Le cas d’un quid pro quo vécu dans une OBNL


Voici un cas publié sur le site de Julie McLelland qui aborde un processus de prise de décision susceptible de diviser les membres du CA, en créant une situation de conflits d’intérêts.

Le cas est assez représentatif des dilemmes vécus dans plusieurs OBNL, peut-être à cause de la non-rémunération des membres du conseil !

Sarah se questionne sur la possibilité de conflits d’intérêts et, ce faisant, elle invite les autres administrateurs à faire preuve d’indépendance.

De son côté, le président du CA ne se formalise pas de cette apparence de conflit d’intérêts et il invite les administrateurs à être réalistes.

Le cas a d’abord été traduit en français en utilisant Google Chrome, puis, je l’ai édité et adapté.

Le cas présente la situation de manière assez factuelle, puis trois experts se prononcent sur le cas.

Bonne lecture ! Vos commentaires sont toujours les bienvenus.

Le cas d’un quid pro quo vécu dans une OBNL

 

 

Sarah siège au conseil d’administration non rémunéré d’un organisme à but non lucratif (OBNL) qui a la chance de posséder ses propres locaux commerciaux. Le président du conseil a récemment invité une connaissance possédant une vaste expérience dans la gestion des installations et en développement immobilier, à se joindre au conseil.

Dès la première réunion du nouvel administrateur, le président du CA lui demande de préparer un rapport sur les options stratégiques à considérer pour maximiser la valeur des locaux. Il y aurait des contraintes de conception, mais si elles sont bien gérées, il serait possible d’agrandir le bâtiment et de donner à l’entreprise un environnement de travail plus efficace et moderne ainsi qu’un flux de revenus provenant de la location de bureaux supplémentaires.

À la réunion suivante, le nouvel administrateur a présenté son rapport et a suggéré que son entreprise était prête à entreprendre, sans frais, les travaux de conception nécessaires pour obtenir l’approbation de la planification, à condition que, si un permis était obtenu, son entreprise entreprenne le projet.

Sarah a souligné le conflit d’intérêts potentiel lié à cette situation. Le conseil d’administration est maintenant divisé ; la moitié des administrateurs souhaitant accepter l’offre, car c’est un moyen « sans risque » de réaliser le projet, et l’autre moitié souhaitant engager une entreprise indépendante pour faire la conception et/ou la construction même si cela exigeait que l’organisation dépense des fonds précieux avec le risque potentiel de ne pas obtenir un permis. L’organisation n’a pas beaucoup de liquidités et le bâtiment est son plus grand actif tangible.

Pire encore, le président semble maintenant blâmer Sarah pour la désunion au conseil d’administration. Il a déclaré ouvertement que les gens ne se joignent pas à un conseil d’administration sans avoir certaines attentes de récompenses pour leur temps, leurs efforts et leurs prises de risques.

Comment Sarah peut-elle aider son conseil d’administration à se regrouper et à agir avec un bon sens commercial tout en conservant une saine gouvernance ?

 

Tony’s Answer

Firstly, did Sarah know that the proposition involved a conflict of interest from personal knowledge and experience on other Boards, or was she drawing on the not for profit’s own conflict of interest policy?

If it was the latter, the new Director should have been made aware of this policy as part of a director induction process, so he knew the expectations of him as a director including conflicts of interest and to be motivated to join the Board for all the right reasons. If not, this should have occurred.

If there is no conflict of interest of policy the first piece of advice for Sarah would be to insist that a policy be developed and implemented immediately, in order for this situation to be avoided in the future.

The next piece of advice for Sarah would be to draw on the assistance of the other directors who support her position to speak against the proposal and to rebut the proposition that new directors don’t join boards without some expectation of a reward for their time etc. For the Chair to use this as an argument strongly suggests he is not aware of his important role as Chair to enforce the highest standards of governance.

The next piece of advice to resolve this situation would be to suggest the appointment of an independent governance expert to conduct a mediation session with the whole board to try and find a solution and take pressure of Sarah being the “responsible” Director for highlighting the conflict of interest in the first place.

Tony Lawson is the Executive Director of Laurel Palliative Care and Managing Director of Tony Lawson Consulting. He is based in Adelaide, Australia.

Julie’s Answer

Legitimate expectations of reward for the time, effort and risk of service on an unremunerated not-for-profit board are: the satisfaction of a job well done, and the respect and consideration of your peers.

When recruiting a new director to join it is important to discuss the culture, expected contribution, and rewards of service on this board. Failure to talk at the beginning can lead to even more difficult conversations later.

Sarah’s board sounds dangerously passive. A good board would:

    • be involved in decisions about director appointments and suitability of candidates’ skills and culture fit.
    • discuss implications of any report on strategic options when the report was commissioned; before anyone ‘invested’ time and effort into investigating and writing it.
    • be alert to conflicts of interest, which include aligned interests, and have a policy to manage these.
    • welcome the raising of potential conflicts with a view to understanding the risks so as to make a better, more nuanced decision.
    • Act as a cohesive team and seek to make decisions that all could support.

Sarah’s board needs to make a commercial decision about the potential costs of locking in a preferred supplier versus the risk of spending money on studies that may not bear fruit. They should apply their conflict of interest policy which will likely preclude the new director from taking part in the decision. It should not be an emotional or personal conversation.

Sarah should have a quiet word with the Chair, or Audit Committee Chair if that is more comfortable, and suggest getting this discussion onto the next agenda so that the board can move forward with unity.

Once they have documented their decision they can proceed with either course of action.

Julie Garland McLellan is a non-executive director and board consultant based in Sydney, Australia.

Louise’s Answer

Sarah sits on a Board that has an opportunity to capitalise on the asset they own. All boards, particularly non-for-profits, should consider ways in improving their capital position for their beneficiaries.

There (seemingly) was no negative response from the Board of appointing a Property Expert, as they all saw benefit, value and need to bring expertise to the Board. Moreover, there was no disagreement from the Board in requesting the New Director to prepare a Report on strategic options for maximising the value of the premises. We assume that the Board also accepted the recommendations of the Report.

Sarah was correct in pointing out the potential conflict of interest, which would be a requirement of any Board Director. The Board should have processes/ Terms of Reference for expectations of Directors and potential Conflicts of interest. In resolving this dilemma, Sarah should suggest the following:

    • the Board seek tenders/quotations from the New Board Member’s firm+ other Design / Construction firms for the complete works required to deliver the project i.e planning + design + construction;
    • the Board (excluding any input from the New Board Member) review and analyse the Tender responses, bearing in mind that the New Board Member’s firm would be providing pre-construction/ planning approval & design work pro-bono, which their Tender Response theoretically should be significantly less than the other Tenderers. It is important to note that the costs associated with obtaining planning approvals are significant and does not guarantee planning approval.
    • Following analysis by the Board, they should be able to determine if the initial proposal from the New Board Member is indeed value for money, and if so, could be accepted.

Louise Vlatko is Co-founder and Director of Xmirus and Director of Independent Living Villages. She is based in New South Wales, Australia