Tighter rules push for lo­cal gov­ern­ments

Pilbara News - - News - Ali­cia Per­era

Draft leg­is­la­tion to im­prove the as­sess­ment of lo­cal gov­ern­ments’ per­for­mance has been in­tro­duced in State Par­lia­ment af­ter a se­ries of Cor­rup­tion and Crime Com­mis­sion in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the sec­tor, in­clud­ing most re­cently at the Shire of Ex­mouth.

The Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Amend­ment (Au­dit­ing) Bill 2017, in­tro­duced to Par­lia­ment last Tues­day, pro­poses the in­de­pen­dent WA au­di­tor-gen­eral takes over the over­sight of lo­cal gov­ern­ment coun­cils from the min­is­ter in an ex­ten­sion of their ex­ist­ing au­dit­ing pow­ers over most of the WA pub­lic sec­tor.

It comes weeks af­ter the pub­li­ca­tion of a CCC re­port sum­maris­ing the watch­dog’s opin­ions from an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into claims of mis­con­duct at the Ex­mouth Shire last Novem­ber, cen­tring on the $1 mil­lion Nin­ga­loo Cen­tre aquar­ium con­tract that did not go out to ten­der.

The Ex­mouth in­ves­ti­ga­tion has so far led to the sack­ing of for­mer Shire chief ex­ec­u­tive Bill Price and its coun­cil­lors be­ing sus­pended for six months to un­dergo train­ing while an in­terim com­mis­sioner gov­erns in their place. WA Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ter David Tem­ple­man said he hoped the draft Bill would ad­dress a num­ber of rec­om­men­da­tions aris­ing from the Leg­isla­tive As­sem­bly Pub­lic Ac­counts Com­mit­tee and CCC in­ves­ti­ga­tion into lo­cal gov­er­nance in Ex­mouth and else­where.

“The Gov­ern­ment is con­cerned with the lack of trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity in the sec­tor as ev­i­denced by the CCC re­ports into the Shire of Ex­mouth and the Shire of Dow­erin, and the gov­er­nance is­sues sur­round­ing the Lord Mayor of Perth,” he said.

Un­der the draft leg­is­la­tion, lo­cal gov­ern­ments would also re­quire per­for­mance au­dits, in­clud­ing on their ef­fi­ciency and ad­her­ence to pol­icy, and pub­lish their an­nual re­ports and au­dit as­sess­ments on­line.

Mr Tem­ple­man said a change was needed to the as­sess­ment process for lo­cal gov­ern­ments.

“This leg­is­la­tion brings (lo­cal gov­ern­ments) in line with the rest of the pub­lic ser­vice and other ju­ris­dic­tions,” he said.

“It will en­able ratepay­ers to hold their coun­cils to greater ac­count and bet­ter pro­tect com­mu­nity in­ter­ests and funds.”

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