Councillors in Western Australia will soon need to disclose gifts and contributions to travel within 10 days, and the details will be published online.
The new requirements are contained in the City of Perth Bill, which is currently before the parliament and is expected to come into effect from 1 July 2016.
The aim of the changes is to provide greater transparently and accountability of local government elected members to the community, and to allow members of the community better access to this information.
The City of Perth Bill amends sections 5.82 and 5.83 of the Local Government Act 1995 (WA), (Act) which set out the disclosure requirements of ‘relevant persons’ (being elected members and designated employees) for gifts and contributions to travel respectively.
The definition of ‘gift’ under the Act remains the same. It is very broadly defined to mean, amongst other things, any disposition of property or the conferral of any other financial benefit without adequate payment in return.
The existing exceptions to the requirement to disclose gifts and contributions to travel remain unchanged. These include gifts worth less than $50 in total or contributions from family members.
New requirements for the disclosure of gifts and contributions to travel
Under new section 5.82 of the Act, a relevant person must disclose each gift in writing to the local government’s Chief Executive Officer within 10 days of receipt of that gift. Previously the requirement was to disclose the gifts in the annual return.
The disclosure is to include:
- a description of the gift;
- the name and address of the person who made the gift;
- the date the gift was received;
- the estimated value of the gift at the time it was made; and
- the nature of the relationship between the relevant person and the person who made the gift.
The requirements for disclosure of a contribution to travel under new section 5.83 of the Act are the same as that for a gift, except that the disclosure to the CEO must also include a description of the travel and the date of the travel.
Offences for failure to disclose
A relevant person must comply with the requirements to disclose a gift or a contribution to travel under section 5.82 and 8.53. A penalty of $10,000 or imprisonment for two years applies.
The CEO is to keep an online register of gifts and contributions to travel
Under new provision 5.89A, the CEO is to keep a register of gifts and contribution to travel, which is to contain the disclosures made by the relevant persons. The register is to be in the form that is prescribed (if any).
The CEO is to make the register available to the public, and to publish the register on the local government’s official website.
As soon as practicable after a person is no longer a councillor, or otherwise ceases to be a person required to make a disclosure, the CEO is to remove from the register all records relating to that person. However, the CEO must keep for a period of at least five years the disclosures removed from the register, and make these available for public inspection.
The new disclosure requirements will come into force as soon as the City of Perth Act is enacted. This is expected to be 1 July 2016.
Kott Gunning Recommendation
Local Governments should currently be preparing policies and procedures to comply with the new requirements, and ensuring that it’s elected members and affected employees are aware of the new disclosure requirements.
For more information on this Update or any other Local Government matter please contact Philip Mavor on (08) 9321 3755.
The information published in this paper is of a general nature and should not be construed as legal advice. Whilst we aim to provide timely, relevant and accurate information, the law may change and circumstances may differ. You should not therefore act in reliance on it without first obtaining specific legal advice.