Conflict of Interest and Personal Interest Returns
Local Government Act 2020 requirements
Conflicts of Interest and Personal Interests Returns are covered in Section 126 – 136 of the Local Government Act 2020. It is important to understand that the provisions relating to conflicts of interest are related to other sections of the Act. 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. This includes Councillors, members of Council staff and external members of delegated committees.
Personal Interest Returns
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.
Biannual Personal Interest Returns (Section 134)
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).
Initial Personal Interest Returns (Section 133)
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.
2020 Initial Personal Interest Returns