This report outlines the findings of an investigation into whether Cairns Regional Council and its councillors comply with relevant legislative and policy requirements and act reasonably in relation to the disclosure and management of councillors’ conflicts of interest.
Some of the issues considered are unique to councils which have a group of councillors operating within it, as Cairns does with respect to the Unity Team. The other issues discussed are relevant to all councils and councillors throughout Queensland.
This report includes discussion regarding the following:
• the background to the investigation (Chapter 1)
• how conflicts of interest are dealt with in council generally (Chapter 2)
• relevant issues when dealing with conflicts of interest as a group (Chapter 3)
• issues regarding transparency and accountability generally and with regard to the management of conflicts of interest (Chapter 4)
• the Register of Interests of councillors (Chapter 5)
• overall conclusions and observations arising from the investigation (Chapter 6).
The investigation did not identify wilful non-compliance with any legislative requirements by council or councillors, and observed that councillors went to some effort to comply. It did identify, however, a lack of understanding of a number of requirements and a sense of complacency by some councillors in respect of matters which were their own personal responsibility.
The investigation found that:
• the current practice of councillors declaring conflicts of interest as a group does not comply with the requirements of s.173(5) of the Local Government Act 2009 (LGA)
• the practice of all Unity Team members using s.173(7) of the LGA to stay in a meeting to maintain a quorum, in circumstances where it is not necessary for all members to stay to maintain a quorum, does not comply with s.173(7) of the LGA
• it is not always possible to determine from the minutes of a meeting how a councillor who has declared a conflict of interest voted and, in this respect, council does not always comply with s.173(8)(d) of the LGA
• a number of councillors did not comply with s.171B of the LGA in that their Register of Interests did not contain all gifts required to be included.