More scrutiny for local governments
THE State Government has introduced legislation providing for the appointment of the Auditor General as the auditor for local governments.
Introducing the Local Government Amendment (Auditing) Bill 2016, Local Government Minister Tony Simpson said it was designed to improve accountability and transparency in the sector.
“The WA community has an expectation that all levels of government, including local governments, are open and accountable,” he said.
The Bill was in response to recommendations from the Corruption and Crime Commission and the Public Accounts Committee to raise the standard of accountability of local governments to a level consistent with State Government authorities and public sector agencies.
City of Belmont acting chief executive Neville Deague said the City believed present arrangements were appropriate. “However, we are not averse to a proposal for the Auditor General to have authority to intervene should it be deemed necessary,”he said.
“Establishing an obligation which entirely removes the ability of a local government to appoint an auditor or manage associated costs appears overly prescriptive in the context of the current Local Government Act 1995.”
Mr Deague said the level of accountability and scrutiny of local government activities was already substantial, and in some ways exceeded that of the State Government.
“Nevertheless, appropriate changes that encourage review and improvement of processes should lead to improved organisational and community outcomes,” he said.
“The City is confident that these additional review processes likely to be introduced by the State Government will have minimal impact.”
Town of Victoria Park chief executive officer Anthony Vuleta said he was supportive of any action to improve accountability and transparency in the sector.
City of South Perth Mayor Sue Doherty said she welcomed measures that raised the standards of accountability in Western Australian local governments.
“From the City’s perspective the involvement of the Auditor General in overseeing local government audits will deliver more consistent auditing standards across the local government sector,” she said.
“Additionally, it provides the opportunity for the Auditor General to offer value-adding services such as reviewing the efficiency of use of resources in local government service delivery as occurs in other jurisdictions such as New Zealand.
“The New Zealand experience suggests that, over time, this may result in better value for money outcomes for the community.
“As a City, we are committed to being transparent, responsive and accountable to our residents, local community and all stakeholders we engage with including local, state and the federal government at all times,” she said.