Councillors warned over personal interests returns

Two councillors has been formally warned for failing to submit a declaration of their personal interests, as required by the Local Government Act 2020.

The Inspectorate issued the warnings after the councillors did not include the detailed information required in their biannual personal interests returns.

This was in contravention of section 134 of  by the Act and regulation 9 of the Local Government (Governance and Integrity) Regulations 2020.

Instead, of providing the information required, the councillors had emailed the information to the chief executive officer (CEO) and written ‘Provided to CEO’ on the returns.

We found that the councillors had breached section 134 (1) of the Act. However, because of a couple of factors, we issued a written warning.

By law, councillors and other relevant people in local government must declare their personal interests. A summary of these interests must be available on each council’s website.

Declaring personal interests is done so the public can see the shareholdings, trusts, business associations or other private interests of the people making decisions at councils. It is one way to ensure councillors and other key people are transparently acting in an impartial manner for the benefit of the community and not for personal gain.

The Act states that councillors, members of delegated committees and key council staff must submit a record of their personal interests to the council’s CEO.

The first personal interests return must be completed within 30 days after taking the oath of affirmation (for councillors) or appointment (for staff and members of delegated committees). These are known as initial personal interests return.

Further returns must be completed twice a year for the entire time the position is held. These are known as biannual personal interests returns. The biannual returns are due each year between:

  • 1 March and 31 March
  • 1 September and 30 September.

In 2020, the Act introduced the requirement for councils to publish a summary of the returns of its councillors, key council staff and members of its delegated committees.

The Inspectorate can prosecute relevant persons if they fail to comply with personal interests’ requirements. The maximum penalty is 60 penalty units or $11,095.20 (from 1 July 2022).