By Dr Nikola Stepanov
As the Queensland Integrity Commissioner, I can provide confidential advice to mayors and councillors on ethics and integrity issues to assist you to meet high ethical standards and provide exemplary leadership to the community.
During my time as Commissioner, I have met and spoken with many of you across the State as part of my role in raising public awareness about ethics and integrity. In the current climate of heightened change and reform, I acknowledge that councillors face unique challenges in performing their official duties on behalf of the community, and in dealing with ethical and integrity issues which arise.
Over the past year, requests for advice to my office have increased more than four-fold. My team and I have been very encouraged and impressed by the attitudes, and commitment to community values, shown by the mayors and councillors who have sought my advice. It is clear that the focus of mayors and councillors is on striving to place the public interest first by creating a transparent and accountable local government.
In my view, this also indicates that, in seeking advice, councillors are responding to community expectations to ensure they are acting in line with best practice, their legal obligations, and their responsibilities to their local government area. Most of my dealings are with mayors and councillors who wish to not merely meet an acceptable standard, but want to go further, show leadership, and adopt best practice standards.
The requests for advice I receive cover a range of issues. In response, I aim to provide consistent and practical advice which meets exemplary ethical standards, as opposed to just what is legally acceptable.
The common areas of concern I have seen through requests to my office relate to: appropriate access to councillors’ official work email accounts, divergences in advice provided by various departments and agencies, particularly regarding conflicts of interest and material personal interests, and queries regarding social media interactions and commentary.
Over the coming months, I will canvass such topics, and others, in each edition of the Council Leader.
I also welcome hearing from you about what topics you would like me to write about. If you have any suggestions, or a specific topic you would like me to mention in the coming segments, please email: email@example.com.
In the interim, to assist you to deal with these matters, my office is producing fact sheets around conflicts of interest, material personal interests, and social media interactions which will be progressively posted on my website. If you would like a copy of these fact sheets, please email my office.
Councillors play a vital role in our local communities while facing difficult challenges. I commend those who wish to uphold a high standard and encourage public confidence in local government, as ultimately, this is the high bar we should all strive to meet.
How to seek advice:
If you want to seek advice from my office on an ethics or integrity issue, you can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
More information about the Integrity Commissioner’s role can be found on our website.