The Local Government Act 1993 (the Act) provides for the management of pecuniary interests. It places specific obligations on councillors, council delegates, council staff and other people involved in making decisions or giving advice on council matters to act honestly and responsibly in carrying out their functions. Generally those obligations include the lodgement of disclosure of interest returns, the lodgement of written declarations and the disclosure of pecuniary interests at council and council committee meetings.
The onus is on councillors, council delegates, council staff and other persons to determine whether they are affected by the pecuniary interest provisions in relation to a matter under consideration by the council. A pecuniary interest in a matter is one where there is a reasonable likelihood or expectation of appreciable financial loss or gain to the person, or to other persons as defined by section 443 of the Act. This calls for an objective judgement in each case as to whether a pecuniary interest exists.
Allegations or complaints concerning possible breaches of the pecuniary interest provisions of the Act are to be made to the Office of Local Government. Potentially, we may be required to formally investigate the matter and then refer a report of the investigation to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
The Tribunal has the power to:
- counsel the councillor, or
- reprimand the councillor, or
- suspend the councillor from civic office for a period not exceeding 6 months, or
- disqualify the councillor from holding civic office for a period not exceeding 5 years, or
- suspend the councillor’s right to be paid any fee or other remuneration, to which the councillor would otherwise be entitled as the holder of the civic office, in respect of a period not exceeding 6 months (without suspending the councillor from civic office for that period)
- the Tribunal has similar powers in respect of council staff, council committee members and council advisors.