The Commissioners corner - a guide to conflict of interest issues
By Dr Nikola Stepanov - Queensland Integrity Commissioner
Guide and Meeting Aids to assist councillors to determine when a conflict of interest or material personal interest exists.
This year marks the 10-year anniversary of the commencement of the Integrity Act 2009 (Qld). My team and I are looking to celebrate this throughout 2019 and bring awareness to ethics and integrity issues in Queensland. To mark this occasion, my office’s theme for 2019 is ‘decision-makers, personal interests and requisite levels of disclosure’.
As a part of my role in providing guidance about best practice standards across the Queensland public sector, and in conjunction with the Independent Assessor, we recently released a Guide and a series of Meeting Aids to assist mayors and councillors to determine conflicts of interest and material personal interests.
These materials are a step by step guide for councillors to follow, and are aimed at meeting best practice standard while providing practical guidance and examples.
You can access the Guide and Meeting Aids on my website: https://www.integrity.qld.gov.au/publications/resources.aspx
The materials are also available on the website of the Office of the Independent Assessor.
Following on from my last segment about declaring a personal interest to Council, these materials provide guidance around what information a councillor needs to disclose when they declare a personal interest.
In order to allow other non-conflicted councillors to make a fully informed decision about whether a conflict exists, the councillor must state and clarify the nature of their interest.
This means the councillor needs to provide enough information to enable other non-conflicted councillors to decide whether a conflict exists, and if so, how it should be managed in the public interest.
It is important to remember that, in determining when a personal interest may give rise to a conflict of interest, non-conflicted councillors are empowered, and obliged, to ask questions and make inquires, to ensure they are aware of all the relevant facts.
It is not for the conflicted councillor to determine what level of information is sufficient. It is up to the non-conflicted councillors to decide whether they are satisfied with the level of disclosure provided.
In some cases, councillors may need to disclose even more information. For example, where they are aware of specific information critical to Council’s decision and the community might suffer a detriment if they do not inform Council.
If this is the case, the councillor should seek my advice on how to proceed prior to the Council meeting, to ensure they are meeting their obligations while not breaching any relevant standards.
Every case is different, but I am confident that these materials will help to provide a practical foundation to assist mayors and councillors meet the high ethical standards expected of them by the community.
You can seek advice from my office at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am available for presentations and education seminars regarding ethics and integrity issues. If you would like to book a presentation, please email my office.
Local Government Association of Queensland
LG House, 25 Evelyn Street, Newstead Qld 4006
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