Transparency and integrity of campaign funding

Friday, 6 April 2018 at 5:19 am

The Inspectorate has recently completed a review of a sample of campaign donation returns across several councils from candidates who stood for office in the 2016 local government elections.

In line with an increased focus on donation support occurring in local governments across Australia, the Inspectorate aimed to assess a sample of donation returns for what candidates disclosed and the veracity of information submitted.

The Inspectorate reviewed the donation returns of 31 candidates (1.4% of total) from a mix of regional and metropolitan councils.

The review found:

  • about half of the selected candidates declared no disclosable donations (above the $500 threshold)
  • donations ranged in value from $500 to $16,500
  • on average, those candidates received about $5120 to support their campaigns

The review also revealed a growing trend towards ‘group’ donations, where a politically aligned group of candidates declared the total amount given to their group, rather than the individual donations they received.

Overall the majority of submissions met legislative requirements, however there were challenges in assessing probity given the financial arrangements candidates employed to receive and distribute funding (such as cash donations, bank transfers or credit card expenditure).

As a result of its review, the Inspectorate detected a significant anomaly which is the subject of a current investigation with potentially serious criminal offences. Further information will be available on this matter when the investigation has concluded.

Investigations and Compliance Manager Ross Millard said: “The lodgement of campaign donation returns by all candidates is a key factor in the transparency and integrity of Victorian council elections.”

The proposed legislative reforms for the Local Government Act give the Inspectorate greater oversight of the notification and real-time publication of campaign funding for candidates.