The Office of the Independent Assessor will receive more funding and Queensland communities will see improved clarity for councillors around their decision-making, the state’s Deputy Premier and Minister for Local Government has announced.
Steven Miles pledged $1.302 million over two years to support eight full-time equivalent positions in the Office of the Independent Assessor OIA.
“It’s vital Queensland communities have confidence in the decision-making of their elected representatives, and we are looking to ensure that decision-making isn’t hindered by any confusion around potential conflicts of interest,” Mr Miles said.
“The Government recently undertook a project which analysed the operations of the new councillor complaints framework to make sure it is working smoothly and effectively.
“The analysis resulted in a number of recommendations, including streamlining the interactions between the department, the Office of the Independent Assessor (OIA) and the Councillor Conduct Tribunal (CCT).”
He said the recommendations would streamline the process of declaring conflicts of interest, clarifying when a councillor can and cannot participate in decision-making, and how the conflict of interest framework, including the definition of ‘related party’, applies in small council settings.
“We’re also providing greater resourcing support for OIA to help carry out its investigations into councillor complaints and keep up with high demand,” he said.
“To support the OIA to carry out its investigations into councillor complaints we’re committing an additional $1.302 million over two years to support eight temporary full-time equivalent positions.”
It follows an announcement in December 2020, of an extra $250,000 for the OIA to fund an additional three staff.
Mr Miles said the Government would continue working with key stakeholders such as the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ), to look at ways of improving the system.
Local Government Association of Queensland CEO, Greg Hallam thanked the Deputy Premier and his department for working proactively with the LGAQ and its member councils to review the current conflict of interest laws to make sure they are achieving what they were designed to.
“Ensuring Queensland’s conflict of interest rules are both workable and effective is of critical importance to local councils and the communities they serve,” Mr Hallam said.
“We have provided the Deputy Premier and his department with an extensive submission outlining some of the unintended consequences our member councils are experiencing and recommending potential reforms to the Local Government Act and we look forward to continuing to work in partnership with the Government to progress those changes.”
Mr Miles thanked the LGAQ and all stakeholders involved for their input to improve the sector.
“It’s crucial we keep listening to stakeholders and support councillors to be the best representatives they can be for their communities,” Mr Miles said.
“This is about making a good system even better by increasing transparency and integrity and providing Queenslanders the finest Local Government system in the country.”