Perth’s Canning City facing suspension

By Julian Bajkowski

Perth’s City of Canning is facing suspension after an inquiry by the state’s Department of Local Government delivered a withering report pointing to widespread dysfunction, micromanagement and alleged serious governance irregularities.

Issued late last week, the inquiry has recommended that the state government “suspend the Council under the provisions of section 8.19(1) Local Government Act 1995”.

The Department of Local Government also recommended a further inquiry be set up to deal with governance deficiencies that culminated in a breakdown in relations between a faction of elected representatives, including Mayor Joe Delle Donne and senior employees including the Council’s chief executive over how procurement deals were awarded to businesses.

The 476 page report contains a litany of adverse findings – many serious – against elected representatives that include an attempt to force out City of Canning Chief Executive Officer, Mr Mark Dacombe, by using previously discredited allegations of misconduct against him as a trigger to try and prompt his removal.

However in a spectacular own goal, the clique of Councillors who went gunning for their top administrator’s job are now themselves facing a fresh investigation that could lead to their removal and possibly prosecution.

“Given the unfairness of the CEO’s performance appraisal and the unsupported claims by the Mayor that during this appraisal he became concerned about misconduct of the CEO, the Inquiry concluded that the seriously flawed performance review and the subsequent allegations made by Mayor Delle Donne to the Minister for Local Government and the City’s legal adviser, Allion Legal, were a tactic to unjustly discredit Mr Dacombe,” the report said.

“These attacks were made to provide a basis for Mr Dacombe’s subsequent separation from the City and were an attempt to justify the Mayor’s action in suspending Mr Dacombe.”

Some of the most serious findings of the inquiry relate to how a group of councillors affiliated to the Mayor is alleged to have sidelined suppliers chosen through an arm’s length tendering process by council employees in favour of non-compliant enterprises preferred by some elected representatives.

One example cited includes how another firm, Civic Legal, found its way onto a procurement panel.

“The Inquiry found that prior to the Council decision introducing this particular legal firm onto the panel of legal services providers, Mayor Delle Donne and Cr Mason had been taken to lunch by representatives of this legal firm,” the report said.

“This lunch meeting was not disclosed to Council by Mayor Delle Donne or Cr Mason. Moreover Mayor Delle Donne did not disclose that he had engaged this legal firm in a private debt recovery action.”

It has been reported that Mayor Delle Donne has rejected this finding and said that the lunch equated to a bowl of chips.

Another set of findings points to alleged irregularities in how engineering consulting services were obtained by council.

The report details how councillors affiliated with the Mayor are alleged to have reworked normal tendering processes so that services from the father-in law of the Mayor’s daughter ultimately came to win work and then a senior position in the engineering section of Council.

“Part 4 of this Report provides details of the actions of the Mayor’s Group … in improperly influencing the decision of Council in relation to the recruitment for the Executive Engineering and Technical Services position,” the report said.

“Motions and amendments originating from the Mayor’s Group show there was a clear intention to prevent the appointment of the recommended candidates on two separate occasions.”

The report also found that: “By directly nominating its own selection of City engineering consultants, without any process to consider suitability, or without consideration being given to whether or not the decision was appropriate or lawful, Council interfered in the administration of the City.”

Other findings and allegations in the report detail how dominant councillors intervened on matters including what kind of rubbish trucks should be bought by rejecting the advice of evaluations.

The gravity of the Canning report has not been lost on the Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA) which quickly issued a statement urging councils to “take the opportunity to review their governance practices following the release of a report critical of the City of Canning.”

“I am encouraging all Local Governments to take the opportunity to examine the report and reflect on their own activities,” President of WALGA, Mayor Troy Pickard said.

“From my perspective, the report creates a catalyst for all Councils in the sector to reconsider their governance models and associated processes and to be proactive in pursuing best practice and good governance."

According to WALGA, it is Association policy “not to comment on issues related to a specific Local Government’s circumstances”.

Even so, the gravity and extent of the allegations contained in the report appear to have prompted WALGA’s chief to put some diplomatic distance between the group and its heavily criticised member.

“Whilst I’m confident that the situation revealed at Canning is not typical of the sector, it does represent a learning opportunity and should serve as a prompt for all to review their activities,” Mayor Pickard said.

“From my perspective, the report creates a catalyst for all Councils in the sector to reconsider their governance models and associated processes and to be proactive in pursuing best practice and good governance.”

0 thoughts on “Perth’s Canning City facing suspension

  1. I find it alarming that the majority of people throwing around accusations in the inquiry are SMRC supporters.

    And anyone with half a brain can see that there’s nowhere in the inquiry where these Councillors have been able to defend themselves.

    There’s no mention of the absolute hell these councillors have been put through for going against the SMRC – which thousands of rate-payers from Canning and Melville asked them too – because of the SMRC’s constant abuse of residents via their RRRC WCF’s emissions.

    Residents, politicians – both state and local, reporters, state govt depts have all been bullied beyond belief by supporters of the SMRC. Yet it’s allowed to continue.

    I truly believe, like many other residents here in Leeming, Willetton, Canning vale and Bull Creek that this is just a big sham, to try and get rid of the councillors who had the backbone and the decency to say “NO” to the SMRC.

    And are now, like others have, are paying the price for doing so.

    Seems to me like there needs to be an investigation into the inquiry and into the panel of folk driving the inquiry.

    Has anyone checked to see what their background is in regards to the SMRC. Nope? Well I have… I can tell you this whole inquiry screams shonky! Which is what the SMRC and it’s puppets wreak off..

    Shame on State and Local Govt for being so corrupt and allowing the SMRC to push you all around and crucify some councillors who’s only crime seems to be standing up to the dodgy SMRC and it’s puppets.

    But as we all know… that’s politics for you. Kick down the good people and help the corrupt.

  2. This could not have come soon enough. The stupidity and wastage of Council was apparent in the complete removal of trees on Manning Road. Despite assurances that replanting would begin, Council has done a big fat nothing! This issue also demonstrated contempt on the part of Council to provide the majority of ratepayers with information and even a say in the matter. This whole fiasco was a disgrace. There is a circus parked down at the Cannington greyhounds, perhaps Council could seek employment there.

  3. Gee, I thought when the Canning City Council was dismissed in the 90’s that these problems would be sorted. How wrong I was!!! Neville Allpike did a stirling job back then as the head of the Ratepayers Association, to bring out the ‘corruption’ issues within the council ranks. Unfortunately some of the councillors’ associated from that time, were left on the council. Needs a ‘broom’ and a complete new council elected with NONE of the former councillors elligible for re election. Maybe then we will see a non corrupt council. People do some research, as I have done and you will find ties to other councils which have had problems.

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