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19 February 2020

Figures from the Office of the Independent Assessor (OIA) show 460 investigations were launched into alleged misconduct by Queensland councillors in just over a year.

The data was recorded between the OIA’s establishment on 3 December 2018 and the end of last year.

A snapshot taken on 31 December 2019 showed the OIA had 124 active investigations, 27 were parked pending the outcome of criminal charges and a further 28 were on hold.

The Independent Assessor Kathleen Florian said almost 300 investigations had been finalised, including those that were referred to the Councillor Conduct Tribunal.

“The Councillor Conduct Tribunal made rulings in 31 cases, while a further 54 matters were either before the tribunal or were undergoing a natural justice process prior to a possible referral to the tribunal,” Ms Florian said.

“Just as importantly, 203 matters were dismissed after being investigated or it was determined that no further action would be taken, and we’ve provided detailed reasons to the councillor at the centre of the complaint, the complainant and the relevant local government.”

The latest OIA report, Insight, examines the types of complaints that led to investigations, the sources of these complaints and a breakdown of investigations by region.

“I’m hopeful this information will highlight the councils where education and induction efforts should be stepped up after the March elections, and where other proactive measures could be considered to drive some improvements,” Ms Florian said.

The Independent Assessor said she was pleased the OIA’s figures also identified early indicators of a strengthening integrity culture in local government.

“Some councillors have started to refer themselves to the OIA when they realise they may have breached a conduct provision, and we are seeing an increasing number of complaints coming from the local government sector,” Ms Florian said.

“There are even signs of improving practices around declaring and managing conflicts of interest which have been a significant misconduct risk.

“Our data for the last quarter showed 55 percent of conflict-of-interest complaints warranted investigations and, in some councils, there are noticeable and positive differences in the way conflicts of interest are now being handled as compared to what we observed in 2018.”

The highest number of complaints that led to an OIA investigation were lodged by the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) followed by members of the public, with sitting councillors rounding out the top three sources of investigations.

The OIA acknowledged volume-driven delays in finalising investigations and progressing disciplinary matters through the Councillor Conduct Tribunal.

Currently Brisbane City Council does not come within the OIA’s jurisdiction but will do so after the March election.

ENDS

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