Local Government Act 2020 requirements

Conflicts of Interest and Personal Interests Returns is covered in Section 126 – 136 of the Local Government Act 2020 and is proclaimed on 24 October 2020. It’s important to understand that the provisions relating to conflicts of interest are related to other sections of the Act, for example, Governance Rules have a key relationship with the declaration of conflicts of interest which were required to be in place by 1 September 2020. Other relationships occur with the following sections of the Act:

  • Section 60 (Governance Rules);
  • Sections 132 -136 (Personal Interest Returns) and
  • Sections 137-138 (Gifts).

The 2020 Act uses the term “relevant person” (section 126) to identify people who are required to determine and disclose conflicts of interest. Like the Local Government Act 1989 (the 1989 Act), this includes Councillors, members of Council staff and external members of delegated committees.

Exemptions The 2020 Act includes general exemptions and allows for Regulations (proposed) to identify specific councillor exemptions.

Personal Interests Returns are a new requirement under Division 3 of Part 6 (sections 132-136) of the Local Government Act 2020 (the 2020 Act). They replace all previous requirements under the Local Government Act 1989 (1989 Act).

While there are some similarities to some of the requirements under the 1989 Act there are definitional changes and some new requirements. In addition, new Local Government (Governance and Integrity) Regulations 2020 (2020 Regulations) have set out the detail that needs to be provided for each interests return.

Declarations of interests must be made in accordance with the 2020 Act and Regulations from 24 October 2020.

The new arrangements give more flexibility to the Chief Executive Officers (CEO) of councils in determining whether council staff are required to submit Personal Interests Returns while ensuring stronger integrity for Councillors and appointments to delegated committees.

There is important information contained in the 2020 Act that should be read in conjunction with the information contained in this document. In addition, there are the supporting 2020 Regulations that become effective from 24 October 2020 that should also be read in conjunction with information contained in this document.

This guide includes Frequently Asked Questions (refer to Chapter 2).

All councillors elected after 24 October 2020, a member of a delegated committee who is not a councillor, the Chief Executive Officer, and nominated officers (see below) are required to submit a return under the 2020 Act will need to complete the requirements of the 2020 Act and 2020 Regulations.

Councils should provide the format to any person that is required to submit a Personal Interests Return. A draft template is provided in Chapter 3 that can be adapted by councils for their own purposes.

Councillors need to provide an initial Personal Interests Return within 30 days of taking the oath or affirmation.

For nominated officers, the CEO will determine which staff are required to submit an initial Personal Interests Return. This will be based on whether the staff member has a statutory or delegated power, duty or function and the CEO considers it necessary that because of that power, duty or function they must submit a Personal Interests Return. Council staff have 30 days to submit an initial Personal Interests Return from when they are advised by the CEO that their position requires to submit a Personal Interests Return.

In the case of non-councillors if the appointment to a delegated committee preceded 24 October 2020 then an initial Personal Interests Return should be submitted within 30 days from the date the new requirements became effective i.e. within 30 days from 24 October 2020.

Any appointments or nominations by the CEO made after 24 October 2020 will always require initial Personal Interests Returns to be submitted within 30 days of the appointment. For example, if an appointment is made to a Delegated Committee in May 2021 then the person appointed has 30 days from the appointment to submit their initial personal interests return.

Between 1 March to 31 March and 1 September and 30 September each year, a specified person (who continues to be a specified person) who has submitted an Initial Personal Interests Return must lodge a Biannual Personal Interests Form. This should provide updates to any information provided in the last submitted Personal Interests Return. A draft template for biannual Personal Interests Returns is provided in Chapter 4 for councils to adapt for their own purposes.

Period of coverage

Each time a person submits a biannual Personal Interests Return it covers the preceding period (up to six months).

The 2020 Act (section 135 and 136) and the Regulations sets out the level of information that can be accessed or disclosed publicly from information submitted in the Public Interests Returns. They also set out who can have access to the information which includes, inter alia, the Chief Municipal Inspector and others.

The 2020 Act and the Regulations require that a summary of information submitted in Personal Interests Returns should be disclosed and made available to the public. The 2020 Act and the supporting Regulations also state those matters which required to be excluded from the summary. The CEO of council will determine what summary information is provided, subject to requirements of the 2020 Act and the supporting Regulations. In addition, the CEO should consider the public transparency principles of the 2020 Act and the council’s Public Transparency Policy in determining what elements of the Personal Interests Return should be disclosed.

In the attached templates the areas where public disclosure might be considered by the CEO to include in a summary of information is highlighted in orange.

Failure to submit an initial Personal Interests Return or subsequent Biannual Personal Interests Returns by the due dates can attract a penalty of up to 60 penalty units. There are also penalties for intentionally or recklessly providing false or incomplete information.

Conflict of Interest Guidance

Work has been undertaken with a Think Tank composed of members of the Local Government sector to review and update the guidance documents. The final version of the drafts can be found here:

1. Managing Personal Interests in Local Government: A manual for council managers and governance officers

2. In the Public Interest: A conflict of interest guide for councillors, delegated committee members and council staff

Thank you to those that have provided feedback.

Co-design workshops held in June 2020

In the Conflict of Interest online workshops during June 2020 we asked the following questions:

  • What are you greatest fears or concerns in managing the provisions relating to Conflict of Interest?
  • What would be useful in supporting everyone to understand and manage their responsibilities in relation to Conflicts of Interest?

We heard from the sector that the Conflict of Interest - A Guide for Council staff October 2011, and A Guide for Councillors October 2012 were useful documents that required updating with the new Act requirements.

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Legislation Implementation

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