More scru­tiny for lo­cal gov­ern­ments

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - NEWS - Tim Slater

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.

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