Council let out of naughty corner

Failings in governance and culture identified at West Wimmera Shire Council five years ago have largely been addressed, a review by Victoria’s local government watchdog has found.

CEO David Bezuidenhout: driving positive change at West Wimmera

A 2018 investigation of the council by the Local Government Inspectorate found major deficiencies in governance relating to councillor conduct, conflicts of interest, financial and asset management, procurement, grants, councillor expenses and credit cards.

After another inspection in June 2022, the inspectorate said it was “pleasing to identify that general governance improvements had been implemented”.

Its only criticism was that most of the improvement strategies weren’t implemented until three years after the review.

Despite this, Council was able to show it had since directed resources into its most valuable assets, its staff and its systems, the LGI said.

There was also more of a focus on staff training, the inspectorate found, with the introduction of a compliance management tool helping to improve efficiency and accountability across the organisation.

“Records management capability, previously a major area of concern, has also improved through the implementation of a cloud-based system,” the inspectorate found.

Staff more empowered

The relationship between councillors and staff had improved thanks to a new interaction policy and industry specialists had been engaged to boost conflict of Interest practice.

voter fraud
Michael Stefanovic

Improving procurement remained “a work in progress”, but the inspectorate said the transition to a fully automated system via eProcure would continue to enhance accountability.
Chief Municipal Inspector Michael Stefanovic said there had also been a positive cultural change, with staff saying they felt more empowered.
“It was pleasing to note that staff felt the culture was more inclusive, and that they were given a voice in areas such as highlighting potential process improvements or discussing personal matters that had previously been uncomfortable,” Mr Stefanovic said.

“The council executive team, led by CEO David Bezuidenhout, are to be commended for driving change, through their investment in areas that my office had previously identified as having been neglected.”

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