Tighter rules push for local governments
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.”