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Central Goldfields Council - Lessons Learnt

In September 2016 the Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate commenced an investigation into the Central Goldfields Shire after receiving numerous allegations raising concerns about their management. In July 2017, the shire's CEO was stepped down after criminal charges were made around conflicts of interest, obtaining financial advantage by deception and false accounting. In August 2017 the inspectorate released their report, after which, the Local Government Minister Natalie Hutchins moved to dismiss all seven of the current Councillors, saying “The core of most problems I see in councils across the state is the lack of transparency,” and believes the inspectorates report should put all 79 local governments on notice.

The report breaks their findings into four headings:

+ Asset Mismanagement

+ Human Resource Mismanagement

+ Financial Mismanagement

+ Governance Failures

The examples sited in the report range from the sale of council properties and landholdings, misuse of corporate credit cards, non compliance around information management, declarations of conflict of interest and delegations.

Many of the findings could be caused by a lack of clear systems in place and a reliance on individual officers to 'know what to do'.

In the opening of his report, the inspector states "Good governance in councils is critical for shaping community confidence. It helps communities feel safe in the knowledge that their council will act in their overall interest, which leads to better, more transparent and ethical decision making. The pillars of good governance are accountability, transparency, adherence to the rule of law, responsiveness, equitability and inclusiveness."

As a risk management adviser I would work with the Audit Committee and Senior Leadership to establish turn key systems that embed these principles into their everyday activities. One of their main risks appears to be councils large number of legal requirements. These require officers to keep track of various deadlines and changes to the regulations. It is impossible for a handful of staff to stay abreast of them all with manual compliance registers and binders of acts and regulations.

If the Central Goldfields Council could find ways to automate compliance it would significantly reduce their risk of errors, reliance on individuals and make activities more transparent for officer to know clearly what they are required to do, and Senior Management to easily check that it is being done correctly.

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