Councils are responsible for making high-value, high-impact and high-frequency decisions for their communities.
In 2017, a report by the Crime and Corruption Commission stated that Queensland councils, “control $100 billion worth of assets, spend around $13 billion annually and … engage in a wide variety of commercial activities in order to deliver services”1.
Local governments are both central to the provision of services, economic development and prosperity of the local government area, and vulnerable to business and commercial interests seeking to cultivate or leverage relationships. Similarly, some councillors come to local government with experience in business and development which is valuable expertise, but also brings with it a history of pre-existing commercial and business relationships.
Navigating a path that balances a councillor’s responsibility to engage with business and development interests and promote their local government area, with recognising and managing conflicts of interest, can be daunting. Indeed, I have recently been advised that some inconsistency in practice has arisen between how some councillors are risk managing these natural tensions.
To help councillors to maximise their engagement whilst complying with their integrity responsibilities, the Office of the Independent Assessor (OIA) has committed to working with the Property Council of Australia and the Urban Development Institute of Australia to develop some commonsense principles.
It is hoped that the principles will foster a better understanding of conflicts of interest and the scope of the influence provision, while also increasing the confidence of councillors to balance all of their responsibilities.
We will undertake consultation before releasing the principles and anyone who would like to provide specific feedback on this topic is encouraged to contact us via email at OIAmedia@oia.qld.gov.au
I look forward to further communicating with you on this issue.