Shire misconduct flourished: report
The Shire of Exmouth is the latest example of the local government issues the Corruption and Crime Commission has seen a lot of in the past few years, the CCC commissioner says.
Commissioner John McKechnie told ABC Radio last Wednesday good governance and adherence to policy was a “real issue”, especially in smaller regional local governments such as Exmouth.
“When you’re elected to a position, ignorance is no excuse … you cannot let friendship or ignorance get in the way of good governance,” he said. The CCC Report on Matters of Serious Misconduct at the Shire of Exmouth, tabled in Parliament last Tuesday, stated serious misconduct “flourished” at the Shire and recommended prosecution of its former chief executive and a former employee should be considered.
The document summarised the opinions of the corruption watchdog’s Operation Sara, which investigated claims of misconduct by some Shire of Exmouth employees at public hearings in November last year.
Of focus in the report were the actions of former Shire chief executive Bill Price, who the commission described as “a law unto himself”; the conduct of former Shire strategic projects officer Andrew Forte, who was claimed to have benefited financially from his friendship with Mr Price; and the awarding of a $1 million contract for the Ningaloo Centre aquarium without going to tender.
In a statement responding to the report last week, Shire interim commissioner Ian Fletcher said they had been working closely with the Department of Local Government, Public Sector Commission and Western Australian Local Government Association to address the issues highlighted by the CCC public hearings.
He said those actions included terminating the employment of Mr Price and Mr Forte, reviewing Shire policies and undertaking audits, including of the Ningaloo Centre.