the professional principles by the conflicts of interest. Essentially, in the case of conflict of interest, the public official’s personal interest influences the impartial performance of his or her official duties. In this way, the threat to democracy materializes.

Conflict of interest is a threat to democracy in several ways.


First, many authorities in power have business and professional interests in the local government locality they represent. Conflicts may arise in the case where their positions in the public office allow them to have access to information and opportunities that could be made to use to advance their personal interests. An example could be when he or she is tempted to influence the applications to set up a business venture in the city in the case his own business could, as a result, lose the custom. Second, public officials could take advantage of the tendering and purchasing process for his or her enterprise. Democracy can be run down when a public institution has advertised for firms to apply for positions to supply office equipment and a member of the panel responsible for assessing the applications has shares in one of those firms who placed their bid to tender. In this position, this person will be faced with a challenge to either compromise his duties and awarding the tender to the firm he has attachments or upholding the position principles to let go of the opportunity.

In general, a person in a public office finds himself or herself in situations which may not allow personal interest affect his or her actions in regards to responsibilities. However, naturally, each of these persons has inevitable personal interests. Often, how each of them responds to such conflicts determines if democracy will be compromised. Essentially, conflict of interest threatens democracy from many fronts two of which mentioned above.

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Written by ELENA BAUDIN

ELENA BAUDIN

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