Victoria’s local government regulator has warned 109 candidates who failed to submit campaign donation returns after contesting the 2020 council elections.
Under state law candidates must submit a record of any gifts, donations or in-kind support worth $500 or more to the CEO of the council where they are standing for election within 40 days after election day.
They must submit a return regardless of whether or not they received any donations or benefits, and the declarations must be published on the councils website.
An investigation by the Local Government Inspectorate found that 144 candidates out of 2,192 failed to submit a campaign donation return within 40 days.
Thirty-four candidates submitted a late return and 109 failed to comply.
No prosecution pursued
The non-compliant candidates copped a warning from the Inspectorate but got off without prosecution.
“While a prima facie breach of the electoral provisions of the Act was substantiated for 109 individuals, we opted not to pursue prosecution, however, the warning will be taken into account if the candidates fail to submit a return in future council elections,” Chief Municipal Inspector Michael Stefanovic said.
Councils where all candidates submitted their returns included City of Kingston, Bayside, Mornington Peninsula, Manningham and Cardina.
Councils in the naughty corner for “concerning rates of non-compliance” included Maribyrnong, Hume City, Hindmarsh, Moyne Shire and Wyndham City Council.
The wooden spoon for most improved went to Wyndham where 7 out of 86 candidates failed to declare in 2020, compared to 44 out of 95 in 2016.
Mr Stefanovic said the good news was that the rate of non-compliance for 2020 was half that of 2016, where 290 candidates failed to comply.
Mr Stefanovic said it was vital to democracy that electoral candidates declare any donations, gifts or support they receive.
“The purpose of the campaign donation declaration is to ensure ongoing integrity and transparency in the sector,” he said.
“The community has a right to know who is supporting their local candidate and should be able to easily access this information on their council’s website.
“The disclosure of campaign donations by all candidates is fundamental to the electoral process – and maintains the integrity of future decision making and governance by Victorian councils.”
Comment below to have your say on this story.
If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sign up to the Government News newsletter