Councillors and particularly local government employees will be familiar with their obligations to maintain and update registers of interests in accordance with the Local Government Regulation 2012 (“LG Reg”). However, declaring interests on an ongoing basis, and ensuring registers are kept up to date, can sometimes fall by the wayside.
This blog is a reminder of some of the obligations that councillors and some local government employees have when dealing with registers of interests, and some risk areas that we have seen when advising Councils on this.
Registers of interests must be completed by:
- Councillor advisors;
- The Chief Executive Officer;
- Senior executive employees, who are employees who report directly to the CEO, and whose position ordinarily would be considered a senior position in Council’s corporate structure;
- Persons related to councillors, councillor advisors, the CEO or senior executive employees.
The CEO has the obligation to maintain these registers of interests, other than their own and that of their related persons. The Mayor maintains the CEO’s register of interests and the register of interests of persons related to the CEO.
The Local Government Act 2009 (“LG Act”) and the LG Reg sets out what registers of interests must contain, and the particular obligations applying to them. Everyone who has an obligation to complete and maintain registers of interests must be closely familiar with their obligations because penalties apply for failing to do so.
Some particular areas where registers of interest can be deficient include:
- Maintaining a register for relevant related persons. A person is “related” to a councillor, councillor advisor, CEO or senior executive employee if:
- they are the person’s spouse; or
- the person is totally or substantially dependent on the primary party and:
- the person is the primary party’s child; or
- the person’s affairs are so closely connected with the affairs of the primary party that a benefit derived by the person, or a substantial part of it, could pass to the primary party.
- Updating registers of interests when there is a change in interest.
The LG Reg requires the CEO to inform the Mayor of any interest that must be recorded in the register, or any change to particulars, within 30 days after the CEO becomes aware of the change. The same requirement applies to councillors, councillor advisors and senior executive employees, but the report must be made to the CEO.
Councillors and councillor advisors have additional obligations under the LG Act to inform the CEO annually about their register of interests, including where there has been no change. This additional reporting needs to be completed within 30 days after the end of the financial year (ie, by 30 July).
- Making the disclosure in the correct way.
All disclosures need to be made in an approved form, published by the Department of State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning. The forms are available on the Department’s website here:
- Ensuring the correct information is included.
Schedule 5 of the LG Reg extensively describes the particulars that need to be included in registers of interest, both in terms of financial and non-financial disclosure, for various categories of interest.
While registers of interests have been a part of life in local government for a long time, it can be easy to miss some of the rigorous requirements that apply under the LG Act and LG Reg, particularly with respect to the extent of the disclosure required, and the ongoing regular reporting obligations for councillors and councillor advisors (including where there has been no change to the interests at all).