MAYOR’S CALL: Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale says he has been vindicated by the CCC’s local government transparency report, but warns that the CCC must be used to investigate crime and not for political agendas.
MAYOR’S CALL: Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale says he has been vindicated by the CCC’s local government transparency report, but warns that the CCC must be used to investigate crime and not for political agendas.

Pisasale warns against misuse of CCC, welcomes findings

IPSWICH Mayor Paul Pisasale warned that the Crime and Corruption Commission was being used by politicians to target their enemies, while welcoming the tabling in parliament of a report on local government transparency by the CCC.

Cr Pisasale said the report, entitled 'Transparency and Accountability in Local Government', confirmed that none of his mayoral funds had been misused and vindicated his previously published views about the need for consistency on donation disclosure rules.

Cr Pisasale himself was earlier asked to make comment on the draft report sent to him by the CCC where he called for "a fair playing field for both independent and party candidates" across all tiers of government.

The report is not the same as the CCC investigation into Cr Pisasale and his mayoral funds and fundraising activities.

It does however deal with the issues raised in the CCC investigation into Cr Pisasale.

That CCC investigation found no corrupt conduct regarding the Ipswich Mayor's Community Fund Inc and Forward Ipswich Inc and no evidence that Cr Pisasale misused any community-raised funds.

Speaking to the QT, Cr Pisasale said he went through 12 months of hell due to the CCC being used to investigate administrative issues and "perceptions" of his conduct.

In September, Cr Pisasale wrote to the CCC about the draft public report tabled yesterday.

In it he said he was a firm believer in transparency and accountability, not only for local government, but at all levels of government.

"I have publicly advocated for some time for an election system that presents a fair playing field for both independent and party candidates whether they are running in local, state or federal elections," he said.

Cr Pisasale responded to the report's conclusion that his association with Forward Ipswich Inc and the Ipswich Mayor's Community Fund had "created a perception of corruption and self-interest".

"This perception is not held by the majority of the community, which understands that my first priority is serving them and this great city," he said.

"It is disappointing that so much time and tax-payers' money has been spent on this investigation because of perceptions held by my accusers and political enemies."

While re-affirming that he believed the CCC was thorough and professional in its investigations, Cr Pisasale said that the body should not be used for settling political grudges but rather for its main purpose of investigating crime and criminals.

The anti-corruption watchdog's chairman, Alan MacSporran said the CCC was doing its job.

One thing both sides agreed on was that voters should know about donors.

One of the report's six recommendations was that the government amend legislation to ensure donations were disclosed earlier.

Mr MacSporran said people should know how the money was spent.

"We recommend that there should be a more contemporaneous reporting of the donations being made so that when you come to vote you know who's donated to whom, how much and the context in which that's occurred," Mr MacSporran said.

There is no penalty at the moment for not declaring how money is spent and CCC director Paxton Booth said it would be up to the government to determine how it would be policed.

The CCC also recommend conflicting local government acts be aligned so the threshold on what donations are reported are the same.

"Under the Local Government Electoral Act you have to report donations received in excess of $200," Mr Booth said.

"In the Local Government Act, once you're an elected official the threshold is $500.

"It's different again if you're a third party; the threshold is $1000."

Cr Pisasale requested that the report should "factually put on the record my evidence on the reasoning behind the establishment of Forward Ipswich Inc, namely the inconsistencies between the Local Government Electoral Act, the Local Government Act and the federal taxation laws" which he said created an unfair taxation burden for independent candidates.

He said that what was absent from the report were "viable solutions to ensure independent candidates can stand for election without facing an unnecessary and unfair tax burden".

He reaffirmed his belief that any changes to electoral processes should apply equally to local, state and federal elections to eradicate the confusion which was causing candidates to make costly administrative errors.

"If we want to stop confusing people then local, state and federal government should have the same rules for donations and conflicts of interest," he told the QT.

"What I set up is 100 per cent right, but the Tax Act and the Local Government Act are out of sync and they have to fix it.

"What disappoints me in this report is that there is not one way presented on how a mayor and councillor should raise money.

"The systems I set up were based on advice I got from lawyers and taxation departments."

While Cr Pisasale said that "all the money I've collected in the past I'm actually not going to use for any campaign fund, I'm only going to be using for communities."

The CCC also recommended associations not be permitted to use an official title, such as mayor, in its name unless it is a controlled entity and audited by the Queensland Audit Office.

Another suggestion was that the government strengthen the obligation on councillors, chief executive officers and senior executive employees to declare funds, gifts or benefits provided to another entity that could be perceived to provide the relevant person with a benefit.

The recommendations will now be considered by parliament

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