Councillors to disclose financial interests? | The Jackal

8 Apr 2012

Councillors to disclose financial interests?

Today, the Dominion Post reported:

Secrecy surrounding the commercial interests of local authority councillors needs to end, the peak body for councils has told the government.

While MPs have a public register of interests, local councillors controlling billions of dollars of assets and paying hundreds of millions of dollars to contractors, are often shielded from public scrutiny by the policies of councils, despite a requirement in the Local Government Act that councils operate "in an open, transparent, and democratically accountable manner".


Auckland Council, meanwhile, said privacy laws mean it should not make the register available, even though Manukau City Council, one of the seven amalgamated councils that formed Auckland Council, did have a public register.

In response to a Local Government Official Information Act request, by "anti-corruption activist" Penny Bright, the council's general counsel Wendy Brandon said: "The register will not be released in full in order to protect the privacy of elected members, information that is subject to an obligation of confidence and the commercial position of some elected members."

Disclosure wouldn't be an issue unless some inappropriateness was going on already, and having an open register of financial interests for local authority councillors would certainly curtail any corrupt funding allocation... perhaps why there's so much opposition from certain councils.

Being that ratepayers pay councillor's wages, they're theoretically accountable to the people who employ them. Most employers require disclosure these days, especially where a conflict of interest might impinge on the employee to make the right decisions for the employer.

The argument that privacy laws should mean councillors financial dealings are kept secret simply doesn't cut the mustard. In fact it makes me highly suspicious that personal benefit from being a councillor isn't endemic throughout New Zealand already.