Shire up­dates best prac­tice

Augusta Margaret River Times - - News - War­ren Hately

An au­dit into the Shire of Au­gus­taMar­garet River has led to rec­om­men­da­tions to im­prove stan­dards around pro­cesses such as com­mis­sion of ten­ders, re­ceipt of gifts, dec­la­ra­tions of in­ter­est, and em­ployee use of cor­po­rate credit cards.

Al­though seven rec­om­men­da­tions were made to the Shire by the Depart­ment of Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment at the con­clu­sion of a re­cent in­tegrity re­view, the Shire did not breach any laws, and rec­om­men­da­tions in­cluded re­view­ing and up­dat­ing best-prac­tice stan­dards.

Shire chief ex­ec­u­tive Gary Ever­shed, who fin­ished work this week, said most of the is­sues found by the re­view were al­ready be­ing ad­dressed.

“We were found to have had good sys­tems in place and our staff code of con­duct was rated as in­dus­try best prac­tice,” Mr Ever­shed said.

“Vir­tu­ally all of the items raised were is­sues that we were al­ready aware of and we have been work­ing hard to im­prove on with our sys­tems and pro­cesses.

“We are an open and trans­par­ent learn­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion and wel­come feed­back on im­prov­ing our sys­tems and pro­cesses.

“It’s crit­i­cally im­por­tant for elected mem­bers also to work with staff to min­imise un­nec­es­sary con­flicts and poor gov­er­nance pro­cesses which are un­nec­es­sary time-con­sum­ing dis­trac­tions for key staff in achiev­ing the best re­sults for the ratepay­ers.”

Last week’s meet­ing also heard com­ments from Cr Mike Smart, who said he trig­gered the re­view.

Cr Smart was re­cently cen­sured for sev­eral mi­nor breaches, but said up to 10 com­plaints were lodged against him to the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Stan­dards Panel, and the out­come of sev­eral were still pend­ing.

“I am pleased to see that my ac­tions have been vin­di­cated in that the depart­ment has high­lighted ar­eas of con­cern,” Cr Smart said.

“Of ma­jor con­cern to me is that within six weeks of lodg­ing this com­plaint, I had 10 mi­nor breach com­plaints lodged against me.

“Of these, I have been found guilty of four, three re­lated to the cen­sure mo­tion that I have re­sponded to in the ( Times) re­cently.

“The to­tal cost to the Shire to lodge these com­plaints and ad­ver­tise the cen­sure mo­tion is about $8000.”

Chal­lenges noted in the re­port around declar­ing fi­nan­cial and prox­imic con­flicts of in­ter­est, how to han­dle cor­po­rate gifts such as event tick­ets where the Shire is a spon­sor, procur­ing ser­vices for mi­nor projects cost­ing less than $20,000, and em­ployee con­trol of cor­po­rate credit cards have all featured in coun­cil de­bate dur­ing the past two years.

The re­port noted con­fu­sion around how to han­dle tick­ets to events such as Cine­festOz where the Shire was also a spon­sor.

“The Shire ad­vised that it had at all times at­tempted to com­ply with the gift re­quire­ments in the Act and ex­pressed a view that the cur­rent mul­ti­ple gift re­quire­ments are com­plex, con­fus­ing and open to mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion,” the re­port said.

The au­dit also found “due to what is con­sid­ered in­ef­fec­tive prac­tices that tend to leave the Shire ex­posed to risks as­so­ci­ated with ef­fi­cient con­trol over the use of credit cards, the Shire’s pro­ce­dures in re­la­tion to cor­po­rate credit card use do not fol­low best prac­tice or proper au­dit­ing stan­dards as pro­vided for in the depart­ment’s guide­lines”.

The au­dit found is­sues with the Shire’s ten­der reg­is­ter which “does not al­low easy or con­ve­nient ac­cess . . . for the pur­poses of pub­lic in­spec­tion”.

“The au­dit found that some pur­chases made by the Shire were ei­ther not com­pli­ant with the Shire’s Pur­chas­ing Pol­icy re­lat­ing to ob­tain­ing quotes or the Shire’s record-keep­ing prac­tices re­quired im­prove­ment,” it said.

The re­port listed a num­ber of items in­volv­ing sign-mak­ing, heavy equip­ment hire, and elec­tri­cal ser­vices not cov­ered by the nec­es­sary three min­i­mum writ­ten quotes.

I am pleased to see that my ac­tions have been vin­di­cated. Cr Mike Smart

Shire chief ex­ec­u­tive Gary Ever­shed

Shire Cr Mike Smart

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