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Message from the Chief Municipal Inspector

Welcome to the Winter 2018 edition of integrity matters where we highlight some of the recent work of the Inspectorate team, and also look at the often problematic issue of confidential information under the Local Government Act and information or communication within councils that is believed to be in confidence.

A significant part of our work over the previous 12 months has involved the campaign donation responsibilities of candidates for local government elections. Transparency of support for candidates is essential for local government, given the potential for campaign donors to be affected by decisions of council and for improper conflicts of interest to exist.

For that reason, my office undertakes extensive work in providing information and guidance to candidates and examines candidate compliance in general elections and by-elections to ensure laws have been met. While the response by candidates from the Geelong and Melbourne by-elections was encouraging, 15 candidates from the last general election flouted the law and prosecutions resulted.

Recently I have spoken with different groups from the sector about conflicts of interest and the legislative framework that applies to councillors, special committee members and council staff under the Local Government Act. The laws envisage that councillors, committee members and staff have interests in their own community, and provide a framework which allows them, in many circumstances, to participate in discussions and decision making. Local government is unique in having a legislated framework for conflicts and my office will be focusing our guidance and education efforts on this over the next year.

David Wolf

Chief Municipal Inspector