When it was established, EQAO instituted conflict of interest policies and practices, including those articulated in Bylaw No. 1, 1997, and the board of directors’ governance policy regarding code of conduct and conflict of interest. Under the latter, EQAO board members are required annually to disclose any external involvements that might produce a conflict. The board also has a standing item on each meeting agenda requiring board members to disclose any new involvements that could be deemed real or potential conflicts.
According to the Public Service of Ontario Act, 2006 (the Act), part-time appointees to public bodies, including EQAO’s board members, are considered public servants and, as such, must comply with the provisions of the Act, including the conflict of interest provisions set out in Ontario Regulation 381/07. Section 8(4) of the Regulation clarifies that part-time appointees are not prohibited from engaging in businesses or undertakings outside their position with the Crown.
Appointments to EQAO’s board of directors are made by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. As part of the appointments process, all candidates complete a conflict of interest declaration so that the potential overlap between any undertakings outside their public service duties and their role on the board are understood in advance. The Act attempts to balance these two interests through the specific conflict of interest provisions.
As the agency’s ethics executive, EQAO’s board chair has consulted with Ontario’s Conflict of Interest Commissioner, who acknowledged that it is not uncommon for the government to appoint individuals with subject matter expertise to its agencies for the benefit of the work of these agencies and, in that way, the people of Ontario. It is important that appropriate conflict of interest provisions be in place to mitigate the potential for any conflict with members’ role on the board. All members of the EQAO board are attentive to their responsibilities to comply with conflict of interest policies and legislation and act on these obligations on a regular basis. The chair is satisfied that EQAO board members are in compliance with the established governance policies and conflict of interest legislation and are performing their duties in a non-partisan, professional, ethical and competent manner.